Tim Garling’s Jackalope Grill

Food: ()

French culinary techniques coupled with contemporary twists for a classic dining experience.

Service: ()

Professional, friendly staff knows just how far to intrude in a meal, and when to stop.

Atmosphere: ()

Woodland boughs, strung with lights, adorn the charming restaurant and its rear garden courtyard.

More Info

Location: 750 NW Lava Road, Suite 139, Bend

Hours: 4:30-9 p.m. every day

Cuisine: Creative continental

Price range: Small plates $6 to $14, main courses $17 to $41

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: By request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Mainly salads and vegetables

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Open-air courtyard (seasonal)

Reservations: Highly recommended

Contact: jackalopegrill.com, 541-318-8435

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Tim Garling has owned a restaurant for more than three decades — first in the mountain resort town of Alta, Utah, and in Bend since 2006.

The Jackalope Grill, named for a mythical antlered jackrabbit, has been around for several years longer. But Garling, as its third owner, made it all “his” when he moved the former Division Street restaurant downtown in 2010 and rechristened it Tim Garling’s Jackalope Grill.

It’s a wonderful little restaurant, adorned with woodland boughs strung with lights. A small street-side cocktail lounge invites patrons to relax with a glass of wine from a unique international list chosen by Garling’s wife and manager, Kathy. And at the rear of the main restaurant, an open-air garden courtyard invites guests to dine seasonally among arbors of tomatoes and kitchen herbs.

It’s in the kitchen that Tim Garling truly shines. Trained in French culinary techniques, assisted by several aspiring young cooks, he serves classic preparations of filet mignon, rack of lamb, fresh seafood and even jaeger schnitzel.

Diners embrace the flavors they’ve come to expect here, served by a professional, friendly service staff that knows just how far to intrude in a meal without being too involved.

This is comfort food at its best, rooted in tradition yet with contemporary twists. Diners are pleasantly surprised by sun-dried tomato polenta, truffle-drizzled mashed potatoes and slices of matsutake mushroom in a stuffed rainbow trout.

Classic dinner

Although he’s spent most of his adult life in mountain communities, Tim Garling grew up with seafood on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Garling said his great-grandfather, in fact, homesteaded the Dungeness Spit. So it’s no surprise that the man has won culinary awards for his Dungeness crab-stuffed mushroom caps.

That was the starter ($14) that my dining companion and I shared to begin our most recent meal at the Jackalope. Blended with bread crumbs and parsley, the crab filled a half-dozen oversized button mushrooms.

Our second course was a shared salad of roasted pear and sweet, organically grown butter lettuce ($10). The firm texture of the lettuce topped with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, suited our tastes well.

But we found the D’Anjou pear had lost its crispness in heating, and a finish of honey-orange balsamic vinaigrette would have been more effective had it been served in lesser quantity, or perhaps on the side.

For my entrée, I chose wild Columbia River sturgeon, pan-seared and served with locally foraged chanterelle mushroom risotto ($27). Sturgeon is one of my favorite seafoods. Properly cooked under Garling’s direction, the firm white fish has a mild but distinctive flavor. The Jackalope offers it with capers, fresh dill, Meyer lemon, sun-dried tomato and fresh basil butter.

My companion opted for crispy-skinned duck breast flavored with a savory jus of Montmorency cherries ($27). Slow-cooked in its own fat, the Pekin duck was served in a dozen slices and presented with creamy mashed potatoes and a medley of seasonal vegetables — carrots, parsnip, broccolini and tomatoes.

Both entrees were perfect. But don’t be upset if you find neither on the menu this weekend. On our recent visit, they were on a frequently changing special list of specials that already has seen two other fishes (monkfish and monchong, or pomfret) replace the sturgeon.

German menu

In fact, Garling switches off half of his small plates and mains offerings on a regular basis. Fresh rack of lamb from the Imperial Stock Ranch, however, is always on the menu, as is jaeger schnitzel, the breaded German pork-and-veal loin that’s been a Jackalope staple since the restaurant was founded by Axel Hoch nearly 20 years ago. (Hoch subsequently sold to Ramsey Hamdan, who passed the Jackalope to the Garlings in 2006 before launching Joolz in downtown Bend.)

With the advent of October, the schnitzel fits right into his annual “German menu.” The chef is also offering braised sauerbraten with blaukraut (red cabbage) and gingersnap sauce; weisswurst with sauerkraut, and pheasant sausage with wild chanterelles and spaetzli.

One of Tim Garling’s great pleasures is working with young people. At 69, having just seen his daughter, Elle, into her senior year at Portland’s Reed College, he delights in promoting his staff through the various steps of his business, from dishwashing, pantry and salad prep to head line cooks.

“They can make money and still learn,” Garling noted. “I look for good attitude and heart. I’ll bring them along. But if they want to learn, they have to ask. I have a wealth of knowledge. I probably have an answer.”

After graduating from Washington’s Port Angeles High School, Garling earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington in 1975. But he didn’t see himself in a laboratory or a classroom. He wanted “a re-locate-able skill.” Inspired by a grandmother who created “amazing” meals from her 1-acre vegetable garden, Garling traveled to France, where he attended culinary school between kitchen jobs. Eventually returning to the United States, and with a passion for skiing, he settled in Alta, Utah, east of Salt Lake City. For two full decades beginning in 1986, he and his wife, Kathy, ran the Shallow Shaft, which so impressed Zagat reviewers, they named it one of the country’s 200 best restaurants.

Tim Garling has never stopped studying food. “I read cookbooks like other people read novels,” he said, as his fingers rippled the battered pages of a second edition of Julia Child’s, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” “It’s the classic sauces that distinguish French cooking,” he repeated. “In the reductions, you intensify the flavor.”

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .