Pacing is the most underrated part of the high-end dining experience. Most prix-fixe spots will deliver a few special bites. The ones that really stand out manage to elevate the experience with surprising and playful twists that build toward a thundering crescendo.
Though Beast's menu changes every two weeks, Corvallis-born, self-taught chef Naomi Pomeroy has developed a distinctive style over the course of a decade—pick the chicken up at the farm, buy the beans at the farmers market, prepare the sauces for lots of braising and glazing. Pomeroy is a bold chef, and didn't always finesse things so that she could later awe with thumping decadence.
Last year, Pomeroy rejiggered the order of her courses to have a softer opening and a slower build. Recent menus, including our late-summer visit, start with a fish crudo, in our case a few chunks of bright-pink salmon, lightly cured and served with pickled mustard seeds and corn. Then, a light pasta with fresh vegetables. Then, finally, some red meat—on our visit, a rare wagyu hanger steak with heirloom beans and a blistered pepper in a rich, translucent brown sherry sauce. Then, it's time for more lightness—in our case, a summer salad with blackberries, followed by a cheese course, followed by a light dessert.
That's a setup, of course. Pomeroy has carefully constructed a ramp to deliver diners exactly where she wants them—ready to be awestruck by the richness of her signature foie gras bonbon, a little mound of fat served on shortbread with a little hat of gelatinized wine. Previously, this little treat was buried in the middle of the menu. Now, it's in its rightful place, as an unforgettable closer.
Beast, 5425 NE 30th Ave., 503-841-6968, beastpdx.com. Dinner 6 pm and 8:45 pm Wednesday-Saturday, 7 pm Sunday; brunch 10, 11:30 am and 1 pm Sunday. $$$$. Six-course dinner is $117 per person with wine pairings available for $48. Three-course brunch is $35 per person with wine pairings available for $18.
Pro tip: You can save a little money by splitting the wine pairings and ordering a beer on the side. Then, spend that money at Expatriate.