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Portland’s Professional Eaters Reveal Best Meals of 2017

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Castagna
Facebook/Castagna

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 seven 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.

Gary Okazaki, professional glutton (aka Gary the Foodie)

My favorite PDX meal was when Castagna's Justin Woodward created a sublime salmon dinner in October featuring 12 different preparations of king salmon. The highlights were a salmon BLT with fries; salmon collar with nuoc cham, lime, and lettuce; salmon poke with potato chips; and smoked salmon with potato cream and dill.

Second on my favorite PDX meal list occurred on an icy night in January. The Ramen Shop boys (Sam White, Jerry Jaksich, and Rayneil De Guzman) from Oakland journeyed to Han Oak to hold a popup where I ate life-changing ramen. It was so yummy that I went to Oakland in October to partake in their ramen again, and yes, it was as good.

Andrea Damewood, restaurant critic, Portland Mercury

It's a tie: The first was a Chef's Week event, at the former Chesa (RIP) that brought together chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure, Naomi Pomeroy of Beast and Expatriate, Peter Cho of Han Oak, Greg Higgins of Higgins Bar & Restaurant, and Nora Antene of Tusk. The next was another collab dinner — this time at Plaza del Toro during Feast, with with Mike Solomonov (Zahav, Philadelphia), John Gorham (Toro Bravo, PDX), Sam Smith (Tusk, PDX) and Kasey Mills (MEC, PDX).

Both meals were long, but didn't feel that way, with each and every plate full of imagination and great execution (maybe due to friendly competitiveness?).

Michael Russell, The Oregonian’s food reporter and critic

It wasn’t really a restaurant, but the collaborative meal between David Thompson and Prin Polsuk of Bangkok’s Nahm and Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes of Mexico City’s Pujo and New York City sister-restaurant Cosme (NYC) at Northeast Portland’s Chesa was a pitcher’s duel for the ages. Memorable dishes include a fluke agauchile with pasillas and chicatana ants that was followed by a sneaky spicy Southern Thai beef curry with steamed rice and eggs.

With Portland chefs Andy Ricker and host Jose Chesa taking their own shots, the night culminated in a wild one-two punch. First, a jab of sticky rice and tangy banana wrapped in banana leaf and charred, from the Thompson/Polsuk camp. Then an uppercut of tepache (fermented pineapple) float, with cinnamon, sugar, and yogurt ice cream from Olvera/Soto-Innes. At the time, I said it felt like the food-world equivalent of Canelo vs. GGG. When’s the rematch?

Erin DeJesus, deputy editor of Eater.com

Sentimentally, it was our wedding "reception" dinner at Firehouse: hanger steak with fingerlings, spit-roasted chicken over kale showered with cheese, wood-fired mussels, the works. Everyone left stuffed and happy, and I left one manhattan-too-many, so in other words, perfect.

Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland

In Portland, the tasting menu at Castagna in April was probably the best restaurant meal I've ever had in Portland.

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

So, so many great ones this year. The popup at Langbaan featuring Earl Ninsom and Peter Cho doing Korean/Thai food dishes was outstanding. My first mini-pies at Pie Spot on its post-fire reopening were memorable, too.

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