The main thing about the food at Hurley's is this: It's really, really good. Better than good--call it amazing. There's thoughtful attention paid to flavor, texture and appearance. Each dish is gorgeously displayed, with every tiny accompaniment carefully thought out. For a small restaurant to maintain such a vast menu must involve planning of the sort that keeps small countries running.
Tom Hurley, big-built retired firefighter turned haute cuisine chef, has always seemed a little bigger than life, and his restaurant is rising to his size. His cuisine, heavy on foie gras, truffles, scallops and chanterelles, is intricately impressive and almost unique in these naturalistic times; the verbal description of each dish when it's presented -- "served" seems inadequate -- can take a while and run to phrases such as "microchervil" and "verjus." But there's also an excellent chance that at least one of those dishes -- maybe a cream of chanterelle soup pulsing with truffle oil, distilling an Oregon forest into a bowl -- will startle if not stun you. A tiny circle of spiced Oregon blue cheese on a walnut crust with a fruit syrup is not just a cheesecake you've never experienced: It's unlike anything you've imagined. The atmosphere has equally eased; for the moment, at least, Hurley seems to have won his battle with foie gras activists, and he now works the dining room less like a bouncer and more like a bride's father.