jordan fox / aviary

Critic’s note: This occasional column is about stuff that I eat or drink (or buy) that you should eat or drink (or buy), too. It may be about items that are locally made, or they may not be, but you’ll be able to find them in town. And you should.

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Anyone who spends a lot of time eating out in this town will tell you that Aviary is one of the most underrated restaurants in Portland.

It’s always been a critical darling (it was even Willamette Week’s 2012 restaurant of the year), but in terms of hype, this eclectic French-meets-Asia-in-the-middle-of-a-Willamette-Valley-farm spot just doesn’t get the lines.

That said, I’d queue for the latest menu addition from Chef Sarah Pliner: Szechuan clay pot chicken ($30). On Aviary’s menu through the spring, it’s an entire poussin intended to serve two, bathed in numbing peppercorn and spicy chilis, balanced with sweetness from brown sugar and a sour kick from fermented soybeans. The savory dish takes 30 minutes to prepare, and arrives falling-off-the-bone.

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Pliner, who says she’s fascinated with the ma-la Szechuan flavor, approached the dish this way: “The theory was if I could get all those things working together it would be a really compelling dish, like one of those things you can’t stop eating.”

Mission accomplished. You may find yourself having chopstick battles to see who can get the last oyster mushroom that’s soaked up all that saucy goodness.