Shaun King, who returned from a trip to Japan and prepareting himself with a bowl of alphabet soup at Coquine's Southeast Portland restaurant, is enthusing about the wagyu certification course that took him from Portland to Tokyo to the Kagoshima Prefecture the week before. Here's where he learned everything he could about the world's most famous beef.
"I was walking with a farmer, and he picked an orange off the tree, he said. "He's eating the orange, and he's feeding the cows the oranges as well, because he believes it imparts a level of acidity to the finish."
The first batch of their "pop-up within a pop-up" at Mikkeller's Portland beer bar will begin March 1, putting the brand new bar and restaurant in the run-up to the original. With a wood-fired kitchen, culinarily minded cocktails, a Japanese-influenced bakery, and a separate back-room chef's counter, King and his wife Jamie will open the restaurant.
"It's going to be an American restaurant, because I am an American guy," King said of California. "It's also going to pull from my training, and build on what (Trifecta owner) Ken (Forkish) has already built."
Shaun King's menu includes a wide variety of Japanese ingredients and techniques, including whole fish, ducks, pork shoulders, and gochujang- and black-sugar-rubbed wagyu short ribs that he consumes for six to eight hours before grilling over compressed charcoal. Get it with a group of friends, and that first meat course might be followed by some wagyu beef fat fried rice, then a tea-like broth made from leftover bones.
If you've tried Mikkeller's tasty black pepper wings, which should be included alongside a hamburger on a snack menu available until late-night at the restaurant, according to Shaun King. The Michigan native is known for using blackened onion petals as a garnish or koji-bacon-ponzu sauce to fat wash rum.
The Trifecta neighborhood, which was established with former San Francisco and Los Angeles baker Katherine Benvenuti, was designed as a morning lunch area for coffee and Japanese gins. The area, which is tucked between a beer hall and a karaoke bar, was a must-see destination at night.
I love the idea of something coming out of the ovens at midnight or 11 p.m. and you've gotta get there, Shaun King said. If the lights are on, it's there, and you've gotta get it.
The Kings propose to swap out Trifecta's large red booths for banquettes and cafe tables, as well as removing dark hues. Shaun King intends to play with the shou sugi ban, the Japanese wood-burning technique, to dry rice. Some day after the New Year, whisky-dipped persimmons may be seen above living daikon roots in Trifecta's windows.
The new restaurant is owned by ChefStable, which, along with the newly opened Iceland hostel, KEX, has produced the most ambitious one-two punch for the Portland restaurant group in over a decade. According to Kurt Huffman, the other recent projects include a suburban expansion for Oven & Shaker, Shaun King's energy, Jamie King's cocktails, and recommendations from Portland artisans who met the Kings while making the project too hazy to pass up.
"Lardo owner" Andy Ricker, all of these guys that go to Vegas, at some point they all met Shaun and said, 'This guy is a superstar,' Huffman said. "And I just happened to have the mikkeller thing that i was hoping to open in four weeks. 'I said, and I said, if you do this, and we work well together, then I will open a restaurant for you."
A six-seat chef's counter at the back, tentatively titled Rump Steak, where Shaun King and his crew may offer diners a more personal experience, perhaps a hand-written menu that was less-commonly-seen with that well-marbled wagyu steak, grilled or smoked. Visit in March, close your eyes, and you might even believe that your steak nigiri is hiding a hint of satsuma orange.
Bar King wants to open at 726 S.E. Sixth Ave. next March.
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