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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Wed–Sat 5:30pm–9:30pm in 2 seatings
Sun 10:00am–2:00pm

Features Date-friendly
Bar Wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Essential


Alberta Arts District
5425 NE 30th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 841-6968
An intimate ride where the chef is the driver and diners are thrilled to come along

Perhaps the most seductive restaurant experience in all of Portland begins in a small, undecorous dining room with a chalkboard wall listing the night’s fare. Two large community tables are flanked by uncomfortable chairs, artful graffiti is splayed across the restrooms, music plays below the vibrant chatter of the full room, and candle lighting is low but not dark. From here, you can watch magic emerge from a kitchen whose close proximity to those two tables draws diners into the experience—even thermodynamically: on cold days, the heat from the equipment is great; on hot days, it’s an exercise in tolerance.

We count ourselves among those under Beast’s spell, in part because it represents such a magnificent rejection of the mistaken notion that the customer is always right (would this fly at a surgeon’s office? An auto garage? Then why at a restaurant?). Here, you get only what’s being served that night for each course—no substitutions.

Meals generally begin here with a small cup of soup, usually terrific. Cream of asparagus has been an anthem to spring—lush, smooth, and brimming with flavor from herbed crème fraîche and trout roe. The charcuterie rotates frequently but has always been impressive, highlighted, perhaps, by a freshly chopped steak tartare with raw quail egg. Foie gras bon-bons come topped with a tiny trembling square of Sauternes gelée.

Comforting mains that center around slow-cooked meats are best, like a feather-light pot pie with tender braised short rib, wild onion, and earthy morels accompanied by glazed turnips and sautéed turnip greens. Rare are the less successful ventures, like miniscule baby lamb chops that required a surgical extraction of meat off the bone.

Subtly complex salads finish you off, and cheeses from the renowned Steve’s come with interesting accoutrements like cracked black pepper shortbread, Mars-Venus grapes, and wonderful Champagne-poached apricots. You’re strongly encouraged to order the wine pairings, which are well chosen but pricey. We prefer to order by the bottle from a short but very thoughtful list of wines, many of them French.

The costs of dining properly—leaving it up to the kitchen, small portions, unfussy and capable service, and the convivial company of strangers—are high, but we’re more bothered that it isn’t the norm. This is what’s happening now. Come and see, America, what the modern restaurant experience should be.

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