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Gogi’s: Diners show their affection for a regional favorite

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A special of handmade pasta is served with asparagus and pancetta at Gogi’s in Jacksonville. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Gogi’s in Jacksonville is known for its signature sourdough bread. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Orange panna cotta at Jacksonville’s Gogi’s is finished with berries and lemon poppyseed cookies. Photos by Sarah Lemon
King salmon is served with carrots and “smashed” potatoes at Gogi’s in Jacksonville. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Warm beets with goat cheese are among the starters at Gogi’s in Jacksonville. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Specialty cocktails at Jacksonville’s Gogi’s include the strawberry ginger drop (foreground) and “smoked goose.” Photos by Sarah Lemon

The reputation of Gogi’s precedes this Jacksonville fine-dining fixture.

Closed for more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, Gogi’s has held diners almost at arm’s length. But the establishment’s admirers could hardly wait to show their affection for a regional favorite in its 15th year of ownership by chef Gabriel Murphy.

Despite reopening only three days a week and relying solely on word of mouth, Gogi’s doesn’t seem to have otherwise suffered the pandemic’s rigors. The unfailingly gracious staff waits tables with the utmost professionalism while the cuisine of chef Andrew Peterson refreshes Gogi’s menu without straying too far from dishes customers craved during the restaurant’s hiatus.

Asian ingredients and techniques inform several items on Peterson’s spring menu. A starter of steamed bao buns feature either slow-cooked beef rib or ginger-scallion mushrooms ($17) while salmon tartare ($16) gains a garnish of house-made furikake. Koji, the culture that ferments soybeans into miso, cures the beef for Gogi’s burger ($28).

The inimitable flavors of balsamic vinegar and blue cheese also are prominent players. And the role of Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue in Gogi’s “smoked goose” ($14) persuaded me to depart from my usual preferences and order this “dirty” vodka martini. My partner selected the strawberry ginger drop ($14) with house-infused ginger vodka.

Culinary craftsmanship is a Gogi’s calling card, evident in handmade pastas and superb sourdough bread. Loads of these artisan loaves sustained the community during the pandemic’s early days when Gogi’s gave away bread alongside soups simmered with such locally grown produce as Cowhorn asparagus.

These spears of spring boosted my interest in Gogi’s pasta special: ricotta-stuffed tortellini with pancetta and fresh chives ($34). It was a tough call over Gogi’s sourdough tagliatelle with celeriac cream sauce, cherry tomatoes and crispy leeks ($30), but our server vouched for the chef’s creativity with weekly specials. And its pork fat steered me away from a salad of butter lettuce with fresh pear and cured egg yolk that would duplicate the protein.

Salmon was an easy choice for my partner over the ribeye steak, pork chop or burger. Peterson’s pan-seared preparation ($39) offered a duo of carrots — roasted roots and the greens blended into salsa verde — with lemon “smashed” potatoes and creme fraiche.

To start, we requested the warm beets with goat cheese, arugula, pistachios, truffle oil and balsamic reduction ($15). Although we were sharing, we carefully avoided saying we’d “split” the salad, given Gogi’s split plate charge of $5 per salad and $10 per entrée. My partner and I have no qualms about eating off the same dish.

Our tastes in beverages tend to diverge more dramatically, and I giggled when the server set the pink, fruit-flavored drink in front of me by mistake. My partner quickly claimed his sugar-rimmed glass, skeptically eyeing my blue cheese-stuffed olives. Savory and salty with just the barest bitterness, the “smoked goose” boasted top-shelf liquor and activated the taste buds in ways a sweet drink simply can’t.

The martini also paired far better on my palate with Gogi’s amuse bouche of goat cheese-filled pastry shells, each the size of a quarter. The tiny bites flanked a shot glass of basil pistou, the substitute for butter with Gogi’s signature bread. Affording about three thick slices per person, the bread basket is well worth its $5 surcharge for a refill.

The airy crumb and chewy crust were an ideal vehicle for Gogi’s rich, smooth chèvre, which belied the slightly chalky texture of some other goat cheeses that accompany restaurants’ ubiquitous roasted beets. I’ve opined in previous reviews that this dish has become an industry staple for good reason. And of the half-dozen versions my partner and I sampled within the past year alone, Gogi’s recipe — with its impeccably fresh greens, toothsome pistachios and concentrated balsamic — is hands-down the best.

I had just enough time to order a glass of Quady North rose before our entrées arrived. The wine list comprises 10 labels — almost all local — by the glass, from $12 to $15. Bottles, excepting Champagne, are exclusively Rogue, Umpqua and Applegate appellations from $31 to $63.

Presented skin side up, the salmon wasn’t as colorful as I expected, but the fillet was nicely portioned, and the scored skin commendably crispy. Similarly, the salsa verde wasn’t quite as brightly hued or flavored as I anticipated, but the creme fraiche added necessary tang.

Vibrantly verdant, the asparagus in my dish paired in almost perfect proportion with its pancetta, a generous amount for the half-dozen pasta dumplings. A study in ideal textures, the dish tasted lively down to the last bite while the salmon started verging on slightly salty.

The citrus notes of Gogi’s panna cotta ($13) appealed over other, richer dessert options of tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake. Accented with macerated berries and finished with lemon poppyseed cookies, the orange-scented custard was all the luxury I needed after such genteel dining.

Although prices are on the far upper end of a la carte courses locally, the Gogi’s experience is second to none in Southern Oregon. It’s clear Gogi’s loyal clientele agree.

Lacking a website or updated presence on social media, Gogi’s relies on customers calling 541-899-8699 for reservations. Dinner service starts at 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant is at 235 W. Main St., Jacksonville.

Tempo Tidbits

Celebrate the 75th anniversary of Callahan’s Mountain Lodge with a classic meal.

Italian favorites, including ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi, headline the family-style menu available March 21-25. Priced at $19.47 per person, the meal includes fresh-baked focaccia, minestrone, Caesar salad and spumoni ice cream with diners’ choice of entrée.

Callahan’s founders Don and Nilde Callahan offered many Rogue Valley residents their first taste of Italian cuisine when they opened the lodge in 1947 just off Interstate 5 south of Ashland. Ron and Donna Bergquist owned the lodge for 25 years, rebuilding it for $4 million after a 2006 fire burned it to the ground. Mark and Lisa Cleaner, of Bar-C Properties, purchased the lodge in 2020. The California couple own and operate other lodges, including one at Lake Tahoe.

Known for its wood-burning fireplaces and weekend live music, Callahan’s serves Saturday and Sunday breakfast and lunch, beginning at 8 a.m. The restaurant operates from 3 to 8 p.m. daily for dinner. See the menus and reserve at callahanslodge.com. Or call 541-482-1299.

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A special Easter dinner is planned at Ashland’s Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine.

The April 17 four-course meal offers a choice of lamb shanks with truffle sauce, king salmon with Dungeness crab butter sauce or spring pesto risotto with English peas and wild mushrooms. Also included for the price of $60 per adult, $30 for kids 12 and younger, are a choice of carrot bisque or panzanella salad, flourless chocolate torte for dessert and cheeses, charcuterie and pickles for the table.

Seatings are available from 4 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to

7 p.m. See the menu and reserve at larksashland.com/easter-menu. Or call 541-488-5558.

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Ramen is the new specialty of Noonie’s Boba Tea in downtown Medford.

Noonie’s owners Noon Korapat and Neil Belt said they hired friend Orlando Contreras, who had cooked for Medford’s Tosu Ramen and Sushi for the past decade. Contreras prepares tonkotsu and miso ramen with a choice of pork belly, chicken or tofu.

Known for Vietnamese pho and other Southeast Asian fare, Noonie’s opened at 149 Central Ave., in late 2020. A native of Thailand, Korapat worked as a chef in Thai restaurants and moved to Southern Oregon about five years ago. Noonie’s is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.