By LINDEN GROSS, Author, Writing Coach & Copywriter
I heard about the Kokanee Café shortly after moving to Bend. Five years later, my dining companion I finally made it there with a friend involved in the San Francisco restaurant scene in tow. “The further we drove out in the woods, the lower my expectations,” he would confess halfway through dinner. It’s hard to blame him. Who would expect to find such superior dining by the intersection of RFD 1419 113?
You know you’re in for something special as soon as the bread hits the table. Instead of being served with butter, it’s accompanied by a mixture of ground fennel sesame seeds, pine nuts almonds that you mix in olive oil. Our starters shared that same sense of distinctive deliciousness. We slurped up one of the day’s specials, a chilled strawberry-peach soup with a star anise, cinnamon lemon balm-accented champagne base that made it light bright.
The grilled asparagus tart with its perfectly poached egg on flaky phyllo crust, with a caper aioli shavings of parmesan was as good as it sounded. The crab cakes were lovely, with an almost creamy texture. The evening’s winner, however, was the Japanese-style minced scallop seviche topped with Tobiko served with fried wontons a seaweed salad. This positively brilliant appetizer isn’t on the menu, but it should be.
“Food should be fun,” says executive chef Roscoe Robertson, whose cuisine is as influenced by his extensive travels as by his three-year apprenticeship under a French chef. “It should make you happy.”
No problem there. My pan roasted duck made me positively joyful with its crispy skin tender, juicy meat. The lemon broth on the plate countered the richness of the bird the earthiness of the accompanying mushroom risotto, while lightly dressed arugula provided the perfect peppery foil.
“Oh wow,” exclaimed my dining companion upon tasting his 12-ounce rib-eye, served with demi glace, smoked blue cheese butter tomato thyme jam. “This gives new meaning to tender.” Personally, I could have done without the tomato jam topping, but that’s just because my palate runs to savory. The other two at the table loved how the sweetness of the jam married with the bold flavors of the blue cheese butter the steak.
Finally, the lamb shanks braised with chamomile apricot served with pine nuts currant relish were succulent surprisingly delicate in flavor. Of course, I would have been happy just to feast on the garlic whipped potatoes served with both meat courses. Yum!
Dessert followed. Three words best describe that experience: Don’t miss out. The dense chocolate mousse served with a light hazelnut meringue cookie, freshly whipped malted cream (now there’s a taste sensation) dots of pinot noir syrup was delicious. But the butterscotch crème brulée, which was so generous in size that we dubbed it crème brulée on steroids, was like eating the best butterscotch pudding combined with the best crème the best brulée you’ve ever had. Elegant comfort food at its finest on that front.
Toward the end of our scrumptious meal, a couple who had just finished dining at the bar in jeans T-shirts stopped by our table. We had assumed from their dress that they were locals. Despite the recent remodel which has taken the Kokanee Café from country kitchen to sleek in terms of decor, the restaurant still manages to comfortably blend campers with Bendites out for a sophisticated evening.
“We’re Mr. And Mrs. Frumster,” the visiting couple joked. Then they got serious. “I’m 58 years old this is the best meal I’ve had in my whole life,” the woman announced. After a few minutes of chitchat, they said goodbye. “Will you marry me?” she asked chef Roscoe as they left the restaurant. I was tempted to ask the same question myself.
25545 SW Forest Service Road
Owner: Peter Lowes
Open May – October
(Check for specific dates)
Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Happy Hour: 2:30pm – 5pm
Dinner: 5pm – close