Best for: Farmers market produce served in surprisingly creative arrangements.
Naomi Pomeroy is used to operating in tight spaces. By now, most Portlanders know the backstory: Before launching Beast, she was running a bootleg restaurant out of the basement of her home, giving birth to the pop-up before pop-ups even really existed. She's since won a James Beard Award and risen to national prominence as an ass-kicker on TV cooking competitions. Despite however large her personality might seem, Beast is small—800 square feet. It's why Pomeroy likes to say she made a Pinto into a Porsche, and a subcompact feels pretty cozy when you're cruising in a luxury vehicle. A dozen years after it opened, dinners here ($118, $50 for wine pairings) are still the first thing to come to mind if you want to celebrate a special occasion with six courses over a couple of hours, though now Tuesdays are open to walk-ins and weekends offer brunch service. No matter which you spring for, a meal is guaranteed to be a stunning display of local produce since Pomeroy scours area farmers markets to help inspire her menus. In late summer, that included long, flat Romano beans that provided an earthy counterpoint to an almost glazed-doughnut sweetness in a puddle of pink peppercorn and cognac sauce underneath a scarlet Wagyu coulotte. Food both grown and foraged has a tendency to show up in surprising arrangements, like paper-thin slices of matsutake mushrooms draped over glistening cuts of Hawaiian ahi or coins of sweet chioggia beets that look like peppermint candy served as part of a deconstructed salad. Beast may not be the most buzzed-about prix fixe place in town after more than a decade on the scene, but Pomeroy can demonstrate it's a Porsche with a lot of miles left on it. ANDI PREWITT.
Best for: A multisensory experience and David Bowie-themed restroom.
605 SE Belmont St., berlupdx.com. 6:30 pm seatings Thursday-Friday and Sunday, 5:45 and 8:30 pm seatings Saturday. $$$$.
Berlu is a fine-dining counterstrike against the unrelenting wave of comfort food, counter service and bus-your-own that dominates contemporary Portland restaurants. Chef Vince Nguyen elevates fine dining to the astral plane: delicious, mysterious, stylish without pretension. But it's not just the food ($80 for nine courses) that makes this one of Portland's best new restaurants. A meal here is a fully formed experience, where even the restroom plays a part thanks to its David Bowie-themed wallpaper and an interview with the singer playing over a speaker. During a late summer visit, the proceedings commenced with a measure of chilled watermelon juice with a few drops of bay leaf oil floating on top. The effect was bracing and palate-opening, the look reminiscent of a heavy-water light show slide from the 1960s. Later came a ring of ground pink shrimp topped with artichoke petals along with a test tube of warm mussel broth, and instructions to pour it inside the ring before consuming. The visual delicacy and muscular brininess of this course was a deft study in multisensory contrast. For the final savory dish, Nguyen offered Marion Acres organic chicken in two parts: a tangle of pulled chicken breast meat intertwined with threads of shiitake mushroom that arrived with another vial—this one filled with chicken broth—and a bird glazed in caramelized charred onion. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Best for: Sophisticated presentations of all things local in an 11-plus-course odyssey.
Castagna is a perpetual delight. It is where adults take visitors with high expectations and solid budgets for outstanding renditions of food and drink from a wide swath of the state and its waters just offshore, including the Willamette Valley, the Cascades, and the Pacific. The dining room is tasteful, comfortable and quiet. Chef Justin Woodward, a multiple James Beard Award nominee who has never quite grasped the golden ring, knows how to showcase a cornucopia of local ingredients with flair. Some of the show is based on technical wizardry, but mostly it's about sourcing brilliant components and combining them in unexpected yet organic ways. Case in point on an early fall menu: chunks of summer squash and green almond (from early spring) under a blanket of feather-light lemon verbena-brown butter sabayon, topped with flash-frozen sorrel leaves. Come hungry and vanquish the full 11-plus-course chef's tasting menu ($165) or go half-throttle with the rotating thematic "explorative" option ($75). Wine pairings for the two dinners ($85, $45) are peerless, featuring obscure small-lot vintages from near and far curated by sommelier Brent Braun. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Best for: An elegant multicourse dinner that doesn't take itself too seriously, and addictive chocolate chip cookies.
While its baked goods, served fresh every morning, including the famously addictive smoked almond chocolate chip cookies, make Coquine worth a visit, it's the prix fixe menu that truly earn Coquine its rightful status as one of Portland's best restaurants. Highly seasonal and changing day to day, the chef's tasting menu ($68 for four courses, $100 for seven) is a fantastic way to experience Katy Millard's lauded cooking. The seasonal, locally focused dinners generally start with a soup or something appropriately light, and often build to a pasta dish, like linguini with summer squash, tomatoes and Calabrian chile, on my visit. The longer meals include a few vegetable courses, while the hearty meat entree is always playful and bold, mixing traditional French and New American styles with Millard's own whimsical touches, like lamb loin with charred onion-eggplant soubise and plums. Dinner ends with the restaurant's iconic desserts. For those who drink, the wine pairings ($45, $70) help elevate the whole experience with a mix of Old World and local wines. ALEX FRANE.
Best for: A symphony of sustainable seafood often caught by the chefs themselves.
Nestled like a pearl within the interior of Bar Casa Vale, Erizo and its commercially licensed angler-chefs employ Old World methods to make the most of foraging a modern ocean. Before your first glass of wine hits the white tablecloth (optional pairing, $75 per person), the 12-course tasting menu ($125) begins with a limpet and lemon juice shooter from Netarts Bay and a cool, salty broth of roasted grains dappled with scallion oil. The broth has a briny quality, like a poetic take on saltwater, from steeping raw oysters in the base itself. Here imagination is steered by the oceans in more ways than one. An oversupply of the often-underappreciated Pacific surf mussel, for instance, becomes part of a magnificently rich and hearty Bolognese pasta. The chefs look to Japanese and Portuguese techniques to create dishes, like the delicious gooseneck barnacles in fig oil and scallions as well as the fresh flounder from Half Moon Bay, cured in-house for 14 days, doused in mustard seed oil and topped with kohlrabi for the perfect crunch. Every plate allows you to revel in the flora, fauna and flavors of the ocean from an entirely new perspective, challenging the ways you've become accustomed to eating seafood. LAUREN YOSHIKO.
Best for: An elegant but unpretentious dining experience and delicate cornbread madeleines.
At Holdfast, simple ingredients are elevated to their highest form, so you get course after course of aromatic and intoxicating creations. Guests here are seated in a semicircle around the chef, making for an extremely intimate dining experience. The menu ($140 prix fixe) changes weekly to reflect the abundance of the Pacific Northwest, and thoughtful wine pairings add an air of euphoria to each course. During my visit, the meal started with a crab, pear and green strawberry salad, followed by a crisp hamachi, cucumber and nasturtium flower chilled soup. Duck was then the theme of two other dishes: We were treated to a smoky duck heart with grilled eggplant and shishito peppers as well as a tender duck breast with nectarines, chanterelles and peach jam. Each course moved effortlessly into the next while remaining memorable on its own, ending with a honey-soaked dessert: cornbread madeleines topped with shaved Parmesan and sticky-sweet honeycomb. It's the only item that returns to the menu each week. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Best for: A mashup of Thai flavors served behind a bookshelf in another restaurant.
Few secrets of Portland's food scene are well kept, so the six-month waitlist to get into Langbaan may be the closest thing we have to a truly exclusive food experience. Despite what you think you now know about the regional cuisine of Thailand, it's best to assume you know nothing to really enjoy the $100-ish multicourse meal. The pacing is a master class in building anticipation, with salads buzzing with citrus and sweet, funky soups as the leadoff hitters. It's best to saddle up at the counter for front-row access to the chefs' explanations of the dishes, but you won't be faulted for spacing out while a pig's feet stew and Isaan curry packed with halibut, yanang leaf and lemon basil coat your brain in creamy pleasure. The dinner is generally punctuated with an over-the-top protein, like tender sections of a suckling pig, but the real exclamation point is the dessert prepared by pastry chef Maya Erickson, which on my visit was a Thai-style flan dotted with incense-smoked blackberry caramel as well as a jasmine-tofu pudding. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: A prix-fixe feast of artful Japanese bites presented with the utmost care.
2832 SE Belmont St., nodoguropdx.com. Reservations only Wednesday-Sunday.
Since converting the Belmont space that formerly housed Cathy Whims' pre-Nostrana restaurant, Genoa, into a veritable dojo of Japanese delights, chef Ryan Roadhouse and his wife, Elena, have risen to the top of a quietly crowded prix fixe scene that had previously never seen anything quite like Nodoguro when it finally opened a brick-and-mortar three years ago. The number of plates varies on a week-to-week basis, with the "Supahardcore" dinner ($195) offering a 20-plus course concerto that gradually segues from small yet hearty bites like duck ham with yam miso-glazed eggplant and oysters with cucumber mignonette to authentic A4-grade (the second-highest) wagyu to an assortment of hand rolls featuring the rarest cuts of sashimi you'll find anywhere in the Northwest. The accompanying sake flight is just as diverse, with five generous pours of rare brews that range from subtle and herbaceous to bold and astringent. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: Delicate seafood dinners built from French, Peruvian and Japanese traditions.
Since relocating two years ago to a hidden mezzanine in the Morgan Building downtown, Roe has evolved from a buzzy prix fixe seafood spot to a premier theater of haute dining. Guests are greeted in a waiting room by a card featuring their names written in cursive, and are soon offered an apéritif to sip while tables are prepared. From there, expect an unrelenting assault of remarkably fresh and dynamic dishes presented as precious, bite-sized packages with a level of care that's nearly extinct in Portland. While there is a $138 chef's menu, the $64 option is a steal. Each plate feels like a gift from chef John Conlin, like the smoked bonito dashi, an impossibly tender Spanish octopus with salmon roe and kelp, and juicy slabs of Coho salmon garnished with shishitos, butter corn and bits of burgundy truffle—the latter of which are served as a reminder that $64 is all it takes to experience the high life, if only for an hour and some change. PETE COTTELL.