Best Restaurants 2011

Best Restaurants 2011: The Ultimate Feast

48 Hours in P-Town: The perfect weekend itinerary of local eating.

By Karen Brooks October 14, 2011

Portland dining collage tn0xjj

Image: Darryl James




Alpine feast at the stammtisch

Grüner exemplifies the Portland food dream: find a style you love, and make it your own. In this, his Alpine dream, chef Christopher Israel makes art of Mitteleuropa in a jewel-box revamp of the leaden and the uncool. Snag a bench at the beech-wood stammtisch (family table) and begin your climb to the mountaintop with two unworldly visions: beet-pickled hard-boiled eggs and a plate of thin-cut radishes displayed like an Indian mandala. Braised chicken is a must, blushing with savory juice and paired with tender spätzle, as is the cider-poached calves’ liver. Grab one smoky, bacon-topped burger for the table, and throw in a side of smashed potatoes—even your thighs will forgive you. Close with berliners—fried balls of buttery brioche dough—with warm chocolate sauce for dunking. Two years ago, Portlanders wondered if Israel could really pull off his vision for schnitzel cuisine. Who’s yodeling now? 527 SW 12th Ave;



Pok Pok

Lunch in the outdoor hut

You can wait in the two-hour line at night—everyone else does, so you’re in good company. But why not slip into Portland’s Thai food temple for lunch, when tables are readily available and instant bliss is just an order away. The beauty of Pok Pok’s daylight menu is the chance to try chef Andy Ricker’s portal to the streets of Bangkok—aahaan jaan diaw (one-plate dishes), best enjoyed in the heated outdoor hut. Unlike Pok Pok’s nighttime flavors, meant to be complementary and shared, these boisterous bowls boast everything you need in a single dish. The Southern Thai noodles, a recent menu fixation, sum up the experience with grilled pineapple, pungent dried shrimp, Thai chiles hotter than brimstone fire, and a wash of sweet coconut cream, thick and dreamy. It’s yin meets yang, a taste of heaven and earth. And at noon, to hog it for yourself is not only encouraged, it’s authentic. 3226 SE Division St;

7 pm

Le Pigeon

Just say, “Let Gabriel cook”

The best perch for the best food show in town? A chef’s counter with a bird’s-eye view of a kitchen that responds only to its own mood ring. Pull up a seat at Le Pigeon’s counter, but put down the menu. It’s hard to make sense out of listings like “duck, crepe, chard, peaches & foie,” and no waiter can easily explain what bold innovator Gabriel Rucker has up his T-shirt sleeve. Working in his own world of complex combinations, he toys with French, roams the American landscape, and combs the Asian street, sometimes all in the same dish. So decide how many courses you want, ask the man to deliver, kick back, and watch the surprises unfold. A night’s catch might look like this: 1) “fresh slaughtered eel” with corn, compressed cubes of watermelon, and pickled onions in a blaze of grilled eel butter; 2) braised rabbit risotto with the surprise of salami, gouda, and a mouth-puckering pile of pickled peppers; 3) sweetbreads as you’ve never seen them, swaddled in cherry-fueled Carolina barbecue sauce, sided by bread pudding, and crowned with sweet and smoky cherries; 4) finally, duck—pulling up in its crispy fried skin like a hood ornament. Can it get better than this? Yup. Ask ace sommelier Andy Fortgang to pair beers, ciders, sherries, and wines from the expanded house arsenal. 738 E Burnside St;

10 pm

Paley’s Place

Dessert at the bar

The intimate eight-seat bar at Paley’s Place is one of the city’s great unsung corners, and the perfect place to conclude your evening with the true grandeur and sweet magic of a late-night date with dessert whiz Kristen D. Murray. Slip into whatever looks sexiest—a smoked chocolate soufflé, a walnut cake with candied squash, or perhaps a ginger spelt cake ennobled by wild plum curd. Lady Gaga would surely approve of Murray’s seductive, fashion-forward plates. The signature black-pepper cheesecake says it all: a sculpture of intense fruit sorbet teetering over a dome of tanged-up cream cheese, itself resting on a graham cookie in a pool of berry juice. And that’s before you rake your fork through the Jackson Pollock swirl of Lodi apples mixed with saffron and green cardamom. Murray curates every molecule of flavor, even hand-cutting the peppercorns to find the perfect nose-wrinkling kick. 1204 NW 21st Ave;


10 am


The four-course brunch

Welcome to the last leg of this trip: the belly of Beast, where four courses embrace the seasons with French comfort and a no-brakes attitude for the best brunch in town. Light streams over two beautifully set communal tables, Otis Redding croons from the sound system, and the staff powers the room with feminine cool. Coffee comes one way—French press, in the pot—and the bacon tastes like candy. At Beast, the kitchen makes all the decisions for you: set menu, set price, no substitutions. That might mean a dessert to start—a warm, sugar-dusted cherry clafoutis, a kind of pancake-pudding-soufflé rising majestically from a white ramekin—and Naomi Pomeroy’s extreme chocolate truffle cake to end. In between, you’ll savor poached eggs dressed up with a seasonal hash and fat wedges of bread. If you’re still hungry, you can eat your vegetables, served with sherry vinaigrette and a trio of handpicked cheeses. 5425 NE 30th Ave;

Filed under
Show Comments