Taming the Beast

When Wifey and I went to Simpatica in the past (detailed here for dinner and here for brunch) it was our first experiences with communal dining. And for dinner, it was our first experience going to a place where you signed up for a meal time to sit and eat whatever was put in front of you.

And we loved it.

Well, there is another place like that in town, called Beast. Honestly, I'm not sure there is a better name for a restaurant. At once it evokes images of strong animals, while at the same time letting you know exactly what's going to be on the menu. Helmed by Naomi Pomeroy, one of Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs of 2009, the emphasis of the menus - created fresh weekly - is pure FLOSSiness (Fresh, Local, Organic, Sustainable, Seasonal).

Here's a quick blurb about themselves:
As the name implies- we are frank in our appreciation of meat. Our food is simple, refined, and-dare we say- feminine. We let our moods and our sensual appreciation of what the fields, forests and oceans are yielding dictate our weekly menus. We are inspired by French Grandmothers, but our days are spent prepping to the sounds of our favorite rock-n-roll bands- we work just like we would in our home kitchens, and as our guests- we hope you can tell, and that our ease translates to your comfort and enjoyment.

Doesn't really get much better than that, does it?

Beast does dinner (six courses) Wednesday-Saturday at 6pm or 8:45 pm, and brunch (four courses) on Sunday at 10am or noon. We hit up brunch at 10am to get a feel for the place.

Oh, and how could I forget this? Beast isn't the kind of place you go to and ask for substitutions - they will be kindly declined. In fact, their website states people who aren't complete omnivores would be hard-pressed to enjoy an entire meal. If I had a restaurant, that would be my policy too - I made it, it's awesome, eat it. See the last line in the pic of the menu below (click the picture for a larger version that is probably more readable):

We made our reservations online via an Open Table link on Beast's website. My personal feeling is more restaurants need to have this option - so easy that way.

Sunday morning we managed to get to NE Portland about 9:35, so had plenty of time to kill. Here is where we have one small beef. When Beast says 10am, that means seating BEGINS at 10am. If you get there earlier, you will wait outside, unless you are first and they let you take a seat on the small bench just inside the door. So really, getting there early doesn't do you much good at all.

Here's a quick picture (these were all taken with the cell phone - forgot the camera again - so the quality is decent, not great) of right outside the door. The lighting was completely wrong - sun was too harsh - to get a good picture of the entire front of the place.

Once inside, Beast is extremely inviting. There are two large communal tables and there is room for 25 people, if I remember correctly. The kitchen is open so the preparation for each course can be watched, and the walls are covered with chalkboard paint, full of tasty expressions, simple recipes (such as the one below), and plenty of wit.

Beast serves Stumptown coffee and Smith Teas, while fresh juice and morning cocktails are an additional fee. Another very tiny whine: the creamer for the coffee is served in a tumbler which no matter how you pour it, it spills. I didn't see anyone master this. A tumbler with a spout would have been nice. And yes, I'm done with the negatives, which admittedly are extremely nitpicky and ultimately unimportant...everything else was amazing.

Our first course was a cherry clafoutis with vanilla whipped cream and maple glazed bacon:

First off, that whip cream was to die for. Having never had a clafoutis before, testing the flan-like baked goodness over a couple of fresh cherries (watch out for pits!) was simply amazing. The bacon was also excellent, and a bite with each of the four flavors pure bliss. And no, I'm not overdoing it - it was that good.

The second course was a "Beast Hash" featuring duck confit, potatoes, corn, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, topped with a poached egg and Hollandaise:

The brown line encircling the plate is aged balsalmic, and it really made this dish. I mean, it was yummy without it, but when you crack open the egg and swirl together balsalmic, yolk, and Hollandaise with the vegetables, the result was fantastic. We both may have wanted a few more potatoes, but at the same time I wouldn't want to mess with art.

Our third course was a plate of summer greens with three different cheeses:

This was fine. It was good, but to me I just don't get excited about a cheese course, even though I love cheese. I'm weird that way. I also am not entirely sure what the cheeses were - our waiter told us but it was hard to hear him and the descriptions were long, hard to remember. Too bad they weren't printed on the menu. I can say the one on the left was a cow's milk cheese and the one on the right was actually from a water buffalo. Surprisingly, I liked that one the best.

The last course, the dessert one, was chocolate truffle cake with wild huckleberry coulis:

Again, superb. And what's that on top? Oh yes, some more of that vanilla bean whipped cream goodness! If I hadn't been in unknown company - you know, if it was all family - I probably would have licked the plate after finishing off the truffle cake.

This next pic is actually from the bathroom, where there was plenty more wittiness on the chalkboard-painted walls. I thought it was hilarious (I mean, really, mouth brothels?!) and at the same time so, so true. Good stuff.

All in all we had a very fantastic meal at Beast, and can't wait to go back and try it out for dinner. That's more expensive - over twice the cost of the $28 brunch at $60 - so it may wait for a special occasion.

The freshness of the flavor of each element of each course can't be understated and the total meal didn't leave us feeling stuffed or still hungry - it was perfect. Highly recommend.

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