Salpicon de Mariscos, Spanish-style ceviche from the newly opened Can Font in Portland’s Pearl District. Photo by John Valls.
Anec a la Torange, duck confit-duck breast with pear and Port demi-infused orange from the newly opened Can Font in Portland’s Pearl District. Photo by John Valls.
Why did a Michelin-recognized Spanish restaurant choose to open in Portland?
Can Font, the Michelin-recognized restaurant 45 minutes outside of Barcelona, is a rustic destination with multiple indoor and outdoor gathering areas built for birthdays, weddings and major anniversaries.
And starting this month, it’s the latest — and perhaps most surprising — out-of-town restaurant to open a second location in Portland, joining outposts from famed hotspots in Seattle (Revelry) and San Francisco (Jackrabbit) with a 60-seat dining room at the base of a glass and concrete Pearl District condo.
The restaurant opens just in time to participate in a pair of major Spanish food festivals landing in Portland in the coming months, starting with a week of special events around World Tapas Day on June 15.
While Portland might seem like an odd choice for a legacy Catalonian restaurant, real-estate broker Vladimir Zaharchook, the restaurant’s managing partner, said chef-owner Josep Vidal fell in love with the city for the same reason many chefs do.
“Josep was looking at several locations — in California, Miami — but he told me what he likes about Portland is people here really like to try different foods, they appreciate ingredients and we have a lot of great local farms that can deliver vegetables and other ingredients,” Zaharchook said.
Compared to the Spanish restaurant, the Portland location is miniscule — the Barcelona-area kitchen alone is “a couple times” bigger than the entire Portland restaurant. But despite the difference in size, the experience will be comparable. To that end, both the Spanish wine list and cocktails were created by Vidal’s nephew, Josep Marti, a well-known Barcelona bartender.
“We’re trying to deliver people who visit us the whole experience as if they will go to Barcelona,” he said. “The atmosphere, the food, the energy, in the kitchen, in the front of the house. You right away can see the original restaurant in Barcelona where Josep has worked for the past 15 plus years.”
Despite Portland’s growing number of Spanish restaurants, including Toro Bravo, Ataula, Bar Casa Vale and Urdaneta, Zaharchook feels Can Font’s menu of paella with squid ink, summer gazpacho, canalones, oxtail more and offers the city something new.
“We didn’t see a big presence of Spanish cuisine here in Portland,” Zaharchook said. “We do have nice Spanish restaurants here, like Chesa and Toro Bravo, but it’s very different. They’re not delivering the same kind of food that we’re doing for Portlanders and visitors because our food is more authentic.”
“We’re not trying to Americanize, we’re trying to serve almost everything how we serve in Barcelona.”