by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
Long-term locals know that the Blacksmith basically jumpstarted Bend’s culinary scene. Somewhere along the way, however, the Blacksmith lost its way. But I’m happy to say that with new owners, a new chef and a renovation that was completed in March, the Blacksmith is on its way back.
Two friends, my brother and I made our way into the dining room after a round of wonderfully creative cocktails. I still love looking at the rock walls and log beams that once sheltered Pierson’s Blacksmith Shop. There’s nothing subtle about this restaurant’s décor, or its food for that matter, which is described on the website as distinctive, bold cuisine.
Before we had even ordered our appetizers, costini salmon mousse nibbles topped with bacon and fennel, along with crusty, warm bread served with oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, toasted coriander seeds and molasses hit the table. The Blacksmith may be known for its beef, but this clearly wasn’t going to be just another ordinary steak dinner.
Our appetizer round started with paper-thin beef Carpaccio wrapped around frisée and arugula like a sushi roll and served with fried capers. The crunchy freshness of the bitter greens contrasted nicely with the tender beef, creamy truffle aioli and slightly sweet red onion and lemon preserve.
We moved on to the Tuna Poke, which was fresh and silky but a little over-seasoned. With a lighter touch, the taste of the tuna would shine through the prominent ginger, cilantro and soy flavors. The layer of guacamole that topped the poke also seemed ill-conceived, as if it had boarded the wrong train. My tablemates and I all agreed that simple avocado slices would have worked better.
Despite somewhat tough puff pastry, our third choice—a tart with deliciously meaty mushrooms roasted in garlic and deglazed in sherry—was lovely.
Our favorite starter, however, was the Roasted BLT Wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese vinaigrette, crispy bacon and tomato caviar. A nice take on a classic.
We moved onto the entrees, which we all agreed outshone the appetizers. Since the Blacksmith has always been famous for its steaks, we ordered two. The scrumptious Northwest Ribeye was about as tender as a steak ever needs to be. Served with a rich mushroom bordelaise (a French wine sauce), horseradish mashed potatoes and topped with crispy shallots, the dish can only be described as deeply satisfying. My brother, who has spent the last 31 years living in Paris where this kind of steak just isn’t available, was in heaven.
The Blacksmith’s Tender Rogue features a grilled tenderloin filet served with a truffle potato sauce which proved a nice foil to the Rogue creamery smoked blue cheese and the balsamic reduction. There’s a lot going on in this dish, but the flavors all come together beautifully. “This is schmearing heaven,” my friend Deb announced. A side of braised, slightly crunchy sun choke helped cut the otherwise unmitigated richness.
The salmon served with grilled spinach and béarnaise sauce (think hollandaise with tarragon) proved a slight hiccup. It was tasty despite being somewhat overcooked, but the accompanying sweet onion relish competed with the rest of the plate and clearly didn’t seem to belong.
The opposite is true of the cider-brined pork chop, served tender and rosy in a green peppercorn and cheese sauce. Every single element on the plate enhanced its companions, which included fried Brussel sprouts studded with bacon, delectable fried polenta and apple chutney with a hint of coriander.
“This food makes you want to put on your tool belt and build a log cabin,” said my friend Ben. That makes one of us, but I know exactly what he means.
After an admitted heavy meal, dessert seemed like a stretch, but we just couldn’t pass up the crème brulée which changes daily. Ours was vanilla with a swirl of chocolate and a side of salted caramel and peanut brittle. I’m betting that the chef’s other crème brulée creations are just as divine.
211 NW Greenwood Ave; Bend
Owners: Nekol Olsen and
Monday – Thursday 4pm – 10pm Friday-Saturday 4pm – midnight Sunday 4pm – 9pm