When was the last time you were challenged by a sandwich?
No, but really: How long has it been since a sandwich made you think about the essential nature of bacon?
Portland-native chef Gabriel Pascuzzi—known for New York pop-up restaurant PN26—just opened a sandwich spot called Stacked in a nigh-unmarked storefront underneath banking firm Simple.
A menu full of fancy cocktails—think beer with tangerine and ramazotti—won't debut until after March 10. But Stacked is already an impressive production. In its enormous open kitchen, you can watch from the dining room as a brigade of cooks tweezes fennel pollen and roe onto an open-faced, smoked trout on rye ($8 a slice) containing a harvest-toned bouquet of cross-sectioned apple and beet. It is a beautiful sandwich—and so its cooks can be forgiven if they pause service for a moment to Instagram the results.
What look like breadcrumbs on the top of the open-face elk tartare ($9 a slice) turn out to be horseradish that's been both candied and fried, along with a shiitake-shallot duxelles. The tartare's customary egg yolk was salted, cooked and spread across Danish rye as caramel.
Sure, the elk tartare gets a little lost in that thick Lovejoy Bakers rye—Pascuzzi says he may switch it out for lavash cracker—but it's bracing to see this kind of ambition in a sandwich shop.
It's the oxtail French dip ($13) that should pay the bills. That fatty oxtail is snuggled in gooey havarti caramelized to light brown speckling, its umami bolstered by pan-seared onion and crimini mushroom. The jus is the masterstroke, beautifully savory with a festive edge from rosemary.
Does everything work? Not yet. The five-spice or rosemary cookies feel like an experiment still in progress. The turkey club ($12) contained lovely texture and lovelier meat, especially that house pepper bacon. However, the tomato aioli Pascuzzi is using as a placeholder until tomatoes are in season was a bit of a wet blanket for flavor.
But then you encounter the shiitake "bacon" on the wedge salad, the made-to-order doughnut holes or the expert turmeric cauliflower among the pickles, and you're right back in the fold. Stacked is stacked with ideas—we look forward to seeing them develop.
EAT: Stacked, 1643 SE 3rd Ave., 971-279-2731, stackedsandwichshop.com. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday.