3 Things You Must Eat in Portland this September

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks dishes on the restaurants, obsessions, and under-the-radar finds of the month.

By Karen Brooks August 24, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Portland Monthly


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Biwa’s Gabe Rosen at Kotori

Image: Karen Brooks

From food carts to Pok Pok, the Rose City keeps proving that every inch of pavement is a potential gastronomic incubator. Thus, an expanse of gravel in inner Southeast is now home to Kotori: a serious, sidewalk homage to yakitori (Japan’s famed grilled chicken on a stick) from the owners of Biwa, located just paces away from the restaurant. There’s no door, just a handmade, shrine-like tachinomi (standing bar), a few tables, drinks galore, and a mouthwatering collection of skewered things built around quality chickens and seasonal vegetables, blissfully charred. The pride of the yard: an imported grill that glows ecstatically with binchotan charcoal. This stuff burns hot enough to fuse glass, making meat gloriously crisp without and juicy within. I’d double back for the short ribs (each bite releases a river of flavorful meat juice) or hand-formed tsukune, a glazed, blackened, ground-chicken wonder, washed down with a Japanese-style plum beer or perky oolong iced sun tea. Get it while it lasts: Kotori’s flames are set to die out at September’s end—although Rosen is pondering winter hours. 4–9 p.m. Thu–Sun; SE Ninth Avenue and Pine Street


It’s official: Castagna is a force on Portland’s growing vegetarian front. Not that progressive chef Justin Woodward really ever utters the word, but his 10-course meditation on seasonal vegetables, now one of three tasting menus per night, is an exciting expression of plants, mushrooms, compound butters, and worldly herbs grown just outside Castagna’s kitchen door. One night’s beautifully composed bites included cucumber stumps layered with chile-voodooed avocado purée and shaded with nasturtium leaf umbrellas as well as a revelation of skinny, slow-roasted carrots that tasted like the condensed history of sweet potato pie. 1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd,


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Image: Karen Brooks

The doors had barely cracked open in July when the whispers started: “Italy just dropped into Portland.” That’s the perfect summation of Pinolo Gelato, a Tuscan-style gelateria that traffics in handmade rigor, each icy batch made fresh in the morning with just the right balance of fluff, creaminess, and concentrated flavor. It’s already well worth a detour for the deep pistachio, delicate Piedmont hazelnut, or potent cioccolato (chocolate). 3707 SE Division St, 503-719-8686

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