This Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant in a cozy bungalow is truly a neighborhood spot -- friendly service, unassuming vibe, and great food. In a town that strives toward culinary diversity, Abyssinian Kitchen is a welcome addition to Portland's growing list of African cuisine. The lamb and other meat dishes are more than worthwhile, but it's the herbed and spiced veggies and lentils that keep us dropping by on whim after whim.
Run by the proprietors of Northwest mainstay Ataula, Chesa is home to Spanish tapas and paellas backed by a substantial list of sherry. Chef José Chesa's highlight is certainly the paella, cooked in cast iron pans to a near-crisp in a custom charcoal oven. Pairings include rabbit and Iberico ham, squid and cuttlefish, and beyond. Don't completely stuff yourself with the savory, though; you'll want to leave room for a xurro at Chesa's next door companion, 180. These are the craft xurros you never knew you craved.
Born out of Portland's experimental food scene, Han Oak is a prix-fixe Korean restaurant that feels less like an uppity haven for people who call themselves "foodies" and more like a mellow inclusive speakeasy. The entrance is unmarked, and first-timers will tentatively walk in fearing they may have stumbled into a private party. But fear not -- that trepidation is erased once inside. You're greeted by a staff that appears to have been expecting you like an old friend. A classic film might be projected on the far wall, chefs chatting away with diners at the counter. Then there's the food -- a fresh take on traditional Korean blood sausage, an all-pleasing dumpling, and various plates of kimchi. And in a moment when pork belly is ubiquitous, Han Oak's salt baked preparation of the new classic stands out. You must plan ahead, though, as this weekend-only dinner and Sunday brunch service is reservation-only.
Southern Thai fried chicken brought to you by chef Earl Ninsom (Langbaan, PaaDee). Need we say more? OK, fine, we will. Hat Yai, unlike Ninsom's more formal restaurants, is a casual counter-service spot that often has a line out the door. The fried chicken combo plate with rich Malayu-style curry, sticky rice, and roti (pan-fried bread) is the place to start. Mix all the ingredients together for the ultimate dining pleasure and insight into what the hype is all about here.
Since its opening, Jacqueline has been winning the hearts of Wes Anderson fans with its décor. A portrait of Bill Murray in Life Aquatic garb graces the wall as if to lend his approval -- and we won't argue, especially when we're enjoying a happy hour of $1 oysters and cocktail of the day. Oysters come with various sauces in tincture pipettes for precise application. The cioppino ($30) is a bit spendy, though with half of a Dungeness crab among the ingredients, it's worth every spoonful.
Portland has been blessed as a second home for several successful Japanese restaurants, particularly ramen shops, and it's nothing short of a dream come true. Marukin made its first venture into the United States by opening two locations in Portland, one in the new food hall Pine Street Market and another next to city favorite Nong's Khao Man Gai. Marukin demonstrates simplicity -- the various broths, offered on a weekly schedule, and the hand-cut noodles are the focus here. For those who scoff at bowl of ramen because it doesn't have a pound of meat in it will be disappointed. And it’s for the better, 'cause this place often has a line and we don't want it grow much longer.
Formerly a pop-up restaurant, Nodoguro opened its brick-and-mortar location in May, continuing it’s intimate ticketed dinners for a serious omakase. The menus change frequently with seasonal offerings, imported ingredients, and the moods of the chefs -- the menu is finalized roughly 48 hours before your dinner date -- so each experience is made new and endlessly adventurous. At approximately $115, this meal is not for the faint of heart or pocketbook, but Nodoguro is a true treat for the sushi enthusiast or all-around foodie.
Finally, the south waterfront gets a new first-rate restaurant. Chef Jose Luis de Cossio, formerly of Peruvian powerhouse Andina, brings us the best cebiche around. Where Andina is large, Paiche is small -- in scale and the menu -- and it's this focus that causes even cebiche skeptics to crave Cossio's lightly cured seafood with sweet potato, onions, and cilantro soaking in leche de tigre. For a perfectly paired side dish, try the earthy causa tierra, sautéed potatoes with quinoa, and amaranth. Reservations are recommended.
What a year to open a restaurant called Poke Mon. It makes us wonder if the owners were in cahoots with the Pokémon GO creators to ensure maximum exposure upon opening. But damn, it worked because we found ourselves catching Pokémon while eating the equally hot dish of poke. Essentially, this place is a poke bar that offers mix and match variations on the traditional Hawaiian dish of raw fish marinated in shoyu sauce over rice. The result is a delicious bowl that transports you from the endless drab gray drizzle of the Northwest to the sublime temporary island rain of Hawaii. There's a bucket of fish at the end of this rainbow.
With old-school boom boxes on the walls and DJs spinning, Revelry feels decidedly like a late-night lounge. But don't let that distract you from the food. Seattle's James Beard nominees Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi create elevated Korean street food-inspired eats that satisfy for an early dinner date or a group of friends on a late-night urban tour till closing time. While the highlight is the seaweed noodle with Dungeness crab in red curry, the most unique items on the menu are the savory pancakes, from jackfruit to kimchi to smoked oyster. Order them all and pass the plates around the table.
If you only had to commit to taking one bite of a menu item, how might you order? Would you be more daring? This question is at the heart of the new project from Greg Denton and Gabi Quiñónez Denton (Ox). Main dishes are indeed available -- the cuttlefish noodles and the ramen egg are superb -- but the experiments worth starting with are the bites. These aren't appetizers or small plates. These are, quite literally, bites. Truffle spaghettios, beef tongue masubi, salmon belly crudo with hibiscus ponzo... The extremely small portions allow both chefs and diners to experiment with new impactful flavors that may be too intense or rich for a main course. Come on, just take one bite.
From Joshua McFadden and Luke Dirks of Ava Gene's, and partner Sam Smith comes a sleek yet casual vegetable-focused Middle Eastern restaurant. For those who've discovered the joy in Ava Gene's salads and veggies (and cocktails), Tusk's focus will bring excitement and drooling. Enter first the vegetable garden with plates like cauliflower with raisins and Aleppo pepper then move on to the fried halloumi cheese and some of the best hummus you'll have. Don't fear the lamb tartare. A late-night menu, offered till midnight, includes hot wings with yogurt and a pita sandwich. The somewhat healthy spin on these late-night munchies don't make them any less satisfying.