Forbes magazine, long known for its incisive culinary reporting, has just come out with its list of America's best new restaurants. And while not one restaurant from Seattle made this year's cut, at least the Pacific Northwest as a whole wasn't cut out. Olympic Provisions in Portland got the nod, although the staff seemed more enamored of the idea of the place than the place itself, running down a virtual checklist of au courant industry trends: namely cured meats served in an anti-fine-dining atmosphere, in a recovered space in an out-of-the-way neighborhood.
This would be the dining room at Happy (not Noodle) in Boulder
And that's just fine. I haven't been to Olympic Provisions, so I can't say whether or not their pick was good or bad. Neither can I say whether or not their choosing Marea (which seems almost universally beloved), Locanda Verde or Bottega were good choices. I am happy to see The Bazaar by Jose Andres make the list, though (described by the Forbes article as a "combination of Spain's legendary El Bulli and a traveling carnival (tarot card readings and caricature drawings available on Friday and Saturday nights)," if for no other reason than as proof that weirdness and a highly personal vision still has a place in today's scene (even if only in the opinion of guest restaurant-picker Rick Bayless).One that bugged me, though? Forbes inclusion of "Happy Noodle" in Boulder, Colorado--part of my old stomping grounds. Setting aside the fact that this place changed its name to just Happy some time ago, it was also a restaurant that never quite moved me as much as I hoped it would. The bar is fantastic, the cuisine good (if, like seemingly everything else that opened in 2009, a bit derivative), but should it be listed among the best new restaurants in the country? Nope. I don't even consider it to be the best new restaurant in Colorado, or in the Denver/Boulder area (I gave that distinction to a different noodle bar last year).
C'est la guerre, though, right? There were certainly worse joints Forbes could've chosen in my former time zone (if you're interested, here's an example of one that would've really pissed me off). And while I wish that someone from Seattle had made the big list, I am interested now in getting down to Portland to check out Olympic, which is the whole point of lists like these anyway: getting far-flung gastronauts all hot in the trousers over places not in their neighborhoods.
Maybe next year, when my schedule clears up a bit...