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Portland's Professional Eaters Reveal Their Best Meals of 2015

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Dina Avila/EPDX

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from best dining neighborhood of the year to top restaurant newcomers, and we'll be rolling out their expert opinions all week long. Responses are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please share your survey answers in the comments.

Q: What was your single best meal in 2015?

Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury

Little Bird in August. My husband and I sat at the bar for an impromptu, one-month wedding anniversary meal. We split a dozen perfect oysters; I drank a mighty fine rose; and we shared an amazing bone-in pork shank with cous cous and a tomato saffron compote and a whole fried fish with a s'mores dessert. Great food, great atmosphere, great company.

Diane Morgan, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author

It's a toss up: I was given a gift certificate to Roe and we went on Halloween. It was a stunning meal. But our dinner at Nodoguro was also fabulous.

Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)

I managed to visit Lyon, France this year and have dinner at Paul Bocuse. I'm not a Michelin-star counter, but his was French haute cuisine at its traditional finest, from the purple-green-orange building, to the grand tasting menu.

Ben Tepler, Associate Food Editor, Portland Monthly

Muscadine's fried chicken. I can't describe the experience without using expletives.

Chris Angelus, founder of Portland Food Adventures and Right at the Fork podcasts

As far as Portland, I recuse myself from choosing between my PFA [Portland Food Adventures] events. I enjoy them all and always have. I fell in love with Maya Lovelace's cooking this summer at Mae, and I happily just scheduled a PFA there, which made everyone really happy. Outside of Portland, Can Jubany in Spain. And my favorite dining experience was at Vesta del Soton in Aragon, Spain, with my friend Jose Chesa and his father. I don't think I was more content at any one meal than that one. (You asked for one. Stop me...) Oh, yes. Da Net! Everyone must do that.

Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)

My favorite meal of the year was at San Francisco's Saison. I dined there twice in 2015, and the second meal stood out. Saison is a singular gastronomic experience. The quality of the ingredients is breathtaking, as is Chef Skenes's culinary ability. My favorite dish was a board of deer, boar, and yak (yes, yak!). And I hope his dish of liquid toast with sea urchin never leaves the menu.

Paris is my food nirvana. My runner-up meal took place at Alleno Paris. Yannick Alleno prepared dishes that were precise and sophisticated—a meal that remains indelible in my memory. The gastronomic skill of chef Alleno was best exemplified by a dish of Iberico ham with Iberico ham jelly, fermented rye bread mousse, and kalamata olives. His ability is on par with any chef I have encountered.

My favorite PDX meal E-V-E-R  was on November 25. The place was Castagna. The chef was Justin Woodward. Dish after sublime dish—25 of them. Justin took over the Castagna kitchen in August of 2011, and it is so gratifying to see the maturation and evolution of Justin's food. He is now one of the best chefs in America.

My runner-up PDX meal of the year occurred at Le Pigeon, and it was the most fun I had all year. It was a special event called  "Fuhgeddaboudit" (i.e., Le Pigeon Goes Italian). The atmosphere that night was joyous: the food, the wine, the smiles.

Andy Kryza, senior editor, Thrillist Portland

Rabbit in a Clay Pot; pelmini; herring under a fur coat; beef tongue; khachapuri; five shots of vodka; and seven Tums, at Kachka.

Martin Cizmar, Arts & Culture Editor, Willamette Week

Two really stand out, and sadly, neither is repeatable. The first was the "Wild Things" beer dinner inside Portland Penny Diner during the Craft Brewers Conference. Imperial's Doug Adams made a roasted elk shank that blew my mind (we pretty much gnawed the bone clean). The second was a magical night at the now-shuttered Vancouver branch of Taste of Sichuan. The soup dumplings were on point, as were the mung bean jelly noodles and the best Sichuan hot pepper chicken I've had in years and years.

Kathleen Bauer, food writer and blogger, Good Stuff NW

Overall, very few meals can match what we have at home on a regular basis, from roast chicken, to braised beef neck, to pig trotters in a pot of Ayers Creek Farm beans, to steaks on the fire when we're camping. Meals out—wonderful as they can be from any of the places listed [Bar Avignon, Burrasca, Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, Old Salt Marketplace, Nostrana, Lucca, Davenport, and Tastebud] —become more special because I don't have to cook them. My current crave is the beef tartare at Old Salt using beef from Bill Hoyt of Hawley Ranch in Cottage Grove.