A Birthday Beast

March 26, 2011

Charcuterie Plate

Steak tartare + quail egg on toast = two bites of heaven.

Honestly, birthdays are getting a little old. (Pun sort of intended. Not really. They are getting really old.)  I’ll spare you the self-indulgent details. But if mark them I must, what better way than by spending a Saturday evening with some of my favorite people at one of he most lauded restaurants in Portland? The company did not disappoint, nor did our meal at Beast.

James, Zandra, Margaret, J and I shared a communal table with a group of four that seemed content to keep to themselves, which was fine by me. Diners at the other, larger table in the room made acquaintances early, but in the end appeared to interact mostly with those they came with. (I mention this only as a point of solace for anyone uneasy about communal seating, as I, ever the introvert, tend to be.) The setting for dinner is snug, dusky, casual yet refined. The room features whimsical graffiti, a working kitchen that hums with quiet precision and a sizable plating island that seats two, maybe three, lucky diners. A seating, of which there are two nightly Wednesday-Saturday, accommodates perhaps 30. Two brunch seatings on Sunday round out the week.

We opted for the wine pairings, and once all parties had arrived, the feasting began. We commenced with a rich, inky French onion soup, its crouton oozing with Gruyere, paired with a bubbly Brut rose. Next was a colorful palette of charcuterie whose standouts included a silky chicken liver mousse on a crisp leaf lard cracker; toast topped with steak tartare and a delicate quail egg; and a tiny square of sauternes gelee perched on a rich, chilled fois gras bon-bon — a creamy mouthful that might have stood in for dessert. The main course brought a fork-tender braised duck accented by pickled sour cherries and a syrupy duck demi-glace alongside crunchy pink spring radishes with their greens. After that, a refresher: a bright arugula salad slightly wilted under an aged-sherry, bacon, balsamic vinaigrette with shaved Reggiano and tempura-fried lemons. The only jarring moment of the meal came during the cheese course, which included a spunky goat’s milk cheese; a salty, tangy blue; and a wow-invoking German cow’s milk cheese redolent of barnyard. (If you haven’t guessed, the last one was the jarring bit — a conversation stopper and most definitely an acquired taste.) After all that, dessert: spicy, chilled hazelnut cake alongside Armagnac prune frozen mousse.

Beast strikes a balance between rich and bright, sweet and tart, crunch and cream, with generous dashes of whimsy and elegance for good measure. We feel fortunate to have this cozy spot in our neck of the woods, and look forward to many (40-something?) celebratory meals to come.

4 Responses to “A Birthday Beast”

  1. Lizbeth said

    Wow, your description is so delectable. Yes, I agree, birthdays are for celebrating and so it should be (spectacular food and the Waltons) how could a birthday be better! Great time on a saturday in Portland. Sounds like a very outstanding restaurant.

  2. julia said

    mmmm tempura fried lemons, crisp leaf lard cracker? who are these people? i love them!

  3. […] J and I took a seat at the window facing Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast, the site of other memorable feasts. Expatriate is a collaboration between Pomeroy and husband Kyle Linden Webster, lauded former […]

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