Oh, we were actually just talking about Langbaan being wonderful. And now they have a James Beard Award. Neat!

Just two weeks back, critic Andrea Damewood revisited reviews from her first year of food criticism for the Mercury, and highlighted the Slabtown prix fixe restaurant, dubbing it "absolutely essential Portland eating." She continued: "[Earl] Ninsom has built an empire of restaurants since the 2010s—Padee, Hat Yai, Eem, Phuket Cafe, Yaowarat—but Langbaan remains the jewel in his crown." 

On June 10, the James Beard Foundation awarded Langbaan the high honor of Outstanding Restaurant at their awards ceremony in Chicago. They also recognized Kann's Gregory Gourdet as Best Chef in the Northwest & Pacific region of the US.

Langbaan's chef and owner, Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom, has placed as a semi finalist / finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur in previous years, so the recognition—while deserved—isn't exactly surprising. Perhaps only in that it hadn't happened yet. Damewood described a recent dining experience at Langbaan as "a parade of bites that sing with Thai chile, dance with shiso, mint and other herbs, and kiss you goodnight."

A statement from the restaurant, expressed shock: "What a surreal experience— something we will never, ever, ever forget in our lives." The same post included photos of Ninsom and Langbaan staff at the awards event, noting everyone who was photographed. "These people have all worked at [Langbaan] for what, 7, 8, 9 years each. They’ve been together for so long and you can see it. You can see when people come to visit them. They’ve built the foundation and we strive to make sure everyone who comes feels taken care of, feels the warmth and the tenderness. Oh what a special place it is."

Gregory Gourdet backstage at the 2024 James Beard Awards © Huge Galdones, courtesy of James Beard Foundation

Gourdet is no stranger to James Beard awards and nominations himself, having won for Best Cookbook in 2022 for Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health—a book that forever changed the way I make guacamole. In 2023, Gourdet's widely-celebrated Kann won for Best New Restaurant. 

Does this new Best Chef win help visitors and locals vying for reservations? Certainly not. But don't forget the anecdotal wisdom that cancellations lead to day-of openings, and the restaurant's Instagram has been known to dish on available tables.

Another tangential Oregon win that may interest readers: A documentary that won for Visual Media: Long Form at the foundation's media awards, on June 8, includes a fascinating profile of Willamette Valley winemakers—Moe and Flora Momtazi—who fled Iran during the Iranian Revolution. Somm: Cup of Salvation came out last year, but was recently acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films, so we might be about to see it pop up in theaters or on streaming platforms soon.

Reviews of the documentary suggest that while the previous three films in the Somm series—directed by Jason and Christina Wise—focused heavily on the effort behind becoming a Master Sommelier, Cup of Salvation jumped the shark to explore the complicated history found in countries like Iran, where long traditions of grape cultivation clash with the illegality of consuming alcohol.

Can't get enough of these darn James Beard Awards? Here's the whole list of the 2024 winners.