When it comes to dining in Bend, I've been warned not to get too attached. Over the last two years, restaurant closings have been too numerous to count, and the victims have included some of our community's boldest culinary experiments. But like B of A execs at a junk mortgage trough, restaurant owners, chefs and restaurateurs are gambling on Central Oregon and the possibility of an economic rebound.
According to various sources, Chloe at Five Pines resort in Sisters will be changing management once more. Formerly Pleiades and Restaurant at FivePine, the restaurants' newest reincarnation will be Thyme, brought to us by Sisters' citizens of the year and chef/owners of Jen's Garden, T.R. and Jen McCrystal as part of a joint venture with Five Pines owners. According to the Jen's Garden newsletter, Thyme owners hope to "provide a casual dining experience with an emphasis on quality, consistency and value. The perfect place to drop in for a cocktail and a light meal before going to the movies or catching some great music in town." The chef/owners of Jen's Garden, recipients of numerous fine-dining awards, including the Source's Central Oregon restaurant of the year in 2007, will launch Thyme on April 9th. McCrystal said that, while the menu isn't finalized, the emphasis at Thyme would be on ala carte dishes under $20. The approach is designed to appeal to locals as well as visitors, truly integrating Thyme into the Sisters community. In the meantime, McCrystal's sous chef has already taken over the reins in the kitchen at Chloe to oversee the transition to Thyme. Fans of Chloe shouldn't despair, however. The critically lauded restaurant was running the eatery on a contract basis at Five Pines and after pulling out has found a home in Redmond at the Sleep Inn conference center.
Also in the new beginnings category, the former Ciao Mambo space on Wall Street in downtown Bend welcomes Amalia's, an innovative, contemporary Mexican cuisine concept by Roberto Cardenas, the former executive chef at La Rosa. While its roots are firmly planted in the Mexican cooking tradition, Amalia's branches out into cuisine that transcends the usual south of the border fare. Chef Roberto's menu, which leans heavily on his grandmother's family recipes, includes Jitomate Relleno (tomatoes stuffed with sautéed spinach, garlic, pecans and cotija cheese,) and Relleno de Langosta (Pasilla pepper stuffed with sautéed lobster, veggies, and cilantro). With an emphasis on organic ingredients, dishes are flavorful, well-balanced and full of color. House-made margaritas, a large selection of organic tequilas, draft beers and wines round out the drink menu. With a friendly, knowledgeable staff, Chef Roberto's new venture is a wonderful addition to the downtown Bend dining scene. Amalia's, named after the chef's grandmother, is now open for lunch and dinner.