We were down in Bend, Oregon this past weekend for a little R&R while mini-me spent some quality time with her Noni. On Saturday we wandered into Merenda Restaurant and Wine Bar at 5:30 and asked if we could reserve an outdoor table for 6:30. The hostess was very gracious and said she would do her best to seat us outside, and when we arrived back it was waiting for us.
Merenda has an extensive wine list including over 500 bottles and 60 wines by the glass and about 10 flights of 4 wines each. I had a very nice Northwest Premium Reds flight, which was only slightly blemished by having to ask twice for the list of the wines that were in front of me.
For appetizers we had a well made heirloom tomato caprese, and an outstanding Summer Vegetable Salad that included a riot of perfectly tender-crisp young vegetables stacked on thin slices of the house-made bread crisped with olive oil, black olive tapenade, and a light vinaigrette. At this point we thought we had stumbled into a real find, a top-notch yet comfortably casual restaurant in a town that we love to visit, with lots of vegetarian options.
Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse with the entrees. First of all, they came before we were done with the salads, and the server just said "oops, these are already ready" and plopped them down. My Wild Mushroom Ragout over Green Pea Polenta was very decent. The mushrooms were mainly chanterelles and morels, which is nice, no bulking it up with a bunch of criminis, but they were a bit tough, probably because not enough stem had been removed. The polenta was kind of odd, with a coarse and yet loose texture. Still, I ate it all and enjoyed.
My wife’s entree went a lot worse. She’s not a vegetarian, and she ordered grilled salmon. It came out very undercooked, sushi inside. The waitress, to her credit, acknowledged this right away and took it back to the kitchen. Ten minutes later out came… the same piece of fish! Now I don’t even cook fish, but common sense tells you that you can’t re-fire the same piece. For one thing, it is tacky. For another, it has cooled off from the outside, and in order to get the interior cooked properly you are going to burn the exterior, which is exactly what happened. So now she had to send it back again. The next time they made a brand new plate, cooked and seasoned it perfectly, and she was pleased as punch. Mind you, neither one of us is one to send back food, I don’t think we’ve done that twice in the 4 years we’ve been together.
To make matters worse, the restaurant didn’t comp any part of the check or send a manager over to acknowledge the problem. And their website doesn’t provide an email address, only a form where you can fill in about 20 words of text!
The total for 2 appetizers, 1 glass of wine, 1 wine flight, 2 entrees, tax and tip came to $120.
So what’s the bottom line? Merenda is a nice place to eat and especially drink, and you will probably have some delicious items but be prepared to stick up for yourself if inconsistencies rear their ugly head.
Merenda Restaurant and Wine Bar
900 W. Wall St.
Bend, OR 97701