Every month, we dig through our restaurant listings to bring you a themed (and non-comprehensive!) roundup of places to eat out in Portland. In the August 2017 issue, we highlight 15 spots that take their seafood seriously.
Andina aims for the peaks, with Peruvian fusion cooking not often seen outside of Lima, but with enough local ingredients to keep it grounded in Portland. Colorful pepper sauces over hunks of beef or lamb, fanciful ceviches, and quinoa “risottos” appeal to a wide range of appetites. The jewel-toned bar is a perpetual Pearl District hot spot, with playful Latin-inspired cocktails like the Sacsayhuaman, a seductive dance of sweet, fire, and passion fruit. Forget trying to sound it out and just order it by its nickname: “sexy woman.”
A checklist of sustainable catches informs Bamboo’s non-preachy menu, an in-depth list of sake love, creative sushi, and playful, visual rolls drawn from the Pacific Coast. Even the California rolls rise above the mundane, holding only certified local Dungeness crab while keeping prices on par with most places serving the fake stuff. Adventure is part of the house philosophy, and on any night you might find horse mackerel and Scottish trout, not to mention a darn good burger, fat with high-quality American Wagyu beef.
Between the big-screen TV broadcasting the latest game—any game—and Southern funk banging from the speakers, you may wonder if you’ve wandered into a college sports bar. But it’s the kind of sports bar that has a Sunday jazz brunch, and an impressive selection of Northwest oysters—Kumamotos to Yaquina Bays—baked, fried, raw, and in elaborate shooters, ranging from a Cajun, chile-infused vodka with spicy red sauce to the Cowboy, with beer and Tabasco.
The Heathman Hotel’s nearly century-old dining room and bar received a seriously modern makeover in 2016. Even more impressive is the huge, ambitious, seafood-obsessed menu overseen by veteran Vitaly Paley. Headwaters is a fresh take on hotel dining, complete with whole roasted rockfish and octopus carpaccio, updated French classics served table-side, cheeky modernist desserts, and an expanded, refreshed bar. It’s a grandly laid-back (a.k.a. Portland-style) fine dining spot that aims to delight both intrepid seafood adventurers and more conventional eaters morning, noon, and night.
This seafood cove in the former St. Jack space gets its name—and aesthetic inspiration—from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. At the driftwood-clad bar, beneath a painted portrait of Bill Murray, one can slurp down $1 happy hour oysters accessorized with house tarragon vinegar, jalapeño hot sauce, and red Tabasco. Hyperseasonal is the mode: morels, pea jus, sea beans, and a spruce-tip focaccia, topped with house burrata and mushroom conserva. Whole roasted trout and cioppino fisherman’s stew are crowd favorites, while crudo shows off the kitchen’s creativity, with a shrimp ceviche popping with green strawberries and Fresno chiles, or yellowtail with salted kohlrabi. It goes down smooth with a small, carefully curated wine list and stellar but potent cocktails—just the way Zissou’s sailors prefer it.
Kachka’s boisterous take on Russia’s traditional cuisine, as reimagined by chef Bonnie Morales and her husband, Israel, centers on vodka and all the requisite cured fish, dumplings, and cabbage-wrapped meat that come with the territory. With its small tables groaning under plates of vareniki bulging with tangy farmers cheese and satisfying beef tongue (fried to a crisp but meltingly tender inside), plus seven types of caviar and traditional Soviet sweets, Kachka just might kick-start a homegrown Russian revolution.
At La Moule, St. Jack’s Francophile chef Aaron Barnett reintroduces Portland to mussels and fries with a globe-spanning take on Belgium’s national dish, plus a side of moody lighting and great cocktails. Its comfy black booths are sweet, dimly lit nooks for sharable, date-night mussels steamed in six flavorful broths, with a menu bookended by French-inspired bar fare, like a burger with a thick slice of bacon and double-cream brie on top. La Moule pulls double duty as a serious bar. Cocktails like the Lilah are approachable, with sherry, green chartreuse, and Mellow Corn—an en vogue corn whiskey. Meanwhile, the Belgian-inspired tap list, both European and local, is a traditional (and perfect) partner for the country’s favorite dish.
Mirakutei’s sushi master, Hiro Ikegaya, is known for his deft hand with seafood—Asian fusion tapas to handrolls. On cool, rainy days, noodle lovers skirt the fish counter and make a beeline for one of Portland’s best bowls of ramen. Of the six varieties on the menu, the Genki may just be king: a bowl of white-miso-steeped pork broth, eggs scrambled in heavenly matrimony with char siu pork and garlic and topped with scorching flecks of Thai chile. Don’t stop slurping—heat and umami intensify as you get closer to the bottom.
This spare space along North Mississippi aims to elevate the humble bivalve with Asian- and Latin-inspired small plates, with promising results. For oyster lovers in search of the quintessential raw-bar experience, there’s a curved, ornate ice chest of craggy, Northwest-grown half shells, Chelsea Gems to Flats, while, behind that bar, staff skillfully shake up a short list of classic cocktails and glasses of sparkling wine. Ambitious eaters can dive into a mixed-bag global small-plates menu. The kataifi, named for a tangle of Middle Eastern phyllo in which the oyster is fried and served with smoked avocado purée and microcilantro, looks like Cthulhu but nicely balances a trifecta of spicy, sweet, and crunchy. Best bet? Trust the house to select a dozen “chef’s whim” oysters, sip a dry, arctic gin martini, and brace for briny pleasure.
In the foodie desert of Southwest’s Lair Hill neighborhood, Lima native Jose Luis de Cossio writes his own mad food story, weaving Peruvian cuisine, rooted in Portland farms and fields, with dandified dish deconstructions and a health-focused mission to boot. Local pea tendrils and Oregon strawberries find new purpose alongside ingredients you might spy during a cliff-hugging, Buñuelian bus ride to Machu Picchu. House cebiches call forth the sun god, as mounds of glistening fish rise over shooting rays of golden aji pepper sauces and puffed corn. And that’s before you get to crazy purée swirls and edible sculptures that rival a Las Vegas carpet for baroque wildness.
→ Paiche recently switched gears, swapping out its colorful dinners with a breakfast and lunch menu of bocaditos, cebiche bowls, and soups.
In 1995, Kimberly and Vitaly Paley bailed from New York’s restaurant world for Portland, where they invested in farmers, not décor, and helped jump-start a new Northwest cuisine in a Victorian house perched over a nail salon. Over the years they’ve won a coveted James Beard Award, penned a coffee-table cookbook, opened two hotel restaurants, and ushered in nightly packed houses for food that can be earthy, whimsical, or decadent. The kitchen still juggles house classics—perfect Manila clams with chorizo, hand-cut fries, exquisite bone marrow towers knee-deep in red wine sauce and escargot—and mad creativity.
Portland’s first standalone poke restaurant is manned by Colin Yoshimoto, a Hawaiinative who’s played pinch hitter at some of the city’s best eateries, from Nodoguro to Nong’s Khao Man Gai. The white tile and air plant–strung Hawthorne shop serves six bowls, ranging from classic Hawaiian ahi to a vegan tofu bowl, starring Portland’s own Ota Tofu, with shiitake mushrooms and kale. The sesame-heavy, purple-hued octopus bowl is the best choice, tossed with crunchy, local Choi’s Kimchi, onions, and cucumbers. But beware: some sauces are a little
one-dimensional and overpowering.
→ Poke Mon has a new neighbor down the street: SeaSweets Poke, at 1505 SE 31st Ave, gets in the raw fish game with fresh flavors like steelhead with sea beans and shrimp with pineapple and cilantro.
Poke gets the artisan treatment at Bamboo’s QuickFish, next door to the sustainable sushi chain’s downtown location. Step up to the bar for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure bender of raw fish, sauces, and toppings—seaweed salad to sesame brittle. Overwhelmed? Just order the Bamboo Bowl, with honkin’ cubes of Oregon albacore tossed in a sweet cilantro aioli, all topped with confetti strips of nori and crunchy fried shallots.
When St. Jack migrated from its quaint corner perch on SE Clinton Street to a bigger, more industrial landing on a bustling corner of NW 23rd Avenue in 2014, there were some serious upgrades. Chef Aaron Barnett added an ambitious seasonal chilled seafood menu packed with luxurious nautical finds like briny-sweet whorl-shelled bulot (giant snails) to a list of rich, comforting staples. Still, the bouchon’s bubbled-over crocks of macaroni gratin pounded with bacon lardons and plates of blood sausage leave no doubt: Lyon is in the house.
Nothing screams Oregon more than the Woodsman’s seafood bar—a showcase of the freshest West Coast oysters and crabs around. Meats undergo a similarly rigorous screening process: the carefully assembled “Country Ham Plate,” for example, is an exquisite trio of porcine delights. The restaurant’s Tuesday special, a highbrow paper bucket of otherworldly, buttermilk-sopped fried chicken—fried hard in lard, aggressively herb-salted, and drizzled with honey—is clucking ecstasy.