Holdfast

The Gunner and Perpetually Underwhelmed spoke very highly of Holdfast, a pop up dining experience to recently enter the culinary scene in Portland.  Pop ups are fun, but they can be unpredictable.  There’s a lot of experimentation that goes into any given night’s menu.  Sometimes items are being served for the first time, which can result in something spectacular or something poorly executed.  Holdfast has been holding steady in KitchenCru, which is a rentable kitchen space near the Pearl District.  It does not make for the best dining ambiance, but the pop up is more about the food than service or experience.  For $90 we had a 9 course meal with 5 wines.
 
Crab beet, horseradish, dill
We started off the meal nice and light, a little crab salad topped with thinly shaved beets, drizzled with beet sauce.  I don’t believe I’ve had beets and crabs paired together.  More dill would have elevated the dish.
Razor Clam fennel, apple, sauerkraut
Another refreshing combination of flavors with ingredients never tried together by myself.  Some parts of the poached razor clams were off-puttingly fishy.  Apples and fennel are always good together.  All together, I’m not sure if these ingredients really sung.

 

 

Sturgeon salsify, cranberry, black olive

Time for some hot food!  The most interesting thing was that black olive puree under the well cooked and deeply smoky, maybe too smoky, fish.  The smokiness detracted from the unique black olive puree.  The accoutrements added good texture and acid from the pickled mustard seeds.

Egg black garlic, alliums

I actually really like this runny egg, but The Gunner was not a fan.  It had some good umami-ness to it.  The black garlic was similar to the black olive in its deep earthiness.  The alliums gave some good crunch.

Brown Bread butter

The Gunner really hyped up this one.  I’d give it a big fat “Meehhh…”  She and Big Spoon loved it so much they even got the recipe to make it at home.  It was too healthy tasting for me.  I slathered the things in butter.  I did like the texture, moist and slightly dense.

 
Tartar black trumpet, black truffle
I enjoyed the tartar with its earthiness from the mushroom marmalade and shaved black truffles.
 
 
Beef oyster, sunchoke, kale

Normally the beef course in any multicourse tasting menu tends to be good but in the end just beef.  I’m starting to feel as unexcited by beef as I am by chicken.  I think I eat out too much…Anyways, the beef here was really really tasty even though it doesn’t look all that special. Maybe it was the cut, culotte or top sirloin cap.  The only time I have culotte is at a Brazilian restaurant, and I always really like it there too.  Of course I cut the fat off; it could have been rendered a bit more.

Cornbread Madeleine lardo, parmesan, honeycomb

I really thought this first dessert was so well crafted.  Savory cheese, sweet honeycomb, warm soft cake, and subtle fatty lardo.  I never imagined these things together, but it was sophisticatedly simple.  They should hold onto this recipe.

Frozen Yogurt honey

It felt like they took regular plain yogurt and mixed it with nitro or something, which resulted in a light icy snow with a honey granita in the mix.  Beautiful presentation, but I didn’t care much for the course.

Buttermilk cream cheese, milk, meringue

I was not a fan of this.  First of all the colors are one toned.  The texture of the butter milk panna cotta was grainy.  The brioche was dry and I’m not sure was the appropriate anchor here.  The meringue squares were meh.  Overall, not good.

Candies

The spheres were white chocolate shells that burst in your mouth.  It was fun to eat.  The caramels were too sticky and took too long to eat so I had to spit it out.  I didn’t eat the jellies.  I never like those jellies.

I had fun at Holdfast.  It probably helped that I got pretty frickin’ buzzed/drunk off the 5 glasses of wine that was served rapid fire.  It’s amazing that the whole meal was pulled off by just 2 guys in some rented kitchen space.  The food style was certainly modern and very un-Portland.  I can’t say every dish hit it out of the park.  I’d say I only liked about half of the dishes, the egg, tartar, culotte, and madeleine.  The Gunner felt her previous experience at Holdfast was much stronger.  I can see these guys definitely have potential, but need more pop ups to work out the kinks.

10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome!
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT go here

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