The Pacific Northwest is a very special place with its own unique flair. And Portland, in particular, celebrates this uniqueness so well. Known for its refined quirkiness, a bit of quaint charm that balances pleasant nostalgia with innovative freshness, the City of Roses is a place that keeps you coming back with its ever-changing character. It’s a city which feels like a best friend that travels all the time and every time you meet them it’s a new story to be heard and a new look to be admired. And when it comes to the restaurants in Portland, the city certainly remains one of the frontrunners of the farm-to-table approach.
When dining in Portland, forget generic. Around these parts, going back to the basics means finding something new in well-loved ingredients and recipes. These five exceptionally fine restaurants in Portland all reflect that – and we invite you to make sure of that yourself.
If there’s one place that knows how to really do vegan food with an upscale twist, it’s Portland. Farm Spirit is as good as it sounds and it does an excellent job of bringing vegan fine dining to the forefront. Farm Spirit encompasses contributing artisans of the delicate art of fine dining: cooks, producers, potters, gardeners, brewers, vintners, farmers, foragers and other craftspeople. The restaurant offers a plant-focused tasting menu that celebrates seasonal, local dishes emphasizing the beauty of natural simplicity.
Plant-based cuisine is nothing like it was even a couple of years ago, and don’t expect any Impossible Burgers here either. Here, it’s all about truly embracing fine dining cooking techniques that are applied with artistry and innovation. Fire-glazed mushrooms and carrot jerky offer umami flavors unlike any you’ve tried before. Fermented horseradish brings a bit of a kick to your palate, and, of course, you can expect the unexpected, as even pine (we’re in Oregon, after all) finds its way on the menu.
While the service is impeccable, the most interesting twist comes in the form of “making a reservation.” It’s not your typical restaurant when it comes to that. All dinners here are sold as tickets in advance, like going to a concert, the theater or a sporting event.
Not unusual by Portland’s standards, Holdfast is a reservation-only restaurant open from Thursday to Sunday. Offering its guests more than a dinner, but rather a complete experience, it’s a restaurant where diners are seated around a large counter and chefs can be observed creating the delicate dishes that make up each night’s set tasting menu. Unsurprisingly, the menu is put together to highlight the seasonal approach and local ingredients. And the ingredients are the driving force behind each of the unique dishes as every texture, flavor, shape and even color are accentuated.
The menu is constantly rotating throughout the year. The restaurant started as a pop-up venture but, due to popular demand and its success thanks to its excellent food offering, it became a permanent spot on the Portland dining map. Holdfast sells reservations ahead of time and the restaurant’s reputation and loyal following means one thing – booking at least one month in advance is advised. The $140 ticket includes the prix fixe meal, drinks and tip, which makes it one of the most affordable of Portland’s innovative fine-dining destinations.
Ask any local and they’ll tell you that the undisputed best seafood selection in Portland can be found at Roe. The restaurant is a reigning champion of modernist seafood not only in Portland, but it’s also recognized as one of the top establishments in the entire Pacific Northwest. The menus are ever-changing and highlight New American seafood with the creative use of high-end local ingredients. This results in focused plates where each flavor is savored and presented in a pure way, allowing it to shine naturally.
Chef John Conlin and his team use the finest seafood in the world. Every ingredient is prepared respectfully using Japanese, Peruvian and French techniques. This produces a sophisticated and impressive dining experience you will not forget easily. The popular Tasting Menu includes a selection of dishes to choose from for each course. The Chef’s Menu, on the other hand, is a seasonal seven-course seafood tasting menu. And then there’s the absolute treat – a refined caviar service which you can opt for prior to your meal, complemented with a carefully curated wine, sake and spirits list.
If you couldn’t already tell from the name, Nomad.PDX is an artistic new venture that revolutionizes the fine dining experience. The restaurant takes a daring approach and does away with traditional white tablecloth dining to invite guests to experience a breathable and expressive environment where food is celebrated without an old-time stiffness to it. Without sacrificing quality, the restaurant sheds the model of the past through its development of a natural, hands-on approach meant to show the beauty of food and its origins.
The same is true when it comes to drinks here, too. Instead of the largely-produced and industrially-made wines that haunt restaurants around the country, Nomad.PDX focuses on high-quality wines that were created without any additives, in a natural and raw manner. Here, molecular gastronomy meets the simplicity of nature, and the resulting experience will leave you feeling revived, inspired and wanting to return for yet another culinary walk in the park.
Bistro Agnes celebrates a traditional French approach to bistro dining. The place buzzes with excitement, chatter, laughter and love for exceptional food during evenings and it’s impossible to stay immune to this infectious energy. The restaurant is steeped in the rich history of French cuisine and born from a desire to share this particular tradition with Portland’s residents and visitors alike, as everyone here is welcomed as friends and family.
While Bistro Agnes brings cooking back to the basics, there is still an innovative flair, a certain playfulness to every dish here. And that’s something which is truly inspiring. Because just like the city itself, everything here feels truly exciting. It’s new but at the same time it’s also nostalgic, and that’s a feeling we love. Mussels and sole, duck confit and truffled macaroni – everything is delicate and indulgent at the same time.