The concept behind Level 2, located in the Old Mill in the old Bend Martini Bar spot, is unique in this town. There are places here serving a wide variety of fusion small plates, places whipping up noteworthy desserts and places mixing spiffy cocktails.
But only L2 is doing all that.And though it may seem a little unbelievable out here in the middle of the desert, the owners are actually pulling off a certain San Francisco swank that transports diners off the corner across from Jimmy John’s and into a world that feels like Velvet, Astro and 5 Fusion combined.
With an exposed metal ceiling and a concrete floor, there’s an industrial feel to the space. This is softened, though, by warm, contemporary lounge furniture and the glow cast from the track lighting in the restaurants several separate nooks and private spaces. Large art pieces hang on the walls of the restaubar, which will celebrate its two-year anniversary this fall.
Any similarity to 5 Fusion in menu or feel should come as no surprise, as the owners of L2, and 5 Fusion are one and the same—the Long family, which also owns Szechuan, Tomo, Soba and other ventures around town.
Ada Chao, Howie Long’s wife, manages L2 on a daily basis.
“We wanted to have someplace for people to come in here for drinks and dessert,” she said. Full dinner options have never been part of the equation.
The result is a restaurant that focuses on providing diners little tastes of everything. The main menu is divided into small plates, salads and slightly heftier options, like udon, mac and cheese or the Maker’s Mark BBQ ribs.
When we stopped in recently we tried the steamed mussels ($8) and the Ahi Tuna poke ($9). The buttery mussels are steeped in a thai curry broth that, courtesy of thick maple bacon chunks, is smoky and rich. Mangoes, veggies and grilled sides of bread round out the satisfying dish.
The Ahi Tuna poke is basically art. Five crispy wonton triangles splay out from a tower of rice crowned with soft marinated Ahi and ringed by macadamia nuts. The plate is then studded with wasabi crème and drizzled with a sambal soy vinaigrette. It was excellent.
The edamame salad ($4) is a good example how Chao is trying to do something different here. Rather than the standard steamed pods crusted with kosher salt, the edamame in this salad are cold and flavored with star of anise, citrus juice and served with cucumber and carrot—it's a traditional style in Taiwan where Chao is from.
Though the bulk of the food is sourced from restaurant suppliers, Chao said they use local produce company, 24 Carrot, and prioritize using organic fruits and vegetables.
The place is also serious about cocktails.
We tried an “Old 51,” which consisted of Bulleit bourbon, ginger ale, lemon juice and orange bitters. Served with an orange slice, it had a smooth taste with rich flavors and a citrus finish. And we sampled the L2, made with orange vodka, Hypnotiq, Luxardo maraschino, passion fruit simple syrup, orange and cranberry juices, and topped with a float of champagne. It is one of the more original concoctions in town.
L2 really shines, though, when it comes to desserts. There are 15—all made in house or at La Magie, which is owned by Di Long, Howie Long’s sister. Shortcake, chocolate cheesecake, a fruit tart, a brownie with mint sorbet, cream puffs, chocolate fondue and a waffle served with your choice of 11 different toppings make up just half the options.
It’s a locally-owned spot definitely worth a visit, and maybe even a permanent spot in your regular rotation.
Happy hour daily from open to 6 p.m.
4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday thru Thursday
3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, when
happy hour is served all day
360 SW Powerhouse Dr., Bend
541-323-5382 - www.bendlevel2.com