What the experts recommend: The innovators of Portland, Ore.
Chris Israel; Janis Martin; Kevin Shikami
Grüner“From the vantage point of a window table at Grüner in Portland’s West End, it’s easy to imagine oneself on some smart neighborhood corner in Berlin, Vienna, or Zürich,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Outside stands an old stone church; inside, the decor is sleekly minimalist. The menu, meanwhile, “revels in liverwurst, sauerkraut, braised meats, and accents running to caraway and paprika”—what chef Chris Israel calls “Alpine-inspired cuisine.” A smart chef, Israel is credited with triggering this city’s “early restaurant revolution” back in the 1990s. Following his lead, a host of “small and personal” restaurants popped up that rely heavily on the “superlative ingredients” produced by local farmers. If you have only one appetizer at this newest of his restaurants, “opt for the light, meat-stuffed ravioli floating in a clear golden broth of veal and beef stock.” It is elegant comfort food. And everything here is accompanied by service that’s “infused with the warmth of a neighborhood tavern.” 527 SW 12th Ave., (503) 241-7163
TanukiYou can always count on a “one-of-a-kind” experience at Tanuki, said Chris Onstad and Sarah Kanabay in Saveur.com. This “constantly surprising” Japanese izakaya, or sake-serving neighborhood pub, is the work of Janis Martin, an “irascible and outspoken” Charlie Trotter–trained chef whose approach to Japanese bar food is determinedly “whimsical and market-based.” Devotees comfortable in their befuddlement with Tanuki’s changing menu typically just plop down $20 or $25 for a “staggering” omakase, which translates as “it’s up to you.” Martin’s kitchen dependably comes through with something along the lines of “oysters with kimchi shaved ice, the city’s finest hamachi sashimi,” and “sweet wild boar in an egg crepe.” Just one warning about this local treasure: “Those who do not order drinks will raise the staff’s ire.” 413 NW 21st Ave., (503) 241-7667
KinChef Kevin Shikami may be an award-winning chef, but he’s kept a “low profile” in Portland since arriving from Chicago, said David Sarasohn in the Oregonian. That may seem a smart move for anyone cooking Asian fusion at a time when the style has become cliché. But get to know this newcomer: Your first taste of his “pork belly steamed bun” will tell you why this town can never have too many “young creatives”—especially those who choose to make Asian fusion their medium. The secrets of that pork bun? “Rich bits of meat on soft unrisen disks, with a little napa cabbage for crunch, and ginger and star anise chasing each other around each mouthful.” Shikami produces “dishes you’ve seen before and styles you’ve seen before,” but he combines things in ways “you’ve never encountered.” The roast quail is a good example. By pairing it with hoisin, Chinese sausage, mustard greens, and goat cheese gnocchi, Shikami “launches a whole new bird.” 524 NW 14th Ave., (503) 228-4546