By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

'Telling stories' at new high-end hotel, restaurant

Kirby Neumann-Rea##Tributary Hotel valet Chris Marquez sweeps the sidewalk early Thursday in preparation for guests at the hotel, entry at right, and okta restaurant,left. Tree wells in front of the hotel and restaurant are filled with hazelnut shells.
Kirby Neumann-Rea##Tributary Hotel valet Chris Marquez sweeps the sidewalk early Thursday in preparation for guests at the hotel, entry at right, and okta restaurant,left. Tree wells in front of the hotel and restaurant are filled with hazelnut shells.

Guests who dine at okta, McMinnville’s newest high-end restaurant, or stay in the connected Tributary hotel, will have a unique experience, general manager Christine Langelier said.

Featuring the preparations of acclaimed Chef Matthew Lightner and whatever happens to be ripe that day, okta aims to give diners something unforgettable that cannot be repeated, although it may be equaled the next time people visit, she said.

“We’re trying our best to tell the story of the Pacific Northwest and a specific moment,” Langelier said.

Okta and Tributary, an eight-suite hotel managed by Reyn Nakamasu, formerly of The Allison, opened this week in the historic Taylor-Dale Building, at Third and Ford streets downtown.

Local residents may see guests pulling up on Ford Street, beside the century-old building, then disappearing inside via a ramp that once saw deliveries of nails, saws and hammers. (The parking spots are designated for hotel/restaurant use only.)

Or they may see them walking directly into the restaurant, located in a new structure between Taylor-Dale and Troon wine bar, or climbing the stairs to Tributary’s second-floor lobby or down to its basement bar and lounge.

Restored and constructed by owners Shaun Kajiwara and Katie Jackson, the hotel and restaurant are expected to draw many visitors to McMinnville. Nakamasu and Langelier said about two-thirds of the names on the opening reservation list are local people eager to check out the project and Lightner’s ever-changing menu.

Okta will offer tasting menus with seven to 12 courses on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and even more (“as many as the chef wants”) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Meals will start out with appetizers, build to protein dishes and finish with “a series of desserts,” Langelier said.

The exact menu is as predictable as the weather — or the amount of cloud cover on a given day, which is the meaning of the word “okta.” That’s because Lightner lets not just the seasons decide what he will harvest for the kitchen, but the very day.

When okta and Tributary held a practice opening in early July, for instance, one of its staff brought in wild roses. Lightner used them in a dessert. On another day, he might have worked with tayberries, peaches or something else at peak ripeness.

Okta works with local growers, meat producers, line fishermen and other purveyors, such as Drake Farms of Carlton and Bernards Farms west of McMinnville.

But Lightner takes inspiration, and much of its produce, from its own one-acre garden at the Kajiwara/Jackson property on Ribbon Ridge, northeast of Carlton.

Katie Boeh runs the garden, working the soil and tending the plans by hand. She keeps in close touch with the chef — they created a week-by-week plan for planting last fall, and they monitor how things are going daily to see what’s at its peak and what needs more time.

“They’re very much of the moment,” Langelier said. “They listen to the ground and what the land gives us.”

In winter, they will harvest fresh produce from three greenhouses. But Lightner and chef de cuisine Brendan Byer also will work with much of the summer produce that’s been preserved in various ways by larder chef Larry Nguyen.

Nguyen uses ancient techniques, from fermentation to pickling to drying, to preserve produce at its peak, Langelier said.

Diners can expect to spend about 2 1/2 hours in okta, time that may be extended by a visit to the basement bar and lounge for cocktails or a glass of wine from the hotel’s 2,000-bottle cellar curated by beverage director Ron Acierto.

The cellar bar and lounge open to the public at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; no reservations are needed.

For hotel guests, the lounge opens at 5 p.m. Rooms also include an automatic reservation at okta.

As with the restaurant, Tributary is service-oriented and aimed at creating an experience tailored to each person who stays there, Nakamasu said.

Guests will have the option of a tour of the property building after they leave their vehicle with a valet on Ford Street. If they like, a guide will lead them down the delivery ramp and past the prep kitchen downstairs, describing the history of the building and city.

An elevator or stairs take them to the second-floor lobby, then they go to their suites, each of which is named for an Oregon river. They range from the 668-square-foot Yamhill suite to the 852-square-foot Grand Ronde.

Nakamasu said guests can choose privacy or a more hands-on experience during their stay, adding wine tastings in the cellar or other activities outside the hotel.

“We want to give you a curated experience with whatever you’re interested in,” he said.

In the dining room, both hotel guests and other okta guests will experience carefully thought-out lighting and music.

“It’s an impressive hospitality experience that starts when you enter,” said Langelier, who moved to McMinnville for the okta project last year after managing restaurants in New York City. “It’s more like dinner and a show.”

Some will pull up “Feast” wooden chairs by artist Bowen Liu to white oak tables made specifically for the restaurant by woodworker Cody Compagna. Others will sit on banquettes upholstered in velvety blue fabric.

Courses are served on white ceramic plates by Lillith Rockett mixed with darker pieces by Lindsay Oesterritter and neutral serving pieces by Natasha Alfonse.

The dining room and basement lobby are decorated with textiles by artist Hiroko Takeda.

“We want it to feel like home,” Langelier said.

About 40 people work for the three properties involved in the project, including Ribbon Ridge Farm along with the McMinnville hotel and restaurant.

Langelier said she, the owners and Nakamasu all are encouraging the whole staff to become involved with the local community.

Dinner at okta costs $165 Wednesday or Thursday or, for the expanded tasting menu, $260 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Pescatarian and vegetarian options are available.

Staying in the Tributary hotel overnight costs from about $400 to $1,275, depending on the room, day of the week and time of the year. All stays include an okta-inspired breakfast.

Reservations for Tributary can be made at the hotel website, www.tributaryhotel.com.

If you want to dine at okta, book a reservation through the restaurant website, /oktaoregon.com. Langelier said more tables will be offered in the future as the restaurant perfects its consistency.

For more information, call 503-376-5200.

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