Upon entering Beast, a simple dining room with a chalkboard painted across a wall in the back greets you. A couple of uncomfortable chairs flank the chalkboard. The atmosphere is cozy, intimate and simple. It’s immediately obvious that James Beard Award winning chef-owner Naomi Pomeroy wants the food to speak for itself.
Local legend and Oregon native Naomi Pomeroy was born and raised in Corvallis, helping her mother tend the herb garden and make family meals. She first made her entrance onto the Portland food scene when she and partner Michael Hebb started Ripe Catering in 1999. This concept soon morphed into “Family Supper,” an underground supper club held in their rustic Northeast Portland bungalow.
Helped by the overwhelming popularity of the Ripe Catering and Family Supper, the two decided to take their concepts mainstream and in rapid succession opened the Gotham Coffee Shop in 2002, Clarklewis in 2004, and the Gotham Tavern in 2005.
Sadly, all three establishments would either be closed or sold by 2007, so Pomeroy, undeterred, recruited a former pantry cook and restarted her famous family-style suppers. The craze was no less popular the second go around, so she decided to address the demand head on by opening Beast in late 2007.
In the beginning, Beast comprised of only two cooks – one being Pomeroy – and two servers. At the time there were no dishwashers or prep cooks. In the first three years of Beast’s existence, the food was cooked on two electric induction burners. Despite these early hurdles, the awards and accolades wouldn’t be long in coming, and by 2011 Pomeroy was cooking over an open flame.
In 2010, 2012, and 2013 Pomeroy was selected as a finalist for a James Beard Award that she would finally win last year. Beast has been honored as the restaurant of the year and best brunch in Portland. Pomeroy is considered at the top of a new generation of female chefs that are bursting onto the national food scene.
Upon entering the sparse interior of Beast, expect to be greeted by soft music and dark colors. The lighting is low, and the tables are bathed in the light of tabletop candles. The seating is communal, so you’ll be sharing one of the two long tables with other groups of strangers.
Not surprising of a restaurant of this nature, the menu is a prix fixe six-course adventure. The selections change every week depending on what’s in season at the time. One thing to keep in mind is that there are no substitutions, so if there’s something you don’t like, you’ll be watching everyone else eat while you wait for the next course to arrive. Be sure to check the daily menu listed on their website.
Once seated, each meal begins with a small cup of soup, such as a delicious cream of asparagus, smooth and exploding with flavor. Expect a bit of herbed crème fraiche and trout roe swimming in the soup, just in case you forgot where you are.
On another night you may find yourself staring wide-eyed into a cup of Washington mussels drowning in carrot soup infused with saffron cream. The juxtaposition of flavors complement each other with remarkable ease.
Right about the time your spoon digs out the final dregs of deliciousness, a single bite of charcuterie appears. Not to be outdone by what came before, the steak tartar on crispy toast provides the perfect accompaniment to a lovely raw quail egg.
Perhaps you’re there on a night where a mousse-like foie gras bon-bon graces your table. It’s a delicate structure that provides the foundation for a quivering golden square of Sauterne gelèe.
Just as you begin to marvel at being in the presence of such a culinary master-class, you’ll realize that you’re only halfway there. Next comes the main course, a classic pot pie with braised short rib, wild onion and morels. Accompanying this delectable dish are glazed turnips and sautéed turnip greens. This is comfort food at its absolute finest.
A salad and cheese plate serve as the final stop on your way to an evening that appropriately ends in dessert. But don’t be fooled by the simple sound of salad and cheese. This is no regular salad, it’s a dish of frisèe, local apples, house pancetta and candied hazelnuts.
The cheese course, furnished by the Cheese Bar, is a lesson in refinement. A delicate Piemontese tomini cow and sheep’s milk cheese from Italy rests alluringly atop a fragile piece of cracked black pepper shortbread. Next to that lovely arrangement sits a French gabicton raw cow and sheep cheese nestled in a bed of mars-venus grapes and champagne-poached apricots.
Then, just when you think you’ve had enough, the evening climaxes in a dessert to die for. A chocolate pots de crème with coconut sorbet will make you forget how full you were. Not a fan of chocolate? Perhaps you’re there on a night they serve a brown butter crêpe with local rhubarb accompanied by a mouth-watering scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and pistachio praline whipped cream.
As the final bite slides down your throat, you’ll be left trying to reminisce on the flavors of the night. It’s no wonder Beast offers communal seating; this is an experience best shared.
While they occasionally have all vegetarian evenings, generally one can expect fair of the carnivorous variety. Subscribe to their newsletter for information on which nights are set aside for vegetarian menus. Making a reservation is generally a must, and they will ask for a credit card to hold your spot.
Beast is open Wednesday through Saturday from 6:00pm to 8:45pm. There are two Sunday brunches, one at 10:00am and one at 12:00pm. For more information or to check out their daily menu visit their website at BeastPDX.com or give them a call at (503) 841-6968. Beast is located at 5425 NE 30th Avenue in Portland, Oregon.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a published author and journalist who has been writing professionally for over nine years. He currently works from his home in Vancouver, Washington and is excited to bring you the best that the Portland restaurant scene has to offer.