Beast is not the kind of restaurant you're a "regular" at (unless you're making serious bank and living in the Concordia district). It's the place a guy takes you if he really wants in your pants. Or to marry you. Or it's your birthday, and you have people around that are good planners. Or your fabulous Bellevue friend Brynne comes to town, and fate sits you down at the last two seats on Saturday night.
I called Paley's Place and Park Kitchen first, all booked up. I called Beast on a whim, and took the last 2 reservations for the night. It was an hour until the first (of only two) seatings, so we rushed out the door and out toward Northeast Portland.
Another perfect example of what I'd mentioned in my Petite Provence post, this area has changed a lot. When Brynne and I first visited this street, it was seven years ago. I was auditioning for a theater scholarship with Concordia's now-defunct progam, and we stopped for lunch at the cafe on Killingsworth and 30th. Then the Dahlia Cafe, the space is now the Cup and Saucer Cafe (stupid name, better food), the scary convenience/liquor store has vanished and the animal-rights group's low-rent headquarters is now crimson-colored Beast. The Garmin took us to Alberta, so we had a walk in heels down to the minimally-signaged restaurant (Brynne was able to spot the big B crowning the small inlet).
Two long, communal tables flanked the open kitchen and assembly prep area, with our two (painful) chairs waiting. The menu was printed on small cards at each seat:
CHILLED ZUCHINNI AND YOGURT SOUP
WITH MINT SALSA VERDE AND FAVA TOAST
DROIN CHABLIS 1 ER CRU MONTMAINS 2008 BURGUNDY, FRANCE
FOIE-GRAS BON-BON, SAUTERNES GELEÉ
STEAK TARTARE & QUAIL EGG TOAST
CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE & PICKLED SHALLOT
BLOOD SAUSAGE WITH SUMMER CHANTRELLES
PORK SHOULDER RILETTES WITH SEVILLE MARMALADE
BOTT-GEYL RIESLING LES ELEMENTS 2008 ALSACE, FRANCE
BRASIED THUNDERING HOOVES BEEF CHEEKS
SAUTEED CUCUMBERS AND BABY ONIONS
DOMAINE MONTIRIUS VACQUEYRAS GARRIGUES 2007 RHONE VALLEY, FRANCE
EARLY GIRL TOMATO & BABY OAK LEAF SALAD
GARLICY CROUTONS & RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
8 MINUTE EGG
BONNELIERE CHINON ROSE 2009 LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE
~SELECTION OF STEVE’S CHEESE~
CRACKED BLACK PEPPER & FLEUR DE SEL SHORTBREAD
OREGON WILDFLOWER HONEY
POACHED APRICOTS & CANDIDED HAZELNUTS
DOM DU CLOSEL/ CHATEAU DES VAULTS CLOS DU PAPILLONS 2006 LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE
PEACH LEAF CRÈME CARAMEL
VIRIDIAN FARMS POACHED APRICOTS
MARTINOLLES COUX METHODE ANCESTRALE VERGNES NV LANGUEDOX, FRANCE
SUBSTITUTIONS POLITELY DECLINED.
Also, vegetarians need not apply.
In a room without air conditioning on a 90+ degree day, the chilled soup was a welcome first course. Very floral and fresh, it was a little too lavendar/perfume tasting to me. Maybe because I don't have much experience with chilled soup or edible flowers. Or I've never been to France. If I'd go in a heartbeat before, now my heart simply beats to go. We chose the pairing flight, which offered a small pour of a specifically selected wine with each course. It's odd to have a Portland menu sans any Oregon wine (bordering on sacrelidge, actually), but paired so well with the simple, lovely food, it couldn't have been more perfect.
"I had it in France; try a little corner. You'll like it."
She was right. Everything, all the little bites I'd seen on Iron Chef America were now real and tastable, leaping from my perma-Food Network screen. Blood sausage is rich, a bit smoky, like a deep country-style pate. Loved the smooth, salty chicken liver mousse cut with a snappy house cracker. The winner was the pork shoulder rilettes with Seville marmalade. I could eat an entire trough of that candy. Imagine the best pulled pork you've ever had, topped with a note of sweet citrus. The fennel salad in the center, again, very welcome in the heat alongside the heavy. Each bite is decadence squared.
In between this and the main course, we were treated to an "off script" intermission - a berry-something sorbet along with the DOMAINE MONTIRIUS VACQUEYRAS GARRIGUES wine. I don't know how to say or spell that, but it's a red wine that tastes like jam and sunshine. Those two playing on my tongue, basking in their season... probably my favorite taste of the night.
It was right about this time Brynne gave me leaned over to whisper, "you have to see the bathroom, and I know it sounds weird, but take your camera!" Beast's kitchen wall is a giant chalkboard, and apparently the theme continues into the bathroom. Trying to look totally normal and not like some creepy psychopath taking my camera bag with me to the bathroom ("it holds LIPSTICK, asshole!!"), I left my cheeks to check it out.
The salad's Early Girl tomatoes tasted like some other breed of food. Brynne put it best - "they taste like fruit." I can't wait until I can start enjoying that true sensation with the green guys in my backyard. I have one small grape-ish tomato (from the most wild, crazy, bountiful vine of the bunch) that's just about red. The first tomato of the season, so close! This served as a perfect prelude.
After dessert, the bill was left with dark chocolate-dipped bacon. It just doesn't get any more Portland than that.
I present it all as reason #4,384 to visit Paris. Or at least Northeast, which is quickly becoming my very own Petite Provence.