Downtown Portland has a cornucopia of delicious restaurants, but the French cuisine is harder to seek out. Nevertheless, I recently discovered a gem on SW 6th Avenue, called Little Bird Bistro. Or if you want to practice le français, pucker up your lips and translate the English into “Le Petite Oiseau”. I think that the French is a stellar ambassador for the culinary arts, and Little Bird lived up to the title.
The place was dimly lit, providing a pleasantly romantic atmosphere. (Valentine’s Day lovers—here’s your haven). My family awkwardly edged by the couples to climb up the stairs to the balcony room, where small tables surrounded by dainty chairs resided next to the magnificent wall of wines. The restaurant had a typical French style—pastel colors, a bit rustic yet charming with attractive and picturesque country-like architecture. It transported me back to my visit to France, where I always looked forward to the meals and sampling the heavenly food.
My family decided to order one appetizer to share—grilled lamb with seared foie gras and mint yogurt. And yes, foie gras is duck liver. I had it one time when I was in France, and it just tasted like really pasty sausage. Fortunately, Little Bird used garlic and searing to give it a richer flavor. The lamb, on the other hand, was perfect. My fork sank into its soft, tender meat, and the grilling gave it a savory, smoky taste that made my knees go weak. I thought that it was intriguing using mint yogurt with the lamb and foie gras, and it actually helped to give my taste buds a sense of refreshment from the strong meat flavors.
I’m proud to say that I went out of my comfort zone this time. I had the special of the day, a seared steelhead trout with eggplant and beet puree alongside a heap of grape ravioli. I’ve never really been an advocate for eggplant, but this eggplant didn’t even taste like eggplant! It was creamy and savory while the beet’s tart sweetness rounded out the combination perfectly. The trout was fresh and tender, with crackling skin on the outside and a nice, mellow taste—not like the typical overpoweringly pungent fish aroma. And grape ravioli was truly novel. I rejoiced at the tart crunchiness of the grapes accompanied by a hint of a wine flavor. The pasta didn’t flop or give a bland impression. The whole combination of flavors seemed so unlikely, yet they complemented each other well for a fantastic meal.
Now for the finale—dessert! I’ve never eaten such finery. My family and I ordered a lemon crème brûlee and a dark chocolate blancmange. Crème brûlee is a popular French dessert of vanilla custard with a layer of burnt caramelized sugar on top, and the one I enjoyed was also topped with a dollop of vanilla bean mousse and two little poppy seed butter cookies. I have a soft spot for lemons, so this dessert hit the spot. Similarly, blancmange is a type of pudding with a very glossy yet smooth texture. The chocolate had a surprisingly striking and bitter taste with sweet hints of cocoa. It was accompanied by candied hazelnuts and a sweet orange jam. I personally loved the crème brûlee the most, devouring it with a true French passion. By the end of the meal I just kept thinking to myself, “C’était magnifique!”
At the end of dinner, Little Bird even decided to emulate the Chinese tradition a bit by offering little cinnamon and coconut macaroons to satisfy our palettes further–I’d take those over fortune cookies any day.
219 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
11:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Saturday & Sunday:
5 p.m. – 12 a.m.