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Leave it to groundbreaking chef Chris Israel to bring Alpine cuisine to Portland. Israel redefined the local restaurant scene with Bruce Carey at Zefiro nearly 20 years ago, and followed that up with Saucebox in 1995. After a stint in New York as an Art Director at Vanity Fair (yeah, the guy is talented, to say the least), he returned to Portland and Carey's restaurant mini-empire at 23Hoyt. Grüner is Israel's first solo project (though he's partnered with ChefStable, which brought us Ping), and as with all his endeavors, a labor of love. The 32-seat restaurant resides in the SkyLab building, so is, of course, architecturally striking. But it's the menu of hearty German and Austrian dishes—like housemaid bratwurst and wine-braised sauerkraut, buckwheat späetzle with rabbit, beef short rub goulash—that really have my attention. It's a culinary adventure that shouldn't be missed. Liz Hummer, 1/7/10