Most Bend residents don’t have Sunriver’s South Bend Bistro on their foodie radar. What a mistake! New owner Laura Meadows has given the tiny bistro a lovely facelift, adding in a bar while lightening up and increasing the dining space. And executive chef Lillian Owen has raised the bar on food that was superb to start with.
Our evening at South Bend Bistro started at the new bar with a rose-nectar old fashioned and a French Margarita accented with Chambord, which I’ll definitely be making at home.
We had planned to move to a table, but chatting with the restaurant’s tiny team, which functions like the best kind of tightly-knit family, kept us right where we were.
When our appetizers arrived, they were so beautiful it was hard to know which one to dive into first.
The sea scallops, with their brilliant sear, won out. As much as I love a perfect scallop, which these were, I enjoyed the celery root puree almost as much. How’s that for a surprise? And then there was the thick-cut bacon, along with crispy Brussel sprout leaves and mushrooms in a white wine butter sauce. Yes, yes, yes!
The carpaccio (a dish named after Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, known for his use of red and white tones) was even better—not just the best in town, but perhaps the best I’ve ever had in the U.S. or abroad. Imagine crème fraiche drizzled over paper-thin, melt-in-your-mouth Wagu rib eye onto which coarse sea salt, crunchy green onions and earthy truffle oil have been sprinkled. Heaven! I would drive to Sunriver for that dish alone.
We also tasted the grilled asparagus roasted in nutty miso butter, tossed in a lemon shallot vinaigrette and topped with parmesan, a sunny side egg and fried shallot rings. Oh my! The soup of the day—a hot puree of sweet potato, leek, fennel, celery root and carrot—was equally memorable.
The triumphs continued. The eight-ounce eye of rib eye—topped with miso marrow butter, caramelized onion and mushroom jus—was tender, juicy and utterly divine in its marbled beefiness. The two pastas we sampled were also terrific. This may not be an Italian restaurant, but you wouldn’t know it by tasting the black truffle-tomato ragu with orecchiette pasta and fennel-accented Italian sausage. And if you’re into creamy comfort, look no further than the silky tortelli, handmade by the chef each day. Stuffed with fluffy ricotta, brown butter and sage, it’s served with sautéed leeks, asparagus and a handful of shitake mushroom slices in a white wine pan sauce. You can add crab, but why overshadow a pasta that’s so artfully composed and beautifully subtle?
After debating between dessert options that included fresh beignets, we ended our meal with a first—crème brûlée made from a custard spiked with Baileys, Frangelico and Kahlua, then topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. And yes, it’s as good as it sounds. We thought we were done, but Chef Lillian had other ideas. After tasting her warm flourless chocolate cake and house-made Bailey’s ice cream served with salted caramel sauce and crunchy chocolate cookie crumbs, we realized why. The dessert, which showcased the chef’s deft hand at balancing sweet and salty flavors as well as textures into each perfectly composed bite, represents her art on a plate.
South Bend Bistro
57080 West Mall Drive, Sunriver
541-593-3881 • southbendbistro.com
Chef/owner: Jeremy Buck
Hours November through May: Wednesday-Sunday 9am-2pm; 4-8pm. Hours June through October: Seven days/week 9am–2pm; 4-9pm.