Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is among several productions this season at Portland Center Stage that are based on a book or had previously been produced as a movie. It’s an almost unavoidable reality for theatrical companies to pack their slate with plays that people are somehow familiar with in some way.
Another unfortunate reality of modern theater is that the money available for productions has shrunken. Portland Center Stage’s artistic director Chris Coleman has embraced this fact and in many of his productions this season has worked with negative space and actor’s narrative or pantomime to fill the stage. This tactic worked extremely well for Ragtime and Snow Falling on Cedars but fails miserably with The Chosen.
A lot of performers have put on a suit, stepped up to the mic and made an attempt at the gold standards. It’s an alluring cannon of music which instantly resonates with a huge number of music fans. The problem, though, when you sing classic songs is that it’s nearly impossible for people not to compare you and your performance to the great performers who originated them.
Michael Bublé seems acutely aware of this fact and the range of his voice, and he uses the music and style of Sinatra, Nat King Cole and even more contemporary artists as a jumping off point for his own unique sound and style. While Bublé has a very strong voice he doesn’t have the same lower register / golden throat that gave Sinatra’s music those well-rounded, sweet lower tones. Bublé seems to acknowledge this and intelligently navigates his way thought the best-fitting Sinatra songs for his register, including “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “All of Me” which feature big high notes that Bublé can hit with ease.
Portland’s food cart scene is simply explosive. Once thought to be just a sign of the bad economy, Portland’s carts have weaved their way into the local culture in a way that shows they aren’t just a temporary stop gap or money saving alternative – they are now part of what makes Portland, Portland.
Like any great experiment, the food cart universe continues to change and evolve, including cart clusters like Cartopias in SE and on N Mississippi, and cart-turned-restaurants like Los Gorditos II.
KoiFusion, one of Porltand’s most popular food carts, is furthering the experimentation with a “Pop-Up Shop” restaurant. The pop-up shop concept is not a new one (with temporary stores taking over vacant retail space over the holiday shopping season), but KoiFusion is the first to try to take this concept and apply it to a restaurant.
KoiFusion@1 takes over the failing SOLO lounge in the Pearl (1300 NW Lovejoy) and puts Chef Joe Anderson, formerly of Carlyle and the Portland City Grill, into the kitchen with a menu that expands beyond what can be done in a cart. The most notable addition is the amazingly delicious “KFC – Korean Fried Chicken”. These crispy fried bite-sized drumsticks are a symphony of flavors which explode in your mouth. The “KFC” is a quintessential late night craving and a perfect accompaniment to a nice whiskey cocktail. Also on the new menu are Korean spiced french fries, which were equally delicious.
Although KoiFusion knocks it out of the park in the kitchen, the experiment is an abysmal failure on the bar side, with Joshua Palmer, the bar manager from Typhoon/Bo Bar holding on to some of SOLO’s vodka heavy drinks. With a cocktail list completely dominated by infused vodka (with the exception of maybe one or two rum drinks), the KoiFusion@1 drink menu is a complete mismatch with the food. The two cocktails I tried from the menu were mostly pre-mixed and the bartenders seemed to be completely disinterested in mixing a quality drink. The result was limp, punch-like drinks which were completely dull and boring.
KoiFusion@1 would do better abandoning its cocktail program all together and simply serving beer and whiskey with the spicy Korean fare. As much as I loved the food, KoiFusion@1 is still a bar and unless they can nail down that side of things this experiment could fail.
With the pop-up restaurant concept KoiFusion will have to prove itself every single month, as the SOLO owners can give give them the boot at any time. It’s a big bet on both sides of the equation.
It will be interesting to see if the concept is sustainable or if it’s just an interesting recession-era experiment. Either way, the food is worth seeking out. Expect long lines and short runs on their Korean Fried Chicken, but plan on grabbing your drinks somewhere else.
KoiFusion@1 is at 1300 NW Lovejoy. (hours will be 4-midnight to start with lunch being added in the near future)