Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with bars and restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"You get the best service when you sit at a bar," says chef Anthony Cafiero (formerly of Tabla) of the philosophy behind the open-kitchen/laboratory of his soon-to-open Racion, located in downtown Portland, Oregon. The restaurant, which seats 18 at an L-shaped counter, will offer three seatings per evening, and 5 and 7-course menus of modernist Spanish-influenced small plates. The lounge in the back of the restaurant will be open during dining hours for drop-ins looking for cocktails and snacks.
"While we embrace modern cooking techniques, we only do it if it makes sense and has a purpose," says bar manager Chauncey Roach. "The whole idea is to have a deconstructed kitchen and bar that helps people to see the process and encourage them to have the confidence to experiment at home." The cocktail program will include 6 rotating variations on classic cocktails, including a house margarita made with chorizo-infused tequila, and a martini garnished with a trompe l'oeil olive.
"We always want to make sure that we keep some cocktails that are accessible to all drinkers while also providing new, more adventurous cocktails for drinkers looking to experiment," says Roach. Future plans include Chartreuse pearls destined for a boba tea-inspired cocktail, barrel-aged Campari, housemade bitters, and an expanding selection of local spirits.
Racion will also feature a non-alcoholic drink menu that includes a concoction made with hibiscus tea and Jamaican jerk seasoning, as well as a house made root beer served mixed with an apple shrub.
About the Author: Greg Harned lives in Portland, OR, where he enjoys cocktails, drinking and general mischief-making in candlelit speakeasies, swanky cocktail lounges and dingy dive bars. He manages Portland Craft Cocktails where he writes about his various exploits. You can follow him on Twitter @craftcocktails.