The beats are hot and so is the fried chicken.
In fact, Revelry PDX has become one of Portland’s hottest spots since opening in August 2016. In a nondescript space off a busy thoroughfare, the Korean street-food restaurant is loud and steaming inside with its open kitchen and DJ spinning old-school hip hop into the wee hours.
Creative partners Eric and Karen Bowler, owners of Portland bars Tube and Fortune, brought the inspired ambiance. The innovative menu belongs to chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, the power couple also behind three Seattle outposts that have earned them a trio of James Beard Award nominations in 10 years.
We spoke with Yang about carving her niche in the ever-shifting Oregon food scene, riffing off the current Korean food trend, and what, exactly, makes their fried chicken so addictive.
With two young children and three restaurants at home in Seattle, why make Revelry (a spin-off of Revel in Seattle) your first restaurant outside of Seattle?
My husband’s family lives in Hillsboro. It was a great excuse and reason to have a restaurant in Portland. And the fact that Portland’s dining scene is amazing. We’re making it work because Seif and I [who have two young sons and celebrate 10 years of marriage this year] are a team. It’s hard for one person to do it, but we take turns and go down to Portland every week, for a day or two at a time. It’s controlled chaos.
How is the Portland food scene different from Seattle’s?
From what I’ve seen so far, Portland has talented cooks and chefs that take one concept and run with it. That gives more diversity and an in-depth look into different cuisines. In Seattle there’s broader (menus), more general items. Oregon’s become such a hot spot for food. People just appreciate the diversity of it. We’re happy to be part of the diversity.
In what way does Korean food influence your cooking?
My food definitely has a Korean influence to it, but I’m figuring out my own voice. It definitely has a lot of Korean elements to it, but we don’t have bi bim bap or other things you’d find in typical Korean restaurants; our rice bowls and kimchi are a little different. [In fact, the menu includes their unique spin on decidedly non-Korean dishes like pad thai, Dan Dan noodles, vindaloo pancake and mochi donuts.]
A killer drink list is essential for a late-night hangout. What’s the secret to your cocktail program?
The bartender’s not afraid of jumping into the kitchen, doing their own thing. It helps that my kitchen is connected to the bar. We do a great soju program, which is doing better than anywhere else. We have three different kinds of soju — including (infused flavors like) fortune cookie, pico de gallo, wasabi, red velvet. We use soju as a blank slate.
What’s coming up this summer at Revelry?
We’re starting “K Pop Up” nights on Tuesdays in July with K-pop [Korean pop music], collaborations with local Korean chefs and pairings with soju-focused cocktails. We’re definitely liking this connection with the community.
Your sweet-hot sauce for Mrs. Yang’s fried chicken (with peanut brittle topping) is irresistible. How can we recreate it at home?
Yes! I have a book coming out in September, “My Rice Bowl: Korean Cooking Outside the Lines,” which includes that recipe and 74 others. You’ll also find my seaweed noodles with crab and crème fraîche, tahini-garlic grilled pork belly, fried cauliflower with miso bagna cauda, chipotle-spiked pad thai, Korean-taco pickles, and rice bowls — with everything from lamb curry to charred shiitake mushrooms. In the meantime, I’d love to share this great summer squash pickle recipe that we serve with blackened tuna rice. It’s a perfect accompaniment to any grilled item or just by itself!
- 2 assorted summer squash, like zucchini or yellow squash
- 1/2 cup pickling liquid (house ratio is 1:1:1 rice vinegar to water to sugar)
- 1 Tbsp salted shrimp, found in Asian grocery store
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 piece of ginger, thumb-nail size, peeled
- 1 jalapeno, less if less heat is preferred
- Thai basil
- Canola oil
- Blend pickling liquid, salted shrimp, garlic and ginger together until smooth.
- Cut jalapeño into 1/8″ half moons and de-seed.
- Cut summer squash into 1/2″ half moons.
- Saute the squash in canola oil in medium heat until the outside lightly browns.
- Add jalapeño and cook for 1 minute.
- Add pickling liquid mixture just enough to cover. Cook until squash is barely soft.
- Transfer to a container and chill overnight; serve with your favorite grilled meat or fish.