Visiting Portland: Beast

PORTLAND — Oh Portland, thank you for Beast.

For weeks before we got here, I was so so excited that our first meal would be at Naomi Pomeroy’s restaurant. I mean how could you not be giddy about eating at a place that has the website motto “unleash the beast”?

Added to a fantastic concept of a six course meal at communal tables, eating at Pomeroy’s place would be my third Top Chef meal.

Diners at the communal table — notice the recipe on the chalkboard in the background. (Photos by Sarah Abruzzese.)

(I ate at Volt a few years ago and still hug myself when I think about how delicious it was and then I ate at Fleur De Lys in San Francisco, which unsurprisingly was a meal to remember. If a chef is thinking that a turn on Top Chef won’t help their business, they must be crazy. When we were at Volt — an hour’s drive outside of DC — there were food tourists who had driven down from New York City. At Fleur De Lys, I could hear people talking about Top Chef.)

As to Pomeroy’s turn on Top Chef Masters, I was impressed with her cooking style that earned her a fourth place finish and her directness with other chefs in the kitchen.

We arrived on Saturday for the first of two seatings (6 pm and 8:45 pm) and were immediately shown to the table the four of us shared with two other couples. The conversation between the three groups of strangers was continuous and enjoyable. My friend Greg, whose wife my wonderful friend Laura gets credit for arranging our entire food tour, said it was the most interaction he’d experienced at a communal table.

But enough with the set- up, let’s get to the food!

Tomato veloute with green garlic cream and preserved lemon oil.

We started with a tomato veloute with green garlic cream and preserved lemon oil. What a great way to start the meal with that crisp garlicky flavor of the immature garlic married to the smooth tomato and that wonderfully bright lemon.

With the prix-fix menu ($75), wine pairing ($35 per person) was available. For the first course they served a 2010 Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol Rose from Provence France.

The next course could and did inspire a protest and I’m not talking about from the diners who seemed overwhelmed by the beauty and taste of that second plate. There was one lone protester outside the restaurant during our meal. He had multiple photos of the foie-gras process and several signs against the practice.

But the dish itself was a beautifully presented charcuterie plate that came with eight mini presentations including a dollop of gorgeous sweet and soft steak tartare served atop a rectangular piece of thick white toast next to a quail egg. Also included the protest worthy (and illegal in San Francisco) foie-gras bon-bon with a sauternes gelee; chicken liver mousse atop a leaf lard cracker; pork liver terrine with sour cherries and pistachio; and rabbit rillettes and tete de cochon.

(I guess I should mention that even if you didn’t want to eat the foie-gras, according to the menu “substitutions politely declined.”)

The second course came with a 2011 Heidi Schrock Weissburgunder from Burgenland Austria.

Sonoma Farms Duck Breast with crushed new potatoes and roasted garlic scapes.

My favorite dish of the night came next. Four pieces of perfectly cooked duck breast served atop crushed new potatoes and roasted garlic scapes (yum), and a wonderful duck jus to finish off the plate. Oh and I forgot — there was also fried lovage, which was delicious, and made the plate even more enjoyable because the chef was frying them up when we got there. (Sadly, the chef was not Pomeroy as she wasn’t there that night.)

This course was served with a 2009 Domaine de la Roche Bleue, “la Guinguette” from Loire France.

Next came an inventive porcini, spring pea and cucumber salad that also included pickled green strawberries — a treatment we had at a couple of Portland restaurants — and an aged sauvignon blanc vinaigrette.

That was served with a 2009 Weingut Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner Terrassen from Kamptal Austria.

I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea what the three mouth watering cheeses from Steve at Cheese Bar were. (Steve is apparently a Portland institution — an amazing one and I’m sad to say we didn’t make it by his shop for a visit.)

Rhubarb brown butter tart with cracked pepper ice cream.

These perfect cheeses came with a still warm fennel pollen shortbread that I watched come out of the oven, a wild flower honey, angelino plums and candied hazelnuts.

The wine was a 2010 Breton Vouvray Dillentante from Loire France.

And we finished off the meal with a rhubarb brown butter tart that had a thick crunchy crust. This gorgeous hearty dessert was topped with a cracked pepper ice cream and a decadent piece of gold leaf.

The wine was a 2010 Domaine Vacquer Muscat de Rivesaltes from Roussillon France.

And with that the meal was done and the lights went back up. Sigh.

We all shuffled out the door so full and so happy.


(Feature photo: Charcuterie plate with the steak tartare at 6 o’clock.)