photos by aaron lee

Jackrabbit is perhaps best characterized by its signature dish: half a pig’s head, severed from mid-cranium down but otherwise served impressively whole on a platter, with a golden crispy skin, a carving knife stabbed into its fatty cheek, and a crackling wedged in its jaw.

Understandably, it’s designed to trigger visual dopamine cues for dedicated carnivores.

Like the pig’s head presentation, Jackrabbit aspires to be a rich, deluxe dining experience in the new Duniway Portland Hilton. The first spot outside of San Francisco opened by noted offal lover and Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, its space and menu reflect a Y-chromosomal nod toward status—see the knives and dishes emblazoned with the restaurant’s namesake hare, the espresso-toned woodwork, and the deep leather booths.

But Jackrabbit’s attempt to go uber-luxe sails over the mark and lands in a place of disappointment.

To circle back to that head: It’s $65 and obviously meant to be shared. Which is good, because not much of it is edible, and what there is to be eaten isn’t particularly enjoyable. The head is very fatty, with not much outside of the cheek area even remotely palatable. Cosentino then doubles down on the heavy flavors, pairing the cholesterol bomb with brainaise (that’s pig’s brain mayonnaise) and a chimichurri mixed with oils from the roasted pig. The only acidic respite is found in a small pile of bitter chicories.

Working down the menu with a group quickly leads to a goutish exhaustion, as nearly every dish contains meat, a heavy cream, processed pork, or other decadent touch (which also serves to increase the price, I’m sure). Sure, sides of duck fat cauliflower ($8) and Yukon potatoes doused in Dungeness crab cream ($9) sound good, until you realize you’re pairing them with a fatty bacon chop ($34) or a mixed grille of lamb saddle, tongue, and sausage ($35). (Yes, there’s a “green salad” for $7, but it’s not given much sales work by the menu or staff.)

I applaud Cosentino for bringing offal to the masses, and a platter of foie gras, pig’s feet, and seasonal fruit ($28) is always welcome at my table. But now that savvy eaters have long embraced formerly daring-sounding foodstuffs, it’s harder to achieve that initial “wow” impact and make it taste good. A beef heart tartare ($16) seems to be made of heart simply because it’s showy, not because the chewy, raw texture of the organ makes for a finer tartare.

That being said, some individual elements are great, like the Little Gem niçoise ($19), with lush albacore confit, perfect egg, and all the right moves. A batteau ($48) is a wondrous tower of not just oysters, but clams and a small selection of the house hams, which again make an appearance in the delightful Around the World in 8 Hams ($20). In fact, make sure to walk around the bar, where a ham room with a glass wall allows you to gawk at the whole leg of Iberico ham.

Drinks are just as flashy as the food, from a Bloody Mary stuffed with brunch goodies (duh, there’s a slice of bacon) to the Coin Toss ($14)—the name being a nod to how our fair city was named, and to the choice of either gin or tequila, served in a hollow grapefruit.

It’s ironic that such a masculine restaurant was chosen to anchor a hotel named after a famous Portland suffragist, but it certainly makes for a study in contrast. Maybe there’s balance yet to be had.

Hours vary, but open from breakfast until late; brunch, happy hour, and late-night menus available. Reservations accepted (try and get into one of those big booths).