A lot of restaurants in Portland can get by on whimsy. But like golf and swimming, steak rewards technical excellence. So don't expect tweezer-plated micro sculpture from chef Ben Bettinger at New American steakhouse Laurelhurst Market: Expect execution with simple garnishes and saucing, like a classic bearnaise adorning cuts from the Snake River Farms in Idaho that grew America's answer to wagyu.
But hiding under technique like the rest of the iceberg, there's art. Our cocoa-and-chicory-rubbed hanger steak, an umami bomb with flavor akin to short rib, had its corners brightened with acidic chimichurri and pickled onion, while a much more delicate teres major was rounded and deepened with with buttery vichyssoise soup and sautéed chanterelles.
But that's just the steak: Laurelhurst Market's beef tartare—made from unaged New York strip and chopped with mustard, Tabasco and emeralds of cornichon—strikes a symphonic balance of richness, salt, spice and pickled brine that catapults it to a status among the best in the city. Meanwhile, sides like green beans fried and served with chili aioli and bacon bits ($8) will be the richest thing you eat that month. Those big, meaty flavors are backed up by the cocktails from Shipwreck bar pop-up captain Erik Nelson. Most lean bold and boozy, like the Hook Line and Sinker: It tastes like hard candy for adults thanks to bourbon, raspberry syrup and Clear Creek pear brandy.
The group behind Laurelhurst Market and Simpatica—along with less-acclaimed spots like Ate-Oh-Ate and Reverend's BBQ—hit a major setback this year when chicken restaurant Big's Chicken went up in a fire in July. That project, which briefly returned this year to the Laurelhurst Market parking lot where it was born, is on hiatus until they find a new spot. So you'll just have to content yourself with some of the finest steak in Portland.
Pro tip: This is not a steakhouse where you gorge yourself on a huge slab, but rather a place to sample uncommon cuts made with uncommon delicacy ($30-$45), alongside a small scattering of à la carte meat or veggie sides like that world-changing tartare ($16). Also note that although reservations aren't hard to come by even on the day of your meal, you might be greeted by an hour- and-a-half wait if you try to walk in off the street.