There is a great deal of talk about the number of restaurants in Portland these days. Many of these restaurants are top notch and they are doing well. If you think the number of white tablecloth, fine dining restaurants in our city, you can count them on one hand. I understand why restaurant owners are reluctant to go this route. Keeping a restaurant afloat is difficult in just about every way; going with a fine dining concept would multiply the challenge tenfold.
Tempo Dulu at the Danforth Inn is clearly a fine dining restaurant in a class of its own. The elegance of the dining room, and impeccable attention to detail, transport the diner to a time when dining was all about the total experience. You thought about what you might wear to dinner days before your reservation, because looking your best mattered. You planned it so you would have time for a cocktail at the beautiful bar — a cocktail that would be sipped and transferred to your table. You made sure you only invited friends you could spend more than an hour with, because you knew this meal was going to last at least three and that would be fine by you. This dinner was not about filling your belly; this meal was going to be an experience.
When seeking the total experience, we hope for each of our senses to be fully engaged. I want to walk into a high-end restaurant and see magnificent art that suits the space, beautiful lines throughout, colorful fabrics that pop, and subtle lighting that makes my date glow. I want to immediately know food is being cooked in a kitchen not far away. I don’t want to smell the charring of meat or the sautéing of garlic, but the aroma of exotic spices hitting a fresh piece of fish or the scent of butter browning in a frying pan; neither overpowering or offensive. I want to hear the hush of diners talking and laughing at their tables; tables with a respectable amount of distance between them. I want the music to be soft and pleasant so that there is no need to scream over it. I want to sit at a banquet and feel the soft fabric engulf me. When I shift during my dinner, I want to move without effort and not have my napkin slide off my leg onto the floor; polyester just won’t do. And lastly, when I taste that very first bite of food, I want the flavors to dance in my mouth and validate the effort it took for me to experience that moment. I realize this is a lot to ask of a restaurant and chef and that when I long for this type of dining in Portland, the list is short.
The team at the Danforth Inn and Tempo Dulu have done their very best to provide all that I hope for in a truly special dining experience. Chef Michael MacDonnell, who took over the kitchen at Tempo Dulu this past spring, is a chef who truly understands the power and punch of subtle flavors. Chef Michael began his career under acclaimed Thai Chef Bounkuang Souimaniphanh where he was trained in the preparation of classical Thai food. The preparation of Asian Pacific cuisine is a concept near and dear to his heart and one can see this by the way the menu comes together.
His dishes are so beautifully plated, you’ll want to take it in before you take a taste. Most will want to photograph the dish to further prolong the impact. His coconut soup with roasted mushrooms and coconut foam was the highlight of my dinner. Clearly I am not qualified to be a food critic; however, I will share that Chef Michael’s new fall menu has a lot of people talking. The tasting I did had me thinking about the meals I have placed on my top ten list — this meal has secured a spot. Now, getting back to the total experience, Trevin Hutchins, Tempo Dulu’s mixologist and restaurant manager, never disappoints. He’s the consummate professional; I watched him make many guests giggle with joy. The restaurant manager position he has secured, will serve the restaurant well.
Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest, owners of the Danforth Inn and Tempo Dulu, are well schooled in hospitality. Their attention to detail is legendary. They are warm, engaging and know a great deal about pleasing guests. If like me you long for the total dining experience, save your pennies and reserve a banquette at Tempo Dulu.
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