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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

New York Times 2023 best restaurant list includes 3 in Oregon

The New York Times published its third annual American restaurant guide Tuesday, an interesting mix of old and new places including three in Oregon.

Though the list has “best_restaurants_america” in its url, it’s actually more of a grab bag. The intro describes the picks alternately “favorites” and “50 places in the United States we’re most excited about right now.” Though only half the blurbs are marked as “new,” all three Oregon picks opened relatively recently — South Portland’s Lilia launched last October, Northeast Portland’s Cafe Olli in December 2021 and McMinnville’s Okta in July 2021.

Lilia and Cafe Olli both made our own guide to Portland’s best new restaurants last year, Lilia at No. 4 and Cafe Olli at No. 2.

Last year, Portland’s Kann and Ashland’s Mas made Gray Lady’s 2022 list. Portland’s Coquine and Eem were included in the inaugural edition.

Here’s what the Times had to say about its three Oregon picks for 2023.

On Lilia, which serves “Pacific Northwest cuisine through the lens of a Mexican American chef:”

“Best to let dishes like silky halibut with morels, mole and flakes of rice chicharron, and pork collar confit with heirloom carrot escabeche speak eloquently for themselves. The menu changes weekly and includes fleeting ingredients like the black trumpet mushrooms decorating blue corn chochoyotes (masa dumplings) and marigold petals plucked from the chef’s garden.”

Farro, apples, celery root, ricotta
salata, hazelnut and golden raisins in a salad.

Sprouted farro is served at Cafe Olli on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 in Portland.Vickie Connor/The Oregonian

On reasons to love Cafe Olli, an all-day cafe that’s “anything but stale:”

“Maybe it’s the bread program that churns out fresh boules every day. Or the pastry menu, with its generously salted chocolate chip cookies alongside delicate laminated offerings. Or maybe it’s the eclectic array of breakfast and lunch items seemingly designed for one’s personal cravings, or the Neapolitan-style pies with seasonal toppings.”

On Okta, which “integrates the roots, fruits, leaves and creatures … of the Pacific Northwest into a tasting menu with spiritual dimensions”

“The chef Matthew Lightner (formerly of Castagna in Portland, Ore., and Atera in New York) once cooked at Noma, whose influence is evident in dishes like lacto-fermented peppers surrounding locally caught rockfish, and the liberal use of Douglas fir and lichen. But Mr. Lightner never loses sight of deliciousness while pursuing a vision that melds ecology, philosophy and history with culinary sciences.”

If it feels like a lot of national restaurant lists have been publishing lately, you’re not wrong. Last week, Bon Appetit included Kann in its annual restaurant guide, while Food & Wine tabbed a Texas restaurant with Portland ties as its Restaurant of the Year.

— Michael Russell; [email protected]

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