High end food and drink tied as close to the earth as is humanly possible. Right smack in the middle of Oregon’s wine country in McMinnville is ókta — a next generation dining experience.
This restaurant in an understated, historic building is making waves in the culinary world. But it doesn’t start here. It starts seven miles away in the rolling hills of Yamhill County at ókta restaurant’s farm.
The goal is to produce what the Earth is offering here and now and fast track it to the restaurant.
“Providing extremely nutritionally dense food with the focus on locality, hyper local and flavor,” said Saruh Wynes, ókta farmer. “Giving the chef team an opportunity to experience and expand on that.”
The chef in town is not demanding certain produce. The farm is saying, ‘Here’s what we have now and it’s the perfect time to serve it.'”
“What we grow out here are a lot of heirloom products that are going to, hands down, offer more nutritional density. They’re going to offer more flavor,” Wynes said. So what we do is we pick them day of, day before and we get them directly to the consumer so that the flavor is not lost so that the living cells within the vegetable are still alive, you know, the day that you consume it. So it’s a pretty special dynamic, truly.”
At the farm, they also capture food items — some normally going to waste — and ferment them for use at a later date.
“We’re trying to capture this vegetable in this moment while it’s at its peak. And that way we can utilize it, say, in the wintertime,” said Larry Nguyen, Larder Chef at ókta.
Not only do all the fruits and vegetables grown at the farm find their way to the restaurant every day, the farm also makes a dozen loaves of fresh bread that is also delivered directly to the restaurant.
Meanwhile, ókta’s chef Matthew Leitner is collaborating with the farm.
“It gives you more control. You’re looking at specific flavors, specific types, specific textures. And there’s something that’s even more gratifying from doing it yourself. And so it’s kind of more of a holistic approach,” Leitner said. “You want to invite people in here and have like the most like peak form of all those ingredients.”
Unlike typical restaurants where you peruse a menu and choose your meal from a list of options, ókta instead offers a 10-to-13 course tasting menu.
“Right when you walk in, we have a huge display of all the products that we have,” Leitner said. “Right now, because it’s the farm season, it’s all the different farm products that we have. And so that’s kind of the first part. Your menu basically is almost a visual a visual menu of what we have. And you’ll receive between 10 or 13 courses really kind of depending on where we’re at with the season, what the farm’s giving us.”
ókta has nine tables and can serve up to 26 people. There’s also a cellar bar that offers a pared down five-to-six course tasting menu. It is an intimate setting where private conversations and watching cocktails being made are forefront. Wine pairings are also offered in the cellar bar and the restaurant.