Today The Oregonian unveils six-week-old Renata as its pick for Restaurant of the Year (ROY) and — as the glut of comments on the announcement post show — it's a controversial one. Curveball choices, however, seem to be the norm for restaurant critic Michael Russell, who chose the pop-up dining scene as ROY last year. In today's case, many argue that a restaurant of this age couldn't possibly be fully formed enough to warrant such an honor. Russell's defense: "Renata fired on all cylinders from the drop."
Proprietors Sandra and Nick Arnerich arrived in Portland years ago via San Francisco Bay Area, where they collectively racked up names like Benu and the French Laundry on their resumes. The chef? Another San Francisco import: Matthew Sigler, last seen at the acclaimed Flour + Water.
Russell notes that this Portland star is, in fact, a patchwork of elements from the team's prior jobs: pastas resemble those of Flour + Water chef Thomas McNaughton, there's a service trick imported from three Michelin-starred Benu, and San Francisco "probably wouldn't blink" at the decor. But then, its an "experience so complete it shakes up Portland's dining landscape."
Russell goes on to explain that pizzas are "not yet among Portland's best," mains "feel overthought," and "they're still navigating how and when to use the hearth and next-door pizza oven." Still, "the restaurant is already a force to be reckoned with" thanks to its whole-animal-based charcuterie program, "house bread basket (trust us)," roast chicken and pastas.
Look for more conclusive decisions when the full restaurant guide hits stands tomorrow.