'Tis a Gift to Be Simple: South of the (city) border, Sunriver bistro rivals Bend's best | Chow | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Food & Drink » Chow

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple: South of the (city) border, Sunriver bistro rivals Bend's best


Baked halibut at the south Bend bistro.I read an interview in the New York Times last week with celebrity chef Tom Colicchio of the Craft restaurant family and most recently of Top Chef fame. When asked about his cooking philosophy, he said, "Buy the best you can find or afford and don't overmanipulate it. If I cook a scallop, the best praise you can give me is that it tastes like a scallop." Chef Lars Johnson of the South Bend Bistro in Sunriver seems to subscribe to a similar doctrine, serving the freshest ingredients with bright flavors and clean, considered preparations that maximize what is inherent in the food.

The kitchen isn't the only area where this sophisticated simplicity and adaptability shines. The cozy dining room situated in a little house adjacent to the Sunriver Village Mall, plays on the residential architectural elements. Tables peer out framed windows with parted curtains at the beautiful outdoor deck overlooking the woods. A terra cotta tile floor is scattered with mismatched area rugs adding warmth to the space. Lighting is intimate, and wall treatments are alternately wood, straw weave, and textured plaster dotted with framed photographs of nature scenes. A single purple tulip, appropriately in season for May, adorns each table, and tablecloths are beige, a nice departure from the usual white, indicating a slightly different, homier take on high-end.

The wine list is modest, with a good percentage priced at $35 and under. It's entirely regional with the usual quartet of aarea whites (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay) and reds (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a few blends). Though the selection is limited, it's well chosen.

The changing menu also offers relatively few options, but it's hard to imagine that anyone would have trouble ordering. A couple of appetizers, a soup du jour, and a handful of salads ($6-$9 large/$4-$5 small) make up the starters. The soup du jour one night, a mixed mushroom puree with a touch of cream, was a perfect beginning. The flavor of the mushrooms was strong and uncompromised, and the texture, on the courser side, made for a thick and hearty consistency. Appetizers were sautéed shrimp cakes ($12) or Dungeness crab cakes ($14). We went with the less common shrimp option. Served on a pool of lemon butter sauce, the two large cakes were lightly fried and firm. The red pepper, the most discernable flavor next to the shrimp, worked nicely to create a beautiful bite.

There were only seven entrées to choose from, but they covered a lot of ground-seafood, poultry, beef and a couple of attractive pasta options. I went with the grilled beef tenderloin in a balsamic veal reduction ($28). The meat was perfectly cooked to order, which in my case is almost medium, not a chef's favorite temperature for beef. But as I ordered it apologetically, our gracious server told me that the chef wants to cook it the way I want to eat it-a refreshing response from the usual disparaging looks. It was served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and thick spears of asparagus and broccoli. Finally, some green vegetables on the side. Oregon's long squash season is a killer. My companion ordered the sautéed halibut ($25). Served with the same sides, I was a little jealous. The generous piece of fish was golden, and the accompanying melted leek and basil cream sauce was delicious.

The crowd at South Bend Bistro is on the older side, an expected result of the resort location, and by 8:33 p.m. on a Wednesday, it was just us, a lovely chocolate crème brûlée and a giant mug of coffee (a nice break from the usual tiny cups) to prep us for our long drive back to Bend. Turns out it's really only like 15 minutes, so I have a feeling I'll be back again soon.

South Bend Bistro
57080 West Mall Dr. (at 1 Mall Dr.), Sunriver, 593-3881
Wed.-Sun., 4-10 p.m.

About The Author

Add a comment

More by Alice Finer

  • Repeat Offender: Central Oregon's bad-boy Top Chef defends his title

    Kokanee Cafe's Roscoe Roberson takes home the top honors again at this Bite of Bend
    • Jun 30, 2010
  • Little Bites: Repeat Offender: Central Oregon's bad-boy Top Chef defends his title

    Another Top Chef Competition at Bite of Bend has come and gone, leaving delicious memories in its wake (and for us judges the residual heartburn and sunburn that go along with them!).
    • Jun 30, 2010
  • Après Ski Pub Crawl! - Eat and drink your way down the mountain for a song

    There are pros and cons to situating a ski resort on National Forest land, but one of the biggest cons for Mt. Bachelor - that last call for food and alcohol coincides with the last chair at around 4 p.m. - can also be a huge pro. Since après ski up top lasts only a few minutes, local businesses all the way down the mountain and into town roll out some excellent happy hour options to lure in passers-by looking for post-play refreshments. Whether you're a vacationer or a local, a hungry winter sportsman or simply a bargain hunting day-drinker looking for a deal, there's après ski merriment to be found around every corner. Set yourself up with an appetite and a designated driver and embark on your very own après pub-crawl down the hill - a must for any winter in Bend. Here's one possible route, in geographical order:
    • Dec 30, 2009
  • More »