Chef Justin Wills and his wife Stormee operate Restaurant Beck at the Whale Cove Inn on the coast of Oregon. The restaurant, named for their son Becker, has been open 11 years. Chef Wills has been a James Beard nominee twice and recognized in Food & Wine magazine and Best Chefs in America. Stormee runs the front of the restaurant and manages the wine service. Depoe Bay is about 2-3 hours from Portland but worth the trip for the beautiful scenery. The boutique hotel, with just 8 rooms, sits above a small cove where whales (mostly gray) love to visit and the dining room has windows on 3 sides overlooking this magnificent view. White cloth covered tables were well spaced, music was in the background, the natural light was supplemented by candles, servers were friendly and wore masks and tables were disinfected and re-clothed between seatings. The menu changes slightly each day based on what is fresh (Oregon, Washington and Idaho suppliers) with a la carte options as well as 3 and 5 ($95) course tastings. Optional wine pairings ($35 for 5 course) are available but the wine list was interesting and well priced. Cocktails and liquor are offered. We got the 5 course tasting and chose our own wine. Portions are generous and pacing was at a good rate, but then Covid was mandating that they stop service by 10:00 pm.
We started with a Negroni made with Bombay Saphire Gin, Campari, Cocchi Sweet Vermouth and Charred Orange. It was lovely and the charred orange a particularly nice touch. It was not a throwaway and a good start to the meal.
Some warm brown bread with molasses was next served with softened, salted butter. It was yummy with a nice crisp crust and a doughy interior. The pastry chef makes a different bread each day.
Our first course was a salmon tartar served with sheep’s milk yogurt, fermented Oregon blueberries and dill. The intense blueberries were like raisins and melded nicely with the mild, tart yogurt. The dill was so fresh not a bit of “stick” was in the piece – it was soft and tender and perfect with the delicious raw salmon. The tender bits of fish were a great match with the other ingredients for a very winning combination of things.
Black cod was served with a roasted tomato puree, wild daisy petals, pollen, bronze fennel frond, morels and blistered cherry tomato. The large flake fish was tender and lovely with the wonderful tomato options. The mushrooms were another good enhancement to the flavor profile. It was a good combination of ingredients and a plate where it was better when eaten together instead of separate parts.
Pork belly was plated with wild bay leaf and honey goat milk ice cream on top of seabeans. The tender pork belly had a nice crispy edge with moist meat. The ice cream was fairly sweet and smooth. Together they were magic. The ice cream melted away the fat of the meat and totally enhanced the flavor Another example of the whole being better than the sum of its parts.
The last savory dish was beef tenderloin with garlic pudding, grilled asparagus, Umezuke Persian cucumber, Allepo chile and wild onion blossoms. The beef was grilled to medium rare and the cucumber was pickled. The garlic sauce was a good accompaniment and the plate had nice overall tastes and textures, but it was the least exciting plate of the tasting.
Dessert was a chocolate lava cake on a blackberry port reduction alongside a blackberry cream sherbet. All was finished with a chocolate, peanut honeycomb bark and cocoa nibs. First let me say I was really glad to have a different berry than the usual raspberry and the blackberry had plenty of flavor to stand up to the intense chocolate cake. The bark added a nice crunch and nuttiness to the mix. The cake had a nice soft center but not as liquid filled as some lava cakes. It was a true sweet and chocolate fix for a fine ending.
We finished the meal with a glass of Bulleit Bourbon. I would put this place and the hotel on your to-go list.