Chances are, you've never had dinner at Broder Nord. Broder is known for brunch, so that's when you visited. But for the few months it was served, chef Derek Hanson's dinner at Nord on North Interstate Avenue was one of the finest meals in Portland, a parade of pan-Scandi small bites from delicate gravlax to a tour-de-force half-chicken brined in tarragon vinegar. Hell, that 20-minute chicken might have been the Velvet Underground of birds: Few ate it, but everyone who did was a chef who started cooking whole chicken.
Well, that chicken is back at Jacqueline, the new restaurant Hanson started with co-chef Brandi Lansill (Old Salt, Multnomah Whiskey Library) in the former St. Jack space on Southeast Clinton Street. The cheerily domestic space is now a fish-and-veggie-happy restaurant named for a fictional submarine piloted by secular saint Bill Murray, whose somber visage graces the wall behind the bar. And that slow-roasted chicken ($21)—served in multiple variations week to week, with nectarines or croutons flavored with drippings—is still a revelation, tender to the point romance seems imminent, and touched with tarragon's singular bittersweetness.
Much else at Jacqueline recalls the brilliant dinners from Nord, including a nice gravlax plate and a lovely smoked sablefish with pickled garlic scapes or matsutakes ($10) whose luxe texture easily justifies the nickname "butterfish." As with many dishes here, the overall effect was not decadence but restraint. The light smokiness allowed the fish's subtle, distinctive flavor to sing. A spectacular chanterelle and oyster mushroom frisee dish ($13) also smacked of Scandinavian reserve.
But there's also much that feels new—including a focus on salads and seasonal fare that had early menus looking like an ode to the wild Oregon mushroom, from lobster mushrooms funked up with goat and sheep cheese on orecchiette ($13), to the pickled chanterelles adorning a salmon-belly crudo ($12) to one of the restaurant's early highlights, a chanterelle-maitake dish ($10) topped with bottarga roe and a perfectly poached egg.
Jacqueline also clocks in with a knockout cioppino ($23)—the beautifully spicy, tomato-based, Italian seafood stew native to the West Coast that was the flavor of my childhood. While the menu rotates considerably, the cioppino is a mainstay. It's developed over the restaurant's opening weeks into a note-perfect rendition, stuffed with crab claws, clams, mussels, smoked oysters, a hint of spice and and an oceanic undertow of herbal depth. Oysters also come raw in at least five varietals daily, with a five-deep array of eye-droppered sauces; there are $1 oyster specials at happy hour (5-7 pm).
Even more nostalgic than the cioppino was a lovely plate of charred Brussels sprouts soaked in a mint-basil fish sauce ($10) that fondly recalled Smallwares' fried kale. The air of fond remembrance is reinforced by the Wes Andersonian cartoon fish painted on a back wall, the view perhaps from Steve Zissou's submarine.
The cocktail menu keeps it simple with old-school gems like a Boulevardier and a Corpse Reviver No. 2 (all $9) while beer and wine are well-curated by Shift Drinks' Anthony Garcia, with a lovely Priorat vermut that also graces a fun blackberry sorbet dessert. Like Bill Murray, that vermut is all sweetness and tobacco.
Not everything was a hit: A salmon fillet plate with potato and vegetable side felt like every salmon fillet that's been served in the past 30 years, and the fat-drenched croutons served with that lovely tarragon chicken were toasted to carbon.
But amid the parade of seasonal, salad-forward restaurants to hit Portland recently, Jacqueline knows how to counterbalance its more subtle delights with signatures like the chicken and cioppino that pack a wallop. As every record exec has known since they invented pop music, you lure them in with the hits and then seduce them with the deep cuts.
EAT: Jacqueline, 2039 SE Clinton St. 503-327-8637, jacquelinepdx.com. 5-10 pm Wednesday-Sunday.