The incalculable diversity of Southeast Asian fare was showcased last Thursday night at Natalie’s, the award-winning American haute cuisine restaurant housed in the ultra-luxe Camden Harbour Inn. Natalie’s former executive chef, Lawrence Klang, presided over the meal, and he’ll be at the helm at the forthcoming Tempo Dulu, the new restaurant to open in the spring at Portland’s Danforth Inn.
The Danforth is the sister property of the Relais and Châteaux designated Camden Harbour Inn owned by Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest. They and chef Klang globetrotted across Southeast Asia earlier this year to research new dishes for Tempo Dulu.
At Natalie’s, some 50 diners supped on food inspired by the cooking of Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangkok and Bali. Klang’s cooking was impeccable, presenting the complexities of the cuisine in such sophisticated dishes as smoked trout in green papaya; diver scallops dressed with a beet jalapeno-pineapple infusion, fermented soybean and seaweed; cured foie gras lobster dumpling in a spicy lobster broth and a stunning Balinese interpretation of spiced duck in a lemongrass sambal. A green-tea cake topped with white chocolate mousse, yuzu and sesame was the exquisite dessert finale to an amazing meal
Tempo Dulu will join the ranks of Indo-fusion fare so in vogue in big American cities now. While Portland has its own stars of hipster Asian at such establishments as Miyake, Boda and Empire Chinese, Tempo Dulu will evolve to the next level, bringing more rarefied Asian fare to our shores.
The Danforth will be closing on March 10 for three weeks as the hoteliers revamp the public rooms of the inn and dining room where the short-lived Carmen prevailed several years ago under the inn’s former ownership. The kitchen is being renovated to include a professional exhaust system and essential equipment like a French cooktop and wok for Klang to do his magic.
The dining room will get a makeover too. The staid Georgian look will be updated to include posh banquette seating and a new color scheme. A bar to be installed in the main sitting room will be inspired by one of the centerpieces from a Ritz Carlton hotel in Southeast Asia.
Will the more esoteric cuisines of Southeast Asia auger a new trend for Portland? Why not? We’ve enthusiastically adopted Middle Eastern cooking at Ebb and Flow, Tiqa and the upcoming EVO due to open at the Hyatt in late spring. Tempo Dulu will most likely further Portland’s stance as a center for new age international cuisine as merry old New England goes global.