Unparalleled sophistication in Portland
There are very few white-tablecloth, special-occasion restaurants in Portland now. Of the handful that have resisted the trend of casual, come-as-you-are dining, none are anything like Tempo Dulu. “The minute I walked into the Danforth Inn, I fell in love,” says owner Raymond Brunyanszki. “It reminded me so much of the grand Colonial houses I had seen in Asia, with the dramatic, wide hallway dividing rooms.” Inspired by the elegant ambience of those homes, Brunyanszki renovated the almost-200-year old Federal-style building, designing and decorating it himself.
He removed doors to make the space open and flowing. Bright white paint and unfussy contemporary furniture allow the original decorative features to stand out. Oversized, boldly graphic art, purchased in Bali, adorns the walls.
Tempo Dulu occupies several rooms on the first floor of the inn, lending the intimate feel of a private home. Each dining area is furnished with square-edged velvet banquettes and comfortable leather chairs. Starched white tablecloths and spare white china are a blank canvas for the stunning food. Original fireplaces grace each area, and dramatic but simple floral arrangements accent the rooms. Lighting is low and flattering, creating the aura of personal space at your table. Brunyanszki believes that Tempo Dulu is truly one-of-a-kind, telling me, “There’s no other restaurant in the country translating Southeast Asian cuisine into fine dining like this.”
Executive chef Lawrence Klang’s menu is a grand tour of Southeast Asian countries, touching down in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, and Indonesia. Klang trained in Bangkok and Singapore before stepping into this role. He and Brunyanszki work together closely on the menu, making adjustments seasonally to take advantage of the best local ingredients. Dinner is offered as a four-course tasting menu or á la carte. A popular option is the chef ’s Indonesian rijsttafel, or “rice table,” a traditional meal served at royal celebrations. It’s an elaborate feast of many small dishes accompanied by various pickled vegetables and savory yellow rice. One of the main plates is beef rendang, fork-tender beef cheeks braised in a pressure cooker with a subtly spicy mixture of this cuisine’s classic ingredients—ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and coriander.
A five-course lobster tasting menu also beckons, featuring preparations that marry local seafood to foreign flavors. To complement any progression of dishes, the Contemporary Pairing is highly recommended. The bar provides a cocktail matched with each course, building flavors that complement the food, adding another element of pure pleasure to your meal.
Across the broad hallway is the bar area, known as the Wayang Lounge. Inspiration for its design came from a visit to the ultra-chic Hermès store in Shanghai. A baby grand piano sits in one corner, a deep velvet sofa faces the wood-burning fireplace, side tables are placed at exactly the right height for your drink, and an attention-getting live-moss light fixture hangs over the room’s center. But the real star of this sexy salon is Trevin Hutchins, the resident bartender.
In just a short time, Hutchins has established himself as one of the most innovative mixologists not just in Portland, but in the country. His approach to cocktail formulation is wildly creative, using an enormous variety of ingredients and techniques. “I try to mimic the layering and flavors of Asian cuisine,” Hutchins explains. “The hardest part is conveying the depth of flavors through cocktails because they lack the textures found in the food.” Such challenges have not held Hutchins back in the least. The mixing of each drink provides entertainment for all the senses. As he puts a flame to the ingredients of Chinese five-spice powder, a potent and exotic aroma fills the air. He quickly places a glass over the smoky little pile of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices, trapping the scent. Hutchins then mixes the other ingredients for the Jakarta, the most popular cocktail on the menu. It’s a complex blend of rye, aromatic liqueurs, and bitters, poured into the smoky glass and served icy- cold. A new addition to the cocktail menu, the Fourth Gentleman, uses a hot infusion siphon to imbue Barr Hill Reserve Tom Cat gin with flavors from Hutchins’s own pantry, including dried chrysanthemum, fresh mint, and pink peppercorns. Observing Hutchins at work is a little like watching a magic trick—you’re not exactly sure how it’s done, but you’re surprised and delighted by the outcome.
The level of graciousness and service at Tempo Dulu stands out among Portland restaurants. Brunyanszki and his partner, Oscar Verest, are also the owners of the Camden Harbour Inn, renowned for its luxury and hospitality. They’ve now brought that sophistication to Portland, believing that the city and its diners will welcome the unparalleled experience.