The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, January 12, 2017, Page 12, Image 21

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Coast Weekend’s local
restaurant review
Cannon Beach holiday food event off ered global fl avors, great dining
Review and photos by
Court Carrier’s idea for the
Holiday Foods Around the World
Celebration came from an event he
attended a few years ago. It mixed
food and music, pairing regional
cuisines with matching perfor-
mances. For example: Italian and
opera. Carrier, the executive direc-
tor of Cannon Beach’s Chamber of
Commerce, sought to do some-
thing similar. He invited the city’s
restaurants to expand their inspi-
rations for an evening and create a
dish refl ecting a foreign country.
Nine restaurants signed up.
Largely the countries of inspira-
tion were European. Some — like
EVOO, which chose Sicily, and
Newman’s 988 with France —
played it safe, proffering the
same regionally rooted cuisines
on which the foundations of their
restaurants are cemented. Howev-
er, Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse
(Mexico), Season’s Cafe (Thai-
land) and The Bistro (Vietnam)
reached beyond Eurocentrism.
My fi rst trip was to The Bistro. I
was excited to see what new owner
and chef Jack Stephenson was up
to. I knew he came with a pedigree
as a corporate chef, as well as
with a background in French and
Vietnamese styles. (Remember:
The cuisines are intertwined as the
French colonized Vietnam in the
19th century.) For the occasion,
Stephenson created a three-course
menu including Bun Tom Xao
(a shrimp noodle salad), Ga Kho
Gung (a spicy caramel chicken)
and a Ginger Lemongrass Panna
Cotta. But on this evening I was
prepared neither to eat nor pay for
three courses ($45). I opted instead
for the Ga Kho Gung, which is on
the regular menu. (The starter and
dessert, though, were created for
the event.)
It was a frigid evening a few
days after Christmas. The streets
were barren, but the Bistro’s bar
was packed with revelers eating,
Above: Seasons Cafe’s Red Curry married sweet and salty with
forward heat and healthy veggies.
Above right: The Wayfarer’s Spanish paella featured succulent
prawns and bright bell peppers.
Right:The salty caramel chicken of the Gha Ko Gung played
well against the accompanying sharp kim chi-topped rice, but
the dish at The Bistro could have used a little more kim chi.
drinking and singing along with
lively folk tunes (via Rose and
Thistle). With candles twinkling,
glasses clinking and tables teem-
ing, it was an ideal of holiday spirit
— a warm, welcoming, cozy and
rosy-cheeked celebration.
The Ga Kho Gung, spendy for
chicken at $25, came as two clus-
ters — one of white rice, crowned
with kim chi slaw, the other a cup
of chicken in sauce. The chicken
was cut into fi nger-sized pieces,
likely to maintain a proper sauce-
to-meat ratio. The salty, caramel
liquid had hints of many things —
soy, ginger, nuttiness and so on. It
played well against the sharp kim
chi — so much so I wished there
had been more slaw. When I ran
out, the sweetness of the caramel
started stacking up.
Next I went to the Wayfarer,
which had adopted Spain as its
country of cuisine. I crossed my
fi ngers that would produce paella
and celebrated upon arrival. The
dish will forever take me back to
my fi rst trip to Spain at age 19: I
remember dining in the open air of
a centuries-old square and being
taken aback by prawns, complete
with heads, eyes and legs.
The Wayfarer’s version includ-
ed only the tails. But, my God,
were they succulent, luscious
enough to elicit moans, so fl avorful
as to make me wonder if the others
I’d been eating were some different
species. They were surrounded by
a buttery base of rice and a sprin-
kling of other seafoods, including
mussels, clams, calamari and a few
coin-sized slices of Olympic Provi-
sions sausage. Besides the prawns,
though, I was most impressed by
the bell peppers — yes, the bell
peppers. Like the prawns, they
were brighter than all the others.
While I quite enjoyed digging
through the open-faced pan, the
dish never quite overcame the sum
of its parts. But, all the same, the
sum of those parts approached as-
tronomical. Indeed, the Wayfarer’s
pantry is fi lled with ingredients
from exquisite purveyors.
Like the inverse of the Ga Kho
Gung, the saltiness of the paella
kept creeping. It could’ve used
more fat, perhaps, or vegetable
seasoning. Nonetheless, I won-
dered why we don’t see the dish
more on the North Coast as it’s one
of the premiere seafood showcas-
es. Against cioppino, which I fi nd
regularly, paella — more enticing
and fi lling — whips its butt around
the block. Indeed, if any chefs
or restauranteurs are reading, I
beseech you: paella with Oregon
seafoods. Thanks, and you’re
My fi nal trip was to Seasons
Cafe, which took on Thailand. I
appreciated the wholeness of the
restaurant’s special concoctions for
the day: an appetizer, two soups
and two entrées. The Tom Ka Gai
soup ($6 cup) reminded me of
something my grandmother might
have made — only if my grand-
mother messed with Asian spices.
The yellow curry broth cupped
hearty, home-y chunks of chicken,
carrot and celery. It was comfort-
ing, fi lling and easy — almost a
The Red Curry ($17), which
I had with shrimp, was a reason-
able zag from the yellow curry
soup. The red pepper-y sauce
was mischievous with forward
heat. Together with bean sprouts,
zucchini, peppers and a plate of
rice, Seasons achieved the most
righteous balances. Not only did
their offering perfectly mesh sweet
and salty — which each stymied
the Bistro and Wayfarer — the
Seasons Cafe wed indulgent fl a-
vors with healthy eating.
As the week came to a close I
shed a tear — it ended up being
not only some of the better eating
but dining I’ve done. The event
invites both restaurants and diners
to expand their horizons.
Here’s hoping it not only
continues in Cannon Beach but
is adopted by other cities in the
region. For in communities as
close-knit as ours, there’s potential
to come together and explore the
world at large.