Ah, yes. A few weeks and a million snotty tissues ago, Shaun and I celebrated our anniversary by going to dinner here:
The best thing about eating at Beast is that THERE ARE NO DECISIONS TO BE MADE. For me, not having to decide is the ultimate luxury. Normally when I go out to a fancy dinner, I feel a LOT of pressure to choose something good to eat, because we don't have the opportunity to do it often. And that sinking feeling when your dining companion has ordered something sublime and your food is merely so-so? Ugh. Such a tragic waste.
At Beast, everyone eats the same five or six courses. If you're really going all out, you order the wine pairing as well. It's like being at a fabulous dinner party, one with a staff of people to quietly whisk away your empty plates and wine glasses and immediately replace them with fresh ones.
There are two long communal tables in the single room, and the prep station is right there as well. It's good fun to watch your next course being plated in front of you.
It would have been even more fun had the room been filled to capacity (maybe Portlanders don't like to eat dinner at 8:45?), but we still lucked out with our dinner companions, a couple celebrating their 6th anniversary who came and sat next to us. It was immediately obvious that they are not natives of the Pacific Northwest. She was wearing a lovely summery dress with a wrap around her shoulders, and he was decked out in full sartorial splendor with a dark navy sports coat, an oversize-scaled blue and white gingham shirt (with actual cuff links), and a stripey-textured tangerine-colored tie. In contrast, the crowd at the far end of the table was wearing faded jeans and fleece vests. Our new friends turned out to be from Manhattan. Not New York, mind you, Manhattan. They were an interesting couple to spend the evening with.
Adding to the "this is the best dinner party ever" feel was the soundtrack of the evening. I think we own albums from everyone they played: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, even Johnny Horton. Fantastic.
Here's our menu, with a few comments:
WHITE ASPARAGUS VELOUTE
FRENCH OLIVE OIL
When I first saw the menu, I thought it seemed a little pretentious to mention the olive oil. Wrong. It was SO GOOD, and it made one of the best five soups I've ever eaten even better. It was served in a vessel shaped like a sake cup, so it was hard to get to it all. Some of the brighter people at the table tipped the cups over and poured the last few drops onto their spoons. It was that good.
FOIE-GRAS BON-BON, SAUTERNES GELEE
STEAK TARTARE & QUAIL EGG TOAST
PORK, PORK LIVER, SOUR CHERRY & PISTACHIO PATE
CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE, MAPLE CANDIED BACON
The first two items on the list were the star of the show. I really loved the steak tartare--Shaun wasn't as impressed. But the foie gras bon-bon...holy cow. It was a pefectly formed dome of foie gras on top of a peanut shortbread the size of a quarter. There seemed to be some sort of salty glaze covering the whole thing. And then, perched on top, was the cube of sauternes gelee (gelled sweet white wine.) Now, I understand that the production of foie gras is a morally dubious enterprise at best, but sweet fancy Moses, I have tasted the Dark Side and it is DELICIOUS.
Next came a palate-cleansing sorbet of campari and orange (? I can't remember for sure because they didn't even write it on the menu) that was one of our favorite things.
SEARED SONOMA ARTISAN DUCK BREAST
NEW POTATO & ROASTED MOREL MASH
PEA TENDRILS & DUCK DEMI-GLACE
LOVED the duck. The potato mash had nice big chunks of morels and was perfectly seasoned, plate-licking good. The duck demi-glace was a little too sweet and syrupy on the pea tendrils for my taste, so I didn't finish that. But, with three more plates of food to come, I was kind of grateful.
SEARED GIANT SEA SCALLOP
FAVA BEAN & MINT SALSA
GROUNDWORK SPRING LETTUCES & LEMON VINAIGRETTE
This is the only plate that was a total miss for me. The mint was overpowering, and a giant cold scallop is not my favorite thing to eat. The vinaigrette tasted a little too thin and lemony, but this might have only been because of all the rich food that preceded it. It was a very springtime-y dish, and other folks seemed to enjoy it. Ah, food. So subjective.
SELECTION OF STEVE'S CHEESE
ANISE & FLEUR DE SEL SHORTBREAD
POACHED FRUIT, CANDIED HAZELNUTS
The biggest surprise of the evening was that I didn't really care for any of the three cheeses on the cheese plate. The accompaniments were another story. The nickel-sized shortbreads were beautiful and tasted so good. So did the candied hazelnuts, and I don't even like hazelnuts all that much.
RHUBARB TARTE TATIN
AGED BALSAMIC ICE CREAM
This is another one I liked more than Shaun did. It could have used less rosemary...somehow the flavors didn't quite come together all the way. But I still thought it was really good. The perfect ice cream melting on the warm, ultra-flaky pastry and rhubarb...mmmmm...
It was a properly celebratory meal, and I just found out they serve brunch on Sundays. I can't wait until next Mother's Day.