ANOTHER YEAR, another swirl of new menus. I'm in my second full year of eating as a public service and I have to say that most of 2015's openings didn't get me as jazzed as last year's (2014's Lang Baan and Kachka are hard to top). Call me jaded. Or just stuffed to the gills.
But that's not to say there haven't been some fantastic standouts in both the fine dining and cheap eats territory. Here's a rundown of where I've returned with my paltry paychecks this year:
- Michelle Mitchell
3735 SE Hawthorne
What I Said: "Then comes the nigiri, a procession of fish flown in from Tokyo's famed Tsukiji market and other select spots—chef Ryan Roadhouse works with a broker to find what's best, and builds his daily menu around it. It's amazing to think $2 sushi train plates... are even from the same planet," ["Nodoguro Is the Best Sushi in Portland," Last Supper, Oct 14].
Why I Go Back: I praised Nodoguro's Japanese prix fixe meals in 2014, and promised in this same column last year that I'd be back. And I did go back, this time for the hardcore omakase sushi nights. Get a reservation ASAP because the relocation of Pastaworks, where Nodoguro is currently housed, may leave the restaurant unmoored. Frankly, I'm worried we're going to lose it to Los Angeles or New York.
- Adam Wickham
5427 NE 42nd
What I Said: "To be straight, this review is hard for me to write, because Pollo Norte is already running out of chickens early. Now you a-holes are going to be my competition. Bring it on," ["Proclaim! It's Pollo Norte Time," Last Supper, Jan 14].
Why I Go Back: Over the year, some very good roasty/grilled chicken options have popped up around town (see especially: Chicken and Guns). But there's something about Pollo Norte's cabbage cooked in dripping fat, a succulent thigh bite, and pinto beans rolled into a tortilla that just does it for me.
- Natalie Behring
117 SE Taylor, Ste. 101
What I Said: "Here's what to order for sure: a glass or bottle of one of my new favorite white wines, the crisp Stift Goettweig Grüner Veltliner ($13/44), and the show-stopping one-pound bowl of snow crab legs ($35). They arrive partially cracked and look like a sea monster escaping its bowl... It's fantastic," ["Little Bird Chef Leaves the Nest for Taylor Railworks," Last Supper, Nov 18].
Why I Go Back: I returned to taste excellent vermouth from bar manager Gabriela Ramos last month ["Vermouth for Dummies," Lush Life, Nov 17], and I also asked my dad to take me here for a birthday celebration. For such a new restaurant to be so on point is an achievement.
What I Said: "A well-made chocolate chip cookie is my Achilles' heel. I don't ever *not* want one. Right now? Sure! Mid-intercourse? Why not? After 2 am on a Saturday? FUCK YES," ["Coop's Cookies Delivers Late-Night Cookies!," Eat This!, Jan 28].
Why I Go Back: See above. This is late-night delivery of huge, delicious cookies in rotating varieties. I know y'all are with me: This was my most shared post of the year. I love Coop's so much I had them deliver around midnight after my wedding this summer.
- Katie Summer
1430 SE Water
What I Said: "The truly addictive and transcendent menu item at Noraneko arrives on a small plate with a simple slice of lemon. The tori kara age chicken... is the juiciest goddamn deboned bird I've tasted in a hot minute," ["Ramen Right Meow," Last Supper, May 6].
Why I Go Back: Don't get me wrong: I always get the miso ramen with egg and pork when I go to this super-successful Biwa spinoff, but what separates Noraneko from its competition is the fact that I can add an order of Asian chicken nuggets.
I'LL BE BACK
Be it money, time, or location, I haven't been back to these three spots (although I want to!) since I praised them in the press.
6839 SE Belmont
What I said: "By meal's end, you'll be full, happy, and surprised by new flavor combinations. Coquine also has some of the friendliest service I've had in years... and there are the makings of a new classic," ["Put a Beret on It," Last Supper, Sept 2].
Why I'll Be Back: At the Merc we don't name a restaurant of the year, but if anyone asks me personally, I say it's Coquine. The warm fuzzies I got from their French-inspired food and fantastic atmosphere were a huge bright spot this year. We'll meet again soon, Coquine.
1126 SW Alder
What I Said: "You'll be trotted around the globe with a cheese arrangement made with the same care that top-tier sushi restaurants present their wares. With sushi, you eat the fish from lightest to oiliest; at Chizu, you eat the cheese from creamiest to stinkiest," ["Say Chizu," Last Supper, May 20].
Why I'll Be Back: I have no excuse. I've wandered past a few times and seen it packed, so I've pressed on to other downtown spots. But to hand over $25 or so for Steve Jones' omakase (chef's choice) is a true lactose treat.
2131 SE 11th
What I Said: "The pizza is dialed in and aggressively seasonal, managing innovative toppings without resorting to gimmicks. To wit: a tomato leaf pizza ($16) in June. Turns out tomato leaves are not poisonous, and instead wilt down like any other green, imparting an additional tomato-y nuance to the sauce," ["Pizza with Swagger," Last Supper, August 5].
Why I'll Be Back: Due to the high volume of pizza places opening in Portland, I've yet to bring myself to return to PREAM—I've been guarding my off-hours carefully against dough and sauce. But of all the pizza joints I reviewed in 2015, I'd say PREAM takes the pie. It's worth the risk of overdosing.