REVIEW: A guide to how Portland’s restaurant scene can support your holistic wellness

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“Food is a basic, hedonistic pleasure, a sensual instinct that we all share and delight in. It’s a shame to waste it.” — Yotama Ottolenghi. (Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottoleghi and Sami Tamimi)

“Cooking is human. Food is perhaps the one universal thing that truly has the power to bring everyone together. No matter the culture, people all over the world eat together. -Guy Fieri

Portland is considered one of the food capitals of the country. Driven by creativity, local ingredients and hip aesthetics, Portland’s dining scene offers a dining experience like no other in the country. Dishes craft combinations of flavors and textures that leave you amazed, satisfied and wanting more.

These two years have been difficult for the restaurant industry. From closing to being unemployed, to reopening in the midst of a pandemic, restaurants are striving to bring back the legend that is Portland’s restaurant scene, with dishes that are even more creative and flavorful than ever.

Food is comfort, nourishment and a language of love. Creating a dish that tastes and looks delicious is an act of mastery. I know this art well; my dad was a chef for 23 years, and every night for as long as I can remember he cooked dinner for my family. No matter what was going on in our daily lives, dinner was the break where we could be together and feel the love through both the company we had and the hard work and care my dad put on our plates. .

“I think preparing food and feeding people nourishes not only our bodies but also our minds. Feeding people is a way of loving them, just as feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own creation and frailty” – Shauna Niequist

I learned the importance of the mealtime experience: food has the power to bring us together, strengthen our relationships, contribute to our physical well-being, and bring us a moment of joy in the unstable world in which we live. Therefore, actively taking time to enjoy food is a key part of our holistic well-being and can help heal our spiritual and emotional health. Connecting with the people we love through the appreciation of food is one of the most profound experiences we can have as human beings.

“Food can bring people together in a way nothing else could” – Yotam Ottolenghi

My father’s cooking is the best food I have ever tasted; he showed me the way to understanding the complexity and quality that define good food, and he helped me recognize the undeniable connection between what we use to nourish our bodies and our holistic well-being. I attribute my developed palate to it.

I got used to the restaurant experience. My family vacation was centered around restaurants. The last nine months of my life have been spent helping reopen Tusk, one of Portland’s most popular establishments. And, in my three and a half years in Portland, I’ve been to 80 restaurants. It has become my mission and my passion to experience the best Portland chefs have to offer. Their artistry in mastering flavors, textures and spices produced some of the best dishes I have ever tasted. Portland’s style is creative, bold and incredibly delicious.

While there is so much more to taste and so many more places to try, I think I’ve found some of the best Portland has to offer. Dining out is not just an experience; it is an investment in our physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. To experience brilliance is to feel joy and human connection. Here are the restaurants that support this philosophy as well as my favorite dishes:

Breakfast

sparrow

Bacon breakfast sandwich: poached egg, bacon, avocado, arugula aioli, served on a hand-rolled croissant

Ocean Roll: vanilla sugar with cardamom rolled up in a traditional croissant dough

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

mary proud

Potato Hash: smoked pork belly bacon, kale salad, a poached egg and bagna cauda sauce (garlic and anchovies)

Ricotta hotcake: yuzu cheesecake, orange syrup, ube meringue, miso crumble, strawberries

Big Stark Deli

Grand Stark Benedict: homemade English muffin, ham, poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, fried potatoes

Deli Plate Breakfast: two eggs, homemade English muffin, deli potatoes, bacon

Harlow

Pesto Garden Scramble: Quinoa, Farm Fresh Eggs, Seasoned Jackfruit Scrambled with Seasonal Vegetables, Roasted Yams, Potatoes, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Kale, Walnut Basil Pesto, Roasted Walnuts

Liquid Sunshine: orange juice, basil, pineapple, mango, coconut oil, Indian gooseberry

Lunch

Yai Hat

Half Hat Yai Fried Chicken: sticky rice, Malay curry and roti

Muu Hong: braised pork belly and shoulder with fried egg

Desipdx

Aloo Gobi Chaat: crispy potatoes, fried cauliflower, spicy tandoori yoghurt, chaat masala, tamarind date and spicy green chutney

Tandoori Tempeh Curry: Locally made squirrel and crow chickpea quinoa tempeh in a smoked coconut milk sauce with Bengali 5-spice basmati rice, turmeric and mustard vinaigrette salad , seasonal pickles and a spicy green chutney

Tienda Santa Cruz

Tacos: carnitas, pastor or carne asada

Guacamole & Fries

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Ben and Esthers Vegan Jewish Deli

Bagel Sandwich: Egg, Cheese, Bacon / Steak, Eggs

Galette with potatoes

Matzo ball soup

Having dinner

Q-Restaurant and Bar

Dates wrapped in bacon: goat cheese, marcona almonds, marsala

Bruschetta: roasted wild mushrooms, grilled peasant bread, rocchetta, aged balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, arugula

Lechon

Pork Belly Baucitos: pork belly, firecracker salad, steamed buns, sesame BBQ sauce

Brisket Empanadas: golden raisins, fontina cheese, ancho aioli

Foraged mushrooms: free-range egg, grilled brioche with aged parmesan, caramelized onion purée, herbs

Eem

White curry with burnt brisket and cauliflower

BBQ Fried Rice: beef brisket, shishito, chili jam, fried shallot

Smoked Pork Krapao: burnt pork belly, Thai basil, fried egg, rice

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Malka

Medusa: eggplant and zucchini fries, carrot ribbons, za’atar, honey, feta, gochugaru, lemon, herbs

Rhododendron Garden: Organic Umi ramen noodles with curry bolognese (beef and pork), sautéed gailan, green beans, savoy cabbage, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, coconut cream, crispy shallots, basil, grilled sweet pepper

Oma’s Shelter

Roti Canai: Malaysian puff pastry, parsnip and squash curry

Fried market squash: vegan tomato sambal, roasted peanuts, coconut, fried shallot

Wonton Mee: Handmade Egg Noodles, Char Siu Pork Belly, Pork and Shrimp Wontons, Fermented Napa and Serrano Cabbage, Chili Jam

Last but not least, my final recommendation is Tusk. Beyond my prejudices, there are several reasons why the restaurant in which I work is my favorite. Chef Joshua McFadden’s philosophy showcases local produce from Oregon’s best farmers in all seasons of the year. Using the gems of Oregon’s agriculture, the genius of experienced chefs, and the simple yet delicious flavors and techniques of the Mediterranean diet, Tusk offers some of Portland’s tastiest and most unique dishes.

Some of my favorite dishes include:

Classic hummus: marinated chickpeas, tahini, paprika, Wagyu A5 and flatbread

Roasted Delicata squash: crispy cinnamon-ginger pepper, sunflower and hemp seed purée, meyer lemon

Cauliflower and Broccoli: gouda cheese, golden raisins, crispy quinoa, mango vinegar, cashews

Berber Spicy Kafta: dairy cow, roasted parsnip, shallot, harissa, whipped feta, flatbread.

Moroccan pancake: chickpea flour pancake, homemade rose ricotta, rose apple jam, poached citrus fruits

Photo courtesy of Abigail Meyer.

Our lives as students are stressful, especially with the challenges presented by the pandemic and the uncertainty of the times in which we live. We all need a break from the world and a moment of self-care – what better way to do that than to enjoy good food with the people you love?

“Meals make society, hold the fabric together in many ways that were lovely or interesting and intoxicating to me… Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it is a start – Anthony Bourdain

Abigail Meyer is a senior at UP. She can be reached at meyera22@up.edu.

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