Cocotte - Kitchen

Cocotte – French Bistro Gem in Portlandia

I’ve had the pleasure of dining a few times at Kat LeSueur’s Cocotte bistro. Located at my favorite culinary corner of 29th and Killingsworth, it is a cozy place with wonderful food.

Cocotte -Bar
Cocotte -Bar

This outing was with Portland Food Adventures, one of their rare repeat visits. We were last here on an adventure in 2011. I remember that one fondly, and I recommend Cocotte as a place for a nice romantic dinner.

Chef Kat LaSueur - Cocotte
Chef Kat LaSueur – Cocotte

Chef Cat LeSueur, in my humble opinion, holds her own against other Portland French superstars such as Gabriel Rucker and Aaron Barnett. If you can’t get a seat at Le Pigeon or St. Jacks, then come on over to Cocotte and your Gallic cravings will be well-satisfied.

The restaurant is a small space, dominated by a bar and an open kitchen. We filled it up with 26 diners. Cocotte is a word for a hen that doesn’t lay eggs, plus a small covered cooking vessel for individual portions. The dictionary also says it is slang for prostitute. Well, then, allow me to be promiscuous in my praise for Cocotte, the Portland eatery.

I was at a table of six and I believe we were the “party table” although we were mostly strangers to each other. We had a blast trading stories and enjoying the food and wine pairings.

The first course of snacks included a wonderful spiced carrot soup, salt cod croquettes, and two toasts with compressed apple and chevre and pickled beet and pistachio butter. These were paired with a sparkling Vouvray. The wine pairings for each course were superb — each enhanced the flavors of the dish.

Next was smoked Quinalt steelhead and house-cured steelhead caviar, with arugula, olives, cara cara and candied kumquat. It was delicious, although too salty. I’m a real salt-lover, so something went wrong in the seasoning. All of the other courses were not overly seasoned. In fact, I sprinkled a little of the table salt on the rabbit and duck. The steelhead was paired with a Tavel rose.

The clams from Nevor Shellfish Farm with miso, nori, pickled shiitake mushrooms and chili flake was a bit hit. They didn’t give us spoons, so our table simply upended our bowls and drank the delicious sauce after eating the clams. It was paired with a muscadet.

I love a cheese course, and the Cabra al Vino Cheese with radicchio, pear and pickled onion was delightful, especially with the Rayaut Borgougne Rouge.

Now we had Nicky Farms rabbit three ways with a Vlrhona chocolate gnocchi. The bitter gnocchi weren’t quite to my taste, but it added an interesting dimension to the dish, especially when including all of the elements in one bite. The rabbit was shredded as leg ragout, smoked slices of loin, and a rabbit liver mousse, with celeriac and fennel pollen. The Beaujolais went well with it all.

Now on to the duck, with black tea cured duck breast with ginger poached black plum, potato puree, mustard greens and pickled mustard seed. I had a big portion of duck and it was great with the Pausse Piste la Pyramide Syrah.

Each course was amazing, and it was topped with one of the best desserts I’ve ever had at a tasting dinner. The orange scented chocolate cake with black pepper vanilla whipped cream and praline sauce was dish-licking great. The Lustau Anada sherry capped it all.

This great meal stands up as one of the all-time best, and confirms that Cocotte is a pleasure you should not miss.

Part of a Portland Food Adventure is getting certificates to eat at some of the chef’s favorite places. We got certificates for Portland’s most exclusive bar, the nearby Expatriate, for Cardinal Club, and for Canteen. I look forward to visiting each!

Next up, I’ll be attending Kat LeSueur’s In the Kitchen Portland Food Adventure on March 6. Tickets are still available.