It’s the third act from Ken Forkish, the James Beard Award-winning wizard of flour whose name emblazons Ken’s Artisan Bakery and Ken’s Artisan Pizza, two of Portland’s workhorse establishments. In opening up eatery number three, “[t]he original idea was to combine a bar, bakery and restaurant,” Forkish says.
That plan has disappeared like an elephant in a rainbow-clad magic act, however. Since opening just a little more than a month ago, Trifecta’s grab-and-go pastry counter, which was to open at 8 am, five days a week, stalled out of the gate. The city’s ongoing construction on SE Alder Street severely impacted business, resulting in its shuttering.
“The available parking during weekdays is a challenge and to date has made it too hard for people to even get here,” Forkish says. [Be warned: parking at night is no less a bitch.] Forkish intends to give the bakery’s daytime pastry and coffee thing another try in 2014.
Until then, that leaves the 90-seat restaurant, bedecked with lipstick-red leather booths, and a house made tincture-stocked bar mixing up new and old-fashioned cocktails. Two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Here again, everything sounds great on paper, but the devil is in the details.
Deviled eggs four ways—each half individually garnished with pork belly, pumpkin, sunchoke chips and mustard—were delicious, yet lacked the sparkle a sprinkling of flaky salt would have provided. A slider of fried oyster with slaw on a brioche bun was also good, but it ate dry. I could envision making a meal by ordering two or three of them, but next time I’ll make sure to ask for extra slaw. Likewise, Uncle Max’s chicken liver toast was more bread than topping; two dubiously toasted slices of bread could have used a more liberal spreading of schmaltz.
Kale salad with out-of-place avocados suffered under a cumin-heavy harissa dressing. [What’s a kale salad doing on a “tavern” menu, anyways?] Steak frites was another unbalanced dish: fries were golden-brown, yet confoundedly uncrispy, and while the meat was cooked perfectly medium rare, it was as salty as a salt lick. Oysters “Trifecta” came doused with a nondescript-tasting Hollandaise sauce that was several shades too pale. Dessert was another disappointment: walnut layer cake plastered with chocolate frosting to compensate for its obvious dryness.
Kitchen misgivings aside, there’s good reason to try your luck at Trifecta. Samplings fared much better on the drinks front. As befits a baker’s bar, rye whiskey features prominently on the cocktail list. The wine list covers its bases—Oregon, France and Italy—but you might as well indulge in the gluten and drink one of the local micro-brews on draft.
For now, I’ll stick to the simpler dishes: fresh-shucked oysters with slices of ham and Forkish’s praise-worthy breads, for instance. Because if I was a betting man, I’d wager Trifecta will find its feet over the long haul.
Trifecta Tavern & Bakery || 726 SE 6th Street || Portland || 503-841-6675
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