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 best restaurant meal in Portland of 2016?
Michael Russell, The Oregonian’s food reporter and critic
My three most impressive meals of 2016 were, conveniently, at the three restaurants I named Portland’s best earlier this year: A quasi-flawless Saturday night tasting menu at Castagna in April, some wildly successful flavor combinations at Le Pigeon in June, and a crescendo of composed creativity during a “Supahardcore” meal at Nodoguro in August. But for sheer fun, the fried chicken, angel biscuits, BYOB(ourbon), and good company we found during a family-style meal at Mae in September was probably our No. 1.
Kelly Clarke, senior editor, Portland Monthly
Xurros and xocolata at 180. I actually made a case to my co-workers at PoMo to consider it for Restaurant of the Year. But, for some reason, expertly fried, cinnamon-sugar dusted dough alone is not enough to live on, for some people… I am not one of those people.
Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)
Castagna's Justin Woodward continued his maturation to become one of the best chefs in the U.S. The highlights included three special dinners: kanpachi, white Alba truffles, and wild game.
One of my gastronomic goals of 2016 was to travel the U.S. to find the most mind-blowing sushi experiences. Having traveled from Los Angeles to New York City, I determined that Ryan and Elena Roadhouse's Nodoguro is one of the finest in the U.S. I fell in love with Nodoguro's “Supahardcore” experience, with the hassun course always a highlight.
There was an under-the-radar collaboration dinner with Vince Nguyen of Jolie Laide and Trevor Moran, formerly sous chef at Noma and CDC at Nashville's Catbird Seat. I attended a few Jolie Laide dinners in 2016, and Vince is a rising-star chef. Trevor's food was revelatory; it was eye-opening. If Trevor opens a restaurant, it will be one of the "must-go-to" restaurants in the country.
Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)
Can't pick one. Top five:
1. Raku (Las Vegas)
2. Zahav (Philadelphia)
3. Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Flushing, Queens)
4. La Mar Cebicheria (Lima)
5. Paiche (Portland)
Oh yeah, every meal I had at Coquine was damn near flawless... and their popsicles and chocolate chip cookies.
Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury
This is cheating, but I had a food writer friend from New York visiting in July and we did a quadruple bang-bang: toured Olympia Provisions and sampled sausages with the ever charming Elias Cairo; moved on to “Noodles alla Johnny” and other treats at Taylor Railworks; headed over to Kachka for horseradish vodka and “Herring Under a Fur Coat”; and then, to late night nachos and more beverages at Expatriate, before her red eye flight back. What a gluttonous treat.
Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland
Every meal I had at Coquine. All four of them.
Andrea Slonecker, food stylist, cookbook writer, and recipe editor for Kinfolk Magazine
A winter roasted pheasant feast at Coquine; the Chiang Mai menu in the spring at Langbaan; rare prime rib carved tableside at Clyde’s Prime Rib. When my family visited in the summer, we ordered every single pizza on the menu at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty: all delicious. Brunch and those buttery little crab buns with a bottle of Raveneau Chablis at The Woodsman Tavern. Can’t pick just one!