If you don't already check in occasionally with The Food Dude's Portland Food & Drink, I suppose it's never too late (but don't blame us...he's been on our sidebar for as long as I can remember). I've been reading his stuff for quite awhile, and have really come to trust his opinions. His annual reader survey of everything from "If I won the lottery, the first place I'd eat," to "I'm embarrassed to admit I eat here" came out last week, and though a lot of it was about what I expected, there were a few surprises—the biggest of which was the amount of negative comments about Little Bird, Gabriel Rucker's new downtown French bistro.
As you'll see when you get around to reading this upcoming week's paper, I've had nothing but good experiences at Little Bird. Ditto the Oregonian's David Sarasohn, as well as Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks. The Food Dude wasn't so impressed. He called it unmemorable, and gave it his vote for the "I Thought This Restaurant Would Be Great — But I Didn’t Like It!" category. It seems a lot of his readers are with him—he claims that Little Bird was "mentioned in almost every negative category."
Obviously taste is subjective, but I can't imagine the experiences I've had so far getting that kind of overwhelmingly negative attention. It makes me wonder if Rucker and his team are experiencing some growing pains. I can imagine that maintaining consistency is a lot more difficult when you move from a 4-5 hour window to full lunch/dinner/late-night service, and from that tiny Le Pigeon dining room to the more expansive space that Little Bird occupies.
I also can't help but wonder if people are expecting the kind of decadence they've come to expect at Le Pigeon instead of taking Little bird on its own terms. Regardless, I think its reputation is going to be interesting to watch over the next few months. I'll be curious to hear what other people think.
(By the way, I want a pat on the back for making it through my entire column without a single ornithological pun or Portlandia joke.)