BY LINDEN GROSS
Chef Kayo Oakley’s restaurants have been Bend institutions for decades. Still, his current establishment—Kayo’s Dinner House and Lounge, which he opened in 2010—was not on my radar until my dad and brother started going there for Happy Hour a couple of years ago. Their accounts of oysters on the half shell and blackened prime rib chunks intrigued me, but did not spur me into action.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I finally got to the restaurant with its unassuming exterior, but it sure wasn’t a vaulted ceiling, stone fireplace, white table cloths and food that would make me curse myself for not having gotten there sooner.
We had barely settled into our glasses of wine when Kayo’s seafood sampler, with its perfectly-seared pepper ahi along with the freshest monster prawns and sweet morsels of crab, hit our table. Fresh is the name of the game here. So is seafood. Over-the-top seafood that you can’t find elsewhere. Like crawfish pie (amazing crust, amazing filling); crispy, melt-in-your-mouth crab hush puppies and sautéed abalone—a delectable first for me and my friends. The super creamy clam chowder tasted too much like bacon for my taste, but my friends adamantly disagreed. The chilled oysters provided a lovely, clean contrast to all this old-school richness, while the prime rib chunks served with burnt butter Worcestershire sauce were as tasty as had been reported.
Did I mention that the home-baked bread is served with smoked salmon mousse?
Almost all the entrées were equally impressive. I have to admit that the redfish special with crab mashed potatoes tasted fishy to me and one of my tablemates, but the other two thought we were nuts and loved the dish. We were all unanimous in our raves about our other three entrées.
The tender, well-marbled Kobe New York steak with compound butter was large enough for three. “This is one of the best steaks I’ve ever had,” exclaimed my foodie buddy Leah. “I don’t know what they do to Kobes, but I love them.”
The Rajun Cajun Pasta showcased crawfish, shrimp and Andouille sausage, all sautéed in garlic and Cajun spices, tossed with Penne and finished with heavy cream. The dish was as decadent and delicious as it sounds.
Finally, we loved the lemon kick in the large, golden, crusty and positively memorable crab and lobster cakes, which were all seafood and no filler.
“This stuff is so fresh, we could be seaside,” said my friend Jill.
“And it’s not pouring rain,” added Leah.
Dessert did not disappoint. The eggy crème brûlée, served with raspberries, was delicious and downright silky. The three flavors of crazy-good, house-made ice cream—red velvet cake (including the cream cheese frosting), blood orange and chocolate and sea-salt caramel—speak for themselves.
“I would come back and order every single one of these dishes,” Leah concluded at the end of our comprehensive tour of Kayo’s menu.
Here’s to surprises right in our own backyard.
Kayo’s Dinner House & Lounge
415 NE Third St. Bend
Owner: Kayo Oakley
Open Monday through Saturday Lounge opens at 4pm
Restaurant opens at 5pm