Erik Van Kley, the former Little Bird chef, opened Taylor Railworks on the East side of the Willamette River in September 2015 featuring “Borderless American Cuisine.” The space stands out in an industrial area, with wall-to-wall wood, a marble bar, and an open kitchen, but my main memory will be of the restaurant’s scintillating Spaghetti & Meatballs.
The idea for this dish popped up when Van Kley was enjoying pho at his favorite spot, Pho Oregon, while thinking of ways to use cuttlefish. He said, “I ordered extra meatballs for my soup and all the pieces just sort of fell in place in my head all at once.” The result is knockout Spaghetti & Meatballs ($16) with pork meatballs, plump mussels, squid ink pasta, and sliced cuttlefish in a spicy Asian-inspired broth. Van Kley crafts the broth with compound butter, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, Thai chilies, and Red Boat fish sauce. He steams the mussels in white wine and the butter, to great effect. Pork meatballs were the size of musket balls, but far juicier, mixed with fish sauce, eggs, panko, Thai chilies, garlic, ginger, lime zest, and salt. The result was a fantastic surf and turf that’s an early contender for my top dish of the year.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.