The Stephanie Inn Dining Room is of course in the oceanfront Stephanie Inn. Chef Aaron Bedard creates a 5-course prix fixe tasting menu that changes often and in which you have a choice of entrée. They have a full bar but also offer wine pairings for the meal. Built in 1993 the inn is a luxury coastal retreat in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. They do 2 seatings in the evening at 5:30 and 8:00 in the second-story room overlooking the mountains and nearby homes. The large tables are set with cream-colored cloths and brown napkins in a room with a vaulted wooden ceiling. The room faces east so the glaring sun is not a problem for diners. Music is in the background and there’s plenty of parking out front. Some tables are on the outside veranda but they didn’t seem to get used for the dinner service. They didn’t open early, in fact they were a bit late, and so a number of the diners lined up at the door. The problem with that is many people wanted a cocktail and the servers were trying to get out an amuse bouche and take dinner drink orders – and basically, it felt clunky and ill-planned for a fine dining experience (we waited 25 minutes to place a drink order). It is hard when the diners are all served at the same time so the place can accommodate more people, but there must be a way to make it flow more smoothly. That said, the service was friendly and finely caught up with demands to provide a lovely evening with pretty good food too. After the salad was served the chef came out to talk about the evening’s menu and the 2 choices for entrées.
The amuse bouche was some beef tartare with sea salt, olive oil and cracker crumbs. It was a fine bite but as I said before it was mostly lost in the chaos of the early evening.
Bread service was slices in a basket brought by the table. It was a yellow, doughy, dense and soft brioche bread served with pats of butter dotted with salt. They called it chile cheddar bread and said it was made in-house daily, but the flavor was very mild. The server came around to replace your slice often.
The first course was an Oregon Berry Salad with organic greens tossed with a blueberry vinaigrette alongside fresh Oregon berries, herbed chévre cheese, pickled rhubarb and toasted almonds. In the center of the long oval plate, the greens were nicely dressed and seasoned. The berries, rhubarb and cheese on both ends could be eaten separately or mixed in with the greens. The rhubarb was tart and crisp which added a nice texture element. The goat cheese was flavorful but the berries were cultivated not wild.
Hungarian Mushroom Soup was topped with an herb emulsion and chopped scallion. It used hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, paprika and dill along with a roux base. It was served quite warm and you were told to mix in the herbed creme fraiche mixture. It was very good with wonderful consistency. I would have liked the mushroom flavor to be more dominant but it had some strong competition.
One entrée choice was fresh Wild King Salmon served with julienne zucchini in a tomato ragu, broccolini, sweet peas and a fine herb beurre blanc. The buttery sauce was delightful but tended to mix with everything in the bowl/plate and so there was not enough for the entire piece of fish. The vegetables were cooked nicely and all the other parts were good.
The other entrée choice was Manhattan New York striploin from all-natural Angus beef served with garlic crushed potatoes, grilled sweet onion, herbed green beans and a veal demi glaze. They were able to honor my request to keep it on the rare side and that was nice, but even still the meat was a bit dry. The sauce was excellent as was the sweet onion. The mashed potatoes were plentiful and fairly chunky but there were just 3 green beans on the plate. It was a good plate, not great.
Dessert was an apple custard tart topped with streusel, alongside some salted caramel sauce and candied hazelnuts. The tart was tasty but could have benefitted from more fruit. A heavy shortbread crust was underneath and it didn’t come off as buttery as it should have. The candied hazelnuts were excellent.