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 most disappointing meal of 2016?
Michael Russell, The Oregonian’s food reporter and critic
If you told me last year that the talented teams behind Ataula, Ava Gene’s, and Ox would all open ambitious follow-up projects in 2016, I would have guessed that one or more of those restaurants would be vying for a spot among Portland’s top 20 or even 10 restaurants. “Disappointing” isn’t the word I’d use — I’ve had interesting dishes and meals at each — so let’s just say I don’t think Chesa, Tusk, or SuperBite have reached their full potential yet.
Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)
I had a disappointing meal in 2015 that would stun some people: Eleven Madison Park. In 2016, no meal made me incredibly disappointed.
Michael Zusman, cookbook author, restaurant critic (and judge)
In Portland, my first three dinners at Tusk. Back story: I had asked to do the review on this place because I was so thrilled to see a restaurant in the mold of Zahav. After meal number one, I tried to get out of writing the review and choose somewhere else. In the kindly words of my editor, "You got the number-one draft choice and took Ryan Leaf." #ThanksObama.
Since that review, I've heard Tusk has expanded its menu and the food is better. That's good news. From what I hear, Sam Smith definitely has the talent and experience to make Tusk a winner.
Elsewhere, dinner at Central in Lima, a top-tier-in-the-world kind of place per San Pellegrino. It was a reservation snafu (the restaurant blamed the hotel that booked for me and vice versa). I ended up in an upstairs annex after initially being seated in the bar. The restaurant's attitude seemed to be, "You're lucky to be eating here at all." Food still great, but experience was not. Won't be repeating that mistake.
Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury
I think that based on expectation and price, Afuri provided a couple of pretty disappointing meals. I've heard lots about bad service and so-so food from others, yet they're still packed. I super hope they get their menu dialed in better.
Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland
The one I had on election night.
Andrea Slonecker, food stylist, cookbook writer, and recipe editor for Kinfolk Magazine
A number of food cart experiences. So hit and miss.