Tusk, the ambitious seasonal Middle Eastern restaurant from the hospitality group behind Portland’s Ava Gene’s, will open to the public this Sunday on East Burnside in Portland, Oregon.
The restaurant will serve dinner nightly, a late night menu until midnight, and brunch on the weekends – all with a focus on seasonal vegetables, whole grains, and Middle Eastern flavors. The menus are the vision of Executive Chef/Partner Sam Smith. Smith was the opening sous chef at Philadelphia’s acclaimed modern Israeli restaurant, Zahav, where he developed a love for the flavors, textures and style of Middle Eastern cuisine. He spent the last three years in Portland at Ava Gene’s, where he was Chef de Cuisine and developed close relationships with local farmers. At Tusk, he’ll marry the two. The flavor profile and commitment to seasonality also extends into the cocktail and dessert menus.
Submarine Hospitality partners Joshua McFadden and Luke Dirks recruited an all-star culinary lineup to lead every area of the restaurant: Smith’s Chef de Cuisine Wesley Johnson was also on the opening team at Zahav and is best known in Portland for bringing some of those flavors to Cafe Castagna. Tusk’s Pastry Chef is former Le Pigeon dessert wiz Nora Antene, who spins nostalgic American desserts into artistic creations with the use of unexpected and often savory ingredients. Guests will see vegetables and savory spices on the dessert menu at Tusk, including creations employing the restaurant’s soft serve ice cream machine. All breads and pastries will be baked in-house. The bar program is run by Tyler Stevens, who will draw on his background as a champion barista and most recently as General Manager of Teardrop Lounge to utilize the kitchen’s vegetable juices and herbs on the cocktail menu, as well as creating coffee and tea cocktails for brunch.
Tusk’s interior seats 68 guests, separated into a bright and airy front dining room with a 12-seat marble bar, and a sultry back room which also functions as a private dining space. An outdoor patio off the west side of the building seats 24. Jessica Helgerson designed the clean, modern interior with white walls, camel-colored leather banquettes and custom designed brass light fixtures fabricated locally by Schoolhouse Electric. The restaurant’s largest art piece is a portrait of Keith Richards floating in a swimming pool above the bar, a statement about the restaurant’s playful attitude.
Tusk will begin taking nightly reservations for the dining room shortly after opening, but bar and patio seating will always remain open for walk-in guests.