By Chris Angelus, Portland Food Adventures
I took one of my two night chills out to the coast this weekend. I do some of my best thinking while driving to the coast, and when I’m there. I have a new client, TablesUp, an app which I am really excited about, and I wanted to find time to think about the marketing plans for the beta launch in Portland during the 3rd Quarter. The drive provided some excellent thinking and strategizing time. Although it started out as a day-trip, I couldn’t help but squeeze in as much time as possible. I had never stayed in Lincoln City before, but after spending way too much time finding the right balance between cheap and chill, I ended up doing just fine at a little place right on the water called the Westshore Motel. A kitchenette, windows that allowed the ocean to lull me to sleep, and plenty of room to stretch out for me and my dog. There was a separate bedroom, which Oakley decided to claim.
The first night I tried the Blackfish Cafe, which I had heard about. It was nice, but I didn’t think it hit the mark on the reviews that I had read. Perhaps when I asked for a mix of oysters and they told me it couldn’t be done (and not in a very friendly way), my dinner had a taint to it. I can’t see why they can’t accommodate a request like that.
The chowder, which had been lauded all over Yelp as the best anywhere, was nothing to write home about (where they know clam chowder). Shows to go ya, Yelp only goes so far. The fish and chips were OK, although the most notable item served with this dish was the cole slaw, which was excellent. The home made Ding Dong wasn’t anything I’d tell someone they HAD to order. I would have wanted the homemade version to be warmer and less firm. But for four bucks, surely not a bad idea to end the evening with coffee.
I really had my food mind set on the next night anyway, which was to visit one of my favorite spots, Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport. It is a bit of work to drive to during a day trip (I’ve done it.). So being nearby, I wanted to take the 24 mile drive down to Newport and make what I think would be my sixth visit there. The seafood is sourced from vessels right across the street. I’ve recommended it to many, and always have been thanked profusely for the recommendation.
On the way down, I happened to pass the Whale Cove Inn which is host hotel to Restaurant Beck, which, in all my trips down the coast, hadn’t quite lodged in my brain yet that it was just south of Depoe Bay. I gave some thought to changing my plans, but Local Ocean Seafoods is a tough one to pass up. Just past the Inn, I came across a fairly conspicuous turnoff. I found my way down to a comfortable park bench, and took in the ocean air, the sun and the perfect temps. One of those moments to appreciate the life we have on this earth. In that regard, the bench I was on provided a pause.
The views south and north were absolutely stunning, and while I was sitting there, I called Restaurant Beck to see about a seat by the window. It was 4pm. They opened at 5. I was in the perfect spot to spend at least an hour to debate my dining dilemma. While it was a good dilemma to have, I decided that I would go for the new experience and satisfy my curiousity. (Does everyone wretch so much over these seemingly simple decisions??)
I waited a bit to be fashionably late–heading down the quarter mile from this spot to arrive at about 5:15. I was the first one in, and was led to the best table by the window and ordered a sangria, which the waiter said was his contribution to the cocktail menu. I was happy to try it. It was refreshing. A perfect complement to my day–and the view.
I asked about the tasting menu, but decided to order the pork belly, carrot salad and the Ling Cod. I usually don’t write “reviews” course by course, but the dishes and pictures lend themselves to a bit more detail at Restaurant Beck. After all, the chef has attended to every little detail.
If my cardiologist reads this, I’m busted. But if he had tasted the pork belly, I am sure he would have given me a waiver. Not only was it so perfectly cooked and so good I sliced off small bites to savor along the way, my newly discovered love for thinly sliced radishes took on an entirely new bent. The mustard (subtle) ice cream was the perfect complement. The waiter told me the sea beans were sourced at Stiletz Bay, just up the pike, and they would have a salty sea bite to them, and that’s just what they had.
Next up, the carrot salad. I am usually not a big carrot lover, but then that’s part of dining adventure–ordering some things you don’t normally love and discovering they can be prepared so you do. And that’s just what happened. The lemon cream was so incredibly perfect. Smooth, lemony, but not tart. This dish featured a few different types of carrots, some cooked and some raw. The people behind me were ordering the tasting menu, and this was their second course, and all I could hear was a chorus of oohs and ahs. (They had a seared tuna for the first course. I thought Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were nearby… the sounds were orgasmic.) I found it curious to hear that the party coming to enjoy over $700 worth of tasting menu was from Newport and had never been to this restaurant before. I think they will be beck. (sic)
Then for the main course I had the Ling Cod, which is what I probably would have had in the form of fish and chips at Local Ocean Seafoods. This was undoubtedly a lighter and more delicate version. Made up for the pork belly. (Or so I want to convince myself.) The waiter explained that Chef Beck loves to use grinds in all his dishes and in this one I was to enjoy two of my favorite things combined, sprinkled on the side, coffee and pistachio. One might not think coffee belongs on a dish, but after delighting in all the nuances on this plate, I would put this dish up against any fish dish I’ve had since I’ve lived in Oregon. Hidden among the greens was a little surprise–cucumber gel water (or something to that effect), which was so wonderful and fresh, and the quinoa on top provided a wonderful crunch. Each leaf of herbs was like a message from the chef… “try this… huh… huh… you like?”
I had been reading about Restaurant Beck for some time, and was very curious about what some critics’ reviews had called “the best restaurant in Oregon.” That’s a TALL ORDER. I would say if you put Restaurant Beck in Portland, it would surely be one of the best in the city. But you pour on this wonderful view, you do have one of the best dining experiences in this incredible food region. It would have been nicer with a female companion for me rather than solo, but still, being alone (with your wonderful dog waiting in the car for later walk on the beach to walk off and savor the memory of this great meal) is a pretty nice state to be in. Just like Oregon.
I strongly suggest you put Restaurant Beck on your bucket list and don’t forget about that bucket.