Review: Beast Restaurant

Naomi Pomeroy of Beast Restaurant

Naomi Pomeroy of Beast.
Photo ©Alicia J. Rose

Updated 11/12 – shortened, new prices, photos, descriptions etc.

Just about everyone who reads local magazines has seen this photo of Naomi Pomeroy of Beast. One of the creators of Gotham Tavern, Ripe Family Supper and clarklewis, she is the stuff of local legend. In 2009 Naomi opened Beast, modeled somewhat on her experience with Ripe. Through her travails, she has developed a quiet strength which shows in her food and in the way she moves through her kitchen.

Some restaurants are difficult to review, because people tend to be seduced with the experience as a whole, and as with many things in life, seem to feel personally attacked if you don’t like it as much as they do. Beast, in particular, has a passionate group of followers. However, I think, when doing a review, one has to isolate himself from the experience, and concentrate on the food. Things like ambiance and service should be noted and made part of any review. But for me it all comes down to, if I am sitting by myself in an empty room, do I like the food, and would I come back. This is the question I asked myself about Beast.

Interior of Beast Restaurant, Portland Oregon

Beast Interior. 
Photo ©Lauren Coleman Photography

The dining room is simple, a chalkboard painted wall across the back, and two large tables, flanked by the uncomfortable chairs that were banished from clarklewis when it was sold (though Naomi tells me they are being replaced soon). Music is present, but not so loud it interferes with conversation, though when the room is full you may find yourself competing to be heard. Overall, lighting is adequate, and candles on the table help for reading the menu though you don’t really have to worry since it is just a simple list of what you are having.

Seating is communal, so understand you will be sharing one of the two tables with groups of strangers. You will also be in the same space as the cooks. I enjoy sitting with my back to the wall so I can watch as they calmly go about their duties. The dual space also means you are exposed to the heat from the equipment – nice on cold days, but it can be a bit overwhelming in the summer, even with the screen door open.

The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, or as intimate as it can possibly be sharing a table with 20 plus other people. This is great when you are sitting next to folks who are outgoing and interesting, and at Beast, this is usually the case. I’ve had terrific conversations here with complete strangers.

Beast Restaurant Portland Oregon

Second, smaller table. Photo ©Alicia J. Rose

The menu is prix fixe six-course, with the selections changing weekly depending on what is in season; check the website. Be warned, you will get what they are serving that night – no substitutions. If you don’t like something, you’ll be sitting on your hands until the next course arrives. Beast is not a vegetarian friendly restaurant, however they occasionally have an evening with an all vegetarian meals; subscribe to their newsletter to be notified when one is coming up. One note: when they say “tasting menu”, they mean it. However, by the time I’ve eaten the entire dinner, I always walk out comfortably sated.

Two seatings are available each night at 6pm and 8:45pm Wednesday – Saturday. The current price is $75 per person. On Sundays there is a brunch at 10am or 12pm ($35).

Reservations are a must. You can order six course wine pairing, with a small glass designed to match each dish ($35). All of the wines in the various pairing are available by the glass. Beast also has a small selection of whole bottles. If you bring your own, corkage is $30. I enjoy tasting lots of different wines, so always have the wine pairings. Most of the time the matching is fine, though occasionally one will fall flat. This, however, is a rather subjective thing – your results may vary. A small selection of “Belgian style” beers is available.

Meals begin with a small cup of soup, which is usually terrific. A cream of asparagus was an anthem to spring – lush, smooth and brimming with flavor. A bit of herbed crème fraîche & trout roe dressed it up just enough to put the whole thing over the top. Another successful version consisted of cream of cauliflower soup with house curry oil & trout roe, the latter giving a bit of salty crunch. On the other hand, a carrot soup with Washington mussels & saffron cream left me cold. The overpowering mélange of flavors all fought with each other. I simply didn’t like the way the sweetness of the carrots contrasted with the mussels, and while the addition of shallots gave it an interesting contrast, this isn’t something I’d order again.

Beast Restaurant Portland charcuterie plate

Charcuterie Plate. 
Photo ©Lauren Coleman Photography

A selection of single bite charcuterie follows. Most of the selections are excellent. I love the freshly chopped steak tartar on a crispy little toast accompanied by a lovely raw quail egg, and the dessert-like foie gras bon-bon which has a tiny trembling golden square of Sauterne gelée perched on top, giving a hint of taste and cutting the fat. I could eat half a dozen of either one.

The next course is a main, which tends to be interesting, though not always entirely successful. That being said, over my visits since they opened, quality has steadily increased. One evening the main course was pot pie with braised short rib, wild onion and morels accompanied with glazed turnips and sautéed turnip greens.  The combination was fantastic, easily the best of the genre I’ve ever had. The crust was light, the meat tender and moist. The morels and sauce gave a wonderful earthy depth that made me reach for the bread to make sure I had sopped up every bit.

Beast Restaurant Portland - Pork

Pork Dish.
Photo ©Lauren Coleman Photography

Other mains I’ve had in the past include baby lamb chops which were so small and had so little meat on the bone they needed the patience and precision of a surgeon. My whole table ended up discussing the hassle rather than the dish itself. Difficulty aside, the meat was just… fine. On another fall night, a serving of regular-sized lamb chops was much better; perfectly cooked on a bed of mashed potatoes studded with wild mushrooms. At one meal we had “braised local beef short ribs, rouge d’etamps pumpkin, golden raisin aigre-coux mustard greens with chili & garlic”. The beef was tender and flavorful, and the pumpkin provided a slightly sweet foil to the beef. The sauce was excellent, as were the accompanying mustard greens. Overall, it was a consummate winter dish. The same could be said of a slow-roasted pork shoulder with peppers and rainbow chard, a combination that spoke of earth and fall – another fine example of comfort food wrapping its arms around you. If I have any universal complaint, it is that they need to pull back a little on the salt.

On the surface the salads may seem simple, but there are frequently lots of subtle tastes and textures. Each of these had an ingredient that pushed them over the edge into the really good category. One night a simple dish of frisée, local apples, house pancetta and candied hazelnuts stood out for the perfectly composed combination of ingredients. Another evening it was lettuces, anchovy, and lemon vinaigrette with shaved radish and raisin-walnut croutons. The croutons were simple, yet imparted a wonderful flavor, which raised it far above average. One early spring I was served a perfectly composed spring asparagus & poached pheasant egg frisée. Sauced with fried prosciutto and brown-butter vinaigrette, the prosciutto added a slight crunch and burst of flavor that contrasted perfectly to the early asparagus.

The cheese course provided by Steve Jones of the Cheese Bar is always stellar. They are usually accompanied by a bit of house-made shortbread or fruit. One night we were served a delicate Piemontese tomini cow and sheep’s milk cheese from Italy, a gabicton raw cow and sheep cheese from France, and a surprisingly mild blue del monviso raw cow milk variety from Italy. This was accompanied with cracked black pepper shortbread, mars-venus grapes and wonderful champagne-poached apricots.

Dessert line at Beast Restaurant Portland<br />Photo ©Lauren Coleman Photography

Dessert prep

As with many things in life, desserts at Beast tend to be best when they are kept simple. Chocolate pots de crème with spot on coconut sorbet was a match made in heaven. Among other winners, peach and brown butter tarts that spoke of late summer, while a brown butter crêpe with local rhubarb, vanilla bean ice cream and pistachio praline whipped cream all folded together had too many flavors fighting for attention.

While it may sound like I am being hard on Beast, it is easy to find fault with a six course meal. I have been nine times, and regretted my decision only once – and that was shortly after they opened. Overall, I think the experience of eating with a convivial group of strangers, all being served the same dishes at the same time is quite entertaining and enlightening. There is nothing like a love of food and wine to bring people together. For the most part, my quibbles with the food are minor. Though the prices are a bit high, you are paying for more than dinner – your ticket includes meeting new people and watching the kitchen.  Service is always professional and gracious, without a flaw over all of my visits. I like Beast, and will continue to dine there.

  • Address: 5425 NE 30th Ave., Portland OR 97211 Map
  • Phone: (503) 841-6968
  • WebsiteBeastPDX.com
  • Hours: Wed – Sat – two seatings 6pm or 8:45pm. Brunch Sunday 10am or 12pm.
  • Happy Hour: n/a
  • Reservation Policy: a must. A credit card is required to hold your place
  • Noise Level: moderate
  • Price: pre fix: $75, wine pairing $35. Brunch $35, wine pairing $20
  • Corkage: $30
  • Social: none

 


Beast on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

    • Food Dude says

      I did not, but have heard nothing but good things! I should have asked you to write a little opinion. Just saying. ;)

  1. grapedog says

    Thanks for getting this review posted, FD. I agree with much of what you have written, but had one issue when I last ate at Beast. The food and the service were great, but the guests didn’t seem to realize that there are two seatings at Beast each night, and you need to show up on time. In our table, two couples wandered in 15-25 minutes late, which holds up the start for everyone. Perhaps along with “Substitutions politely declined” there should be something about “Late arrivals will be seated between courses” or similar.

    • Food Dude says

      Interesting. That happened one time when I was there (probably two months ago). We were already eating, so they started the meal over for them. On the other hand, the restaurant was not crowded that night.

  2. says

    Okay, you’ve convinced me. We haven’t been to Beast yet, but that oversight will be corrected soon. It’s nice to hear about that level of care and commitment here, especially after our recent stellar dining experiences in Vancouver, BC. Thanks as always for sharing your insight…and appetite!!

  3. foodblues says

    Review is right on I’ve been to Beast twice an have had an exceptional experience both time I love there charcuterie plate although I wish it were little bigger I havnt had castagnas. but I’ve had Ten 01s use to be world class I don’t know what going on over there I was there recently it was alfull I had some gummy terrine that place is really has fallen from grace well I guess I’m off to Castagnas this werek

  4. foodblues says

    Review is right on I’ve been to Beast twice an have had an exceptional experience both time I love there charcuterie plate although I wish it were little bigger I havnt had castagnas. but I’ve had Ten 01s use to be world class I don’t know what going on over there I was there recently it was alfull I had some gummy terrine that place really has fallen from grace well I guess I’m off to Castagnas this week

  5. Tim says

    My take on Ripe and Beast is that while I might not have had the best meals of my life in either place I certainly had some of the most memorable meals of my life. The food is always quite good but it was the table talk and the whole package that made those meals stand out.

  6. Emily says

    I find the owner Naomi to be EXTREMELY rude. She was completely unwilling to budge on her cancellation policy when an unexpected scheduling conflict arose for our reservation. At least Simpatica will allow you to use the fee as a credit towards a future reservation. Why squabble over $80 in cancellation fees and loose a customer and everyone they can tell, rather then let them re-book so that they can spend $300+ in a few weeks. In this town of cut-throat restaurant business, it just doesn’t make sense.

    • extramsg says

      Yes, the person who sticks by their policy is rude, not the person who insists that they break it. Did you not know the policy before-hand?

      It’s a small restaurant built on a model of buying exactly what they need for any given service and only having two turns. They have expectations tha affect their budget and bottom line. They have a high corkage fee, a no substitutions policy, and a no cancellations policy. The diner is free to choose somewhere else if that doesn’t meet with their approval. It shouldn’t offend them. It’s not rude. It’s what they do because they think it’s the best choice for their business. Maybe it helps them maintain a certain price level with more expensive ingredients. Maybe it lets them pay their cooks more. Who knows? Not you. But they’re obviously “EXTREMELY rude” for not letting you out of what you had presumably already agreed to. Ah, HIYW, showing again that they’re the worst four words in the American dining scene.

      Hopefully when you do complain to your friends, they have the sense to look at you skeptically and ask why you made a reservation at a place with such policies if you weren’t sure you could keep it.

      Let me ask you this: if you have tickets to the opera, or tickets to a concert, or tickets to a Blazers game, do you ask for a refund if “an unexpected scheduling conflict” arises? Did they laugh in your face?

      It may be a tough policy, a strict policy, an inconvenient policy, etc. It may be a policy you’re not willing to agree to and so decide not to visit Beast. But to make the leap to defaming an individual who sticks to that policy or created that policy, just because you don’t like it, is rude. Extremely.

      • MyNextMeal says

        FWIW – I don’t see a cancellation policy on the Beast website. Did I overlook it? Perhaps it is stated when a reservation is made?

  7. PB says

    Thanks for getting this review posted, FD. I agree with much of what you have written, but had one issue when I last ate at Beast. The food and the service were great, but the guests didn’t seem to realize that there are two seatings at Beast each night, and you need to show up on time. In our table, two couples wandered in 15-25 minutes late, which holds up the start for everyone. Perhaps along with "Substitutions politely declined" there should be something about "Late arrivals will be seated between courses" or similar.

  8. germaine says

    I have always had great service at Beast, Naomi has always been very friendly to me, and I love Beast.
    Everyone has different experiences at different restaurants, and I agree with qv, just go to places that match what you’re looking for.
    I have had less than great service at several places in Portland, and in general I think you can compare Portland service to service in Europe. It’s just not as super-friendly as other places in the US. I am from Europe, so I don’t mind. But it’s always nice when I visit other cities in the US and get that great service that the US is known for, so I understand some people’s complaints.

  9. Rouxster says

    I was a little concerned about the No Substitutions policy when I went to Beast a few months ago because my fiancee is celiac. Much to my surprise, she was very well accomodated. The charcuterie plate was brought out sans bread (though I would’ve liked to see something substituted for the bread to help cut through the foie gras bon bon; same with the cheese plate), The ravioli was presented without the wrapper, andnot just heaped on the plate liek an afterthought. The staff checked in at least twice to make sure she was doing ok.

    Agree with FD that the quail egg tartare was amazing.

    The duck confit was also excellent; miles ahead of Tabla’s confit.

    • Food Dude says

      I noticed today that their new website gives a bit more latitude on substitutions –

      Our Substitutions policy:
      We don’t do substitutions. The only exception to this is something that is an outright allergy, and which can be left out of the dish. (An example would be nuts, or bread.) We don’t create a new dish- but will gladly remove something if it is easily done. Fish only eaters, vegetarians, and vegans would all have a challenging dining experience at beast. If you have questions, please call the reservation line to inquire.

  10. Ian says

    I just want to add one voice in support of Beast and their policies which are hugely refreshing to me and are clearly stated each time a reservation is made. Cancellations made in the proper time frame are accepted, in my experience. The service is great and professional and the food is great. You don’t have to be a restaurant owner to appreciate that the economic model requires a pretty close idea of how many people will be attending the two seatings. As far as people with funny diets, to this humble commenter the words “substitutions politely declined” make up the best phrase on any menu in Portland. I don’t know anyone at the restaurant but I like what they do and am glad they are getting accolades. Keep it up and thanks for doing something different.

  11. land_carp says

    This is a place where they do exactly what they want to, and if you don’t like it, their attitude seems to be, you can kiss their pork butt. Fine. I’ve been there twice, and wish they were a little friendlier.

  12. sheri says

    No matter how great the food was at Beast we could not sit on those horrible chairs any longer. Its torture, true torture for a restaurant to allow paying people to sit on those for 2 hours…really gotta get rid of those chairs. Food was great, loved the presentation and our little gay waiter was sweet. My husband and I would most definately go back if they got rid of those chairs

  13. qv says

    Sir, for that last comment next time you’re in you’re having a drink on me.
    I may even make my waitress give you a lap dance.

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