It was a match made in culinary heaven.
Tart Bistro has given Chef Joe Benevento the opportunity to showcase his own kitchen skills. And Benevento has repaid the downtown Bend café with crispy duck wings and pork skewers and squash ratatouille.
After years as a second-in-command — “Whenever anyone needed a sous chef,” Joe quipped, “I was your man” — the 40-year-old Benevento moved into the head job last year at Tart, the tiny French bistro in St. Clair Place at the northeast corner of Bond Street and Minnesota Avenue.
Over the years, his adeptness in Gallic cooking had been the silent strength of such kitchens as Merenda and Cork. His knowledge of world cuisines gave him an edge at places like Café Sintra.
It didn’t hurt that his wife, Luisa, whom he met and married more than a decade ago during a winter stint at Sun Valley, is a native of Brazil. She and their two school-age children, Gabriela and Raphael, have added a Latin fire to Joe’s repertoire, thanks in part to a 1½-year residence in South America.
Now, Joe has found a home at Tart. A new spring menu, developed together with Tart owner Corey Donovan and introduced late last month, features an extensive list of salads ($8 to $12) and small plates ($6 to $12), as well as several classic French entrees ($14 to $18).
A terrine of roasted beets and chèvre is trimmed with toasted hazelnuts and drizzled with truffle vinaigrette. A Niçoise salad is made with smoked salmon rather than tuna. Black Mission figs are wrapped with applewood-smoked bacon.
Crispy duck wings, a new bar favorite, are prepared as a confit and served with a finger-licking pomegranate-blood orange demi reduction. Pork tenderloin lollipops are crusted with coconut and presented with an apricot-ginger sauce. Squash ratatouille incorporates apples, carrots and leeks; served with wild mushroom risotto, the blend would thrill any vegetarian.
On Monday night, Tart and Benevento will join efforts with Five Fusion & Sushi Bar in a collaborative dinner to benefit Saving Grace (formerly the Central Oregon Battering and Rape Alliance). And Joe has assembled a six-course menu that fuses French and Asian cuisines.
Here’s some of what he has planned:
• Wild mushroom dumplings in a five-spice shiitake miso broth.
• Salad rolls of duck confit, green papaya, daikon and Napa cabbage topped with toasted cashews and a blood-orange/green-cardamom vinaigrette.
• Seared sea scallops and grilled lamb sirloin, rubbed with Szechuan peppercorns, served with ginger basmati rice, black sesame pesto and baby bok choy.
• Caramelized plum-and-lychee rice pudding with star-anise coconut milk.
An all-inclusive price of $100 per person includes pairings from the Willamette Valley’s Sineann Winery and all gratuities. Call for reservations at 541-382-9227.