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Portland’s Food Media Share Their Favorite Restaurant Meals of 2018

From five-spice duck dinners to late-night tacos

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The Whole Ducking Experience at Departure
Eva Kosmas Flores/Official

As the year comes to a close, Eater sites across the globe are tipping hats to all of 2018’s restaurant memories and meals. Here in Portland, we asked some of the city’s best fed about their favorite meals of 2018. From omakase to late-night tacos, these are the exemplary dining experiences that stuck in the minds of Portland’s professional diners.

Michael Russell, restaurant critic for The Oregonian:
“You don’t have to scroll far through my guide to Portland’s best dishes of 2018 to find a great meal. Eating fresh oysters at Olympia Oyster Bar’s seafood and natural wine pop-up on the Oregon Coast. Inhaling half the menu at Canard — including a fully loaded duck stack — with outgoing (former) Eater National critic Bill Addison. Any given Saturday at Rose VL. But at the risk of recency bias, what stands out is a November meal at Houston’s Theodore Rex I shared with my podcasting partner Gary Okazaki. Chef Justin Yu’s Oxheart replacement reminded me a bit of Portland’s Coquine, a place that reimagines a casual neighborhood restaurant through a fine-dining lens. Standout dishes included perfectly soggy tomato toast, rich Carolina Gold rice cooked in soft butter and for dessert, a Swiss cream cheese Paris Brest and a palate-rebooting frozen yogurt with satsuma orange segments and a drizzle of tarragon oil.”

Gary Okazaki, co-host of the podcast Walk-ins Welcome with Gary & Michael:
“In Portland, it was a vegan dinner created by Castagna’s Justin Woodward. I had no idea what the meal would be like. I am not a vegan, but two of our mutual friends are. Justin’s vegan meal was ethereal. We were blown away.”

Mattie John Bamman, author of Ravenous Traveler and former Eater PDX editor:
“I wrote about Roe’s heights of sophistication elsewhere, which lets me now freak over Holdfast. Its technical intensity and chill-it’s-just-extraordinary-food attitude is so damn Portland. Among its many courses, the dish I’ll never forget melded smoked, pulverized salmon, made with a little-known Scandinavian technique, with house-cured salmon roe: a concentrated-yet-succulent new treatment of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic protein.”

Vanessa Ng and Vicki Ng, culinary mavens behind @foodbellypdx:
“Vanessa recently ate at Nimblefish for the first time, and it was so good it temporarily appeased her long overdue desire to have a foodie vacation in Japan. She had sampled Chef Cody Auger’s tamago before at a brunch collab (with chef Matt Sigler at Il Solito), but to have it in an omakase experience was really special.”

Alex Frane, contributing editor for Eater PDX:
“I had never visited the venerable Ringside Steakhouse until earlier this year and didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. From the exceptional service to the incredible steak, wine pairing, and decadent lobster mashed potatoes, it was a confident, delicious experience. Close runner-ups: Coquine, Departure, and Nostrana.”

Michael C Zusman, restaurant critic for Willamette Week:
“I hate to say, but nowhere in Portland. A few bests: Emmer & Rye, Austin; Le CouCou, NYC; Prince’s Hot Chicken, Nashville; Macellaio, Dallas; Sushi Harasho, Osaka; La Villa Madie, Cassis; Cutler & Co., Melbourne; every late night taco joint I tried in Mexico City.”

Pechluck Laskey, author of Pechluck’s Food Adventures and Eater PDX contributor:
St. Jack, where I had sea urchin with soft scrambled egg — everyone should be stalking their Instagram, because they announce one-off dishes like this there; other memorable dishes from St. Jack this year include a roasted lobster and their take on a fried fish filet sandwich. I’ve also been incredibly impressed with the diversity of food and more intimate food experiences at pop-ups, which really grew this past year.”

Nick Woo, author of Feast Meats West and Eater PDX contributor:
“Departure’s Whole Ducking Experience in December: whole roasted five spice duck, duck fried rice, duck broth, and duck fat ice cream. Extremely delicious and memorable.”

Brooke Jackson-Glidden, editor of Eater PDX:
“I moved to Portland in March, but even in that short period of time, I ate such exceptional meals, I’m developing hives trying to narrow things down. The Supahardcore dinner at Nodoguro completely blew me away, especially a cheerful uni risotto that had a nostalgia-factor reminiscent of Kraft macaroni and cheese and a wagyu sukiyaki that burst with flavor in an almost mystical way. Maya Lovelace’s Southern Bacchanalia dinner also stunned, and I won’t forget her Dragon’s Lingerie beans, stewed in a straight-from-Grandma’s savory tomato sauce. But I spent my birthday at Han Oak, listening to my favorite old-school Hip Hop — I did ask my server for a copy of the playlist — and eating maybe my favorite fried chicken on this earth. It’s hard to beat that.”

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