The Blacksmith Restaurant

Food: () More attention to detail could improve the excellent steak-and-seafood fare.

Service: () Professional but not presumptive, friendly and efficient.

Atmosphere: () Renovated 1923 blacksmith shop has a casual but upscale ambiance.

More Info

Location: 211 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American steakhouse

Price range: Starters and bar menu $6 to $16, entrees $16 to $72

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Roasted beet salad, harvest pasta

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: No

Reservations: Highly recommended

Contact:, 541-318-0588

When The Blacksmith Restaurant was established in Bend in 2003 by a young Texas chef named Gavin McMichael, it almost singlehandedly propelled the entire Central Oregon restaurant scene to a new level of recognition.

Within a few months after its opening, The Blacksmith had been placed on Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List of the best new restaurants in the world, bringing regional fame to the menu that McMichael called New Ranch Cuisine.

Beyond its red-brick exterior, original proprietor Joe Egg would not have recognized his 1923 blacksmith shop. The interior was rebuilt with rough-hewn fir, exposed lava-rock walls and restored wooden beams. Subsequent renovations turned part of the building into a plush lounge and late-night dance club.

But the recession economy took its toll. McMichael left Bend in 2011. In early 2013, The Blacksmith was purchased by Eugene restaurateurs Nekol Olsen and Todd Bardwell, who scaled back on the glitz factor and ushered in a more casual ambiance.

Gratefully, the food has not suffered. Executive chef Bryan Chang, a sous chef under McMichael, stayed on with the new ownership. His steak-and-seafood menu offers a couple of McMichael-era memories (Dungeness crab corn dogs, a cider-brined pork chop), but otherwise, it’s all his, from the pan-seared sea scallops to the 24-ounce Blacksmith Signature Tomahawk bone-in rib-eye.

Birthday fare

A recent dinner at The Blacksmith reminded me and my dining companion that good steaks continue to be the mainstay of the restaurant’s fare.

We came for a birthday dinner, and although The Blacksmith has an outstanding wine list, we brought our own bottle of cabernet sauvignon to accompany the meal. The corkage fee was $20, but we considered that a modest cost for our elite vintage.

A basket of warm bread — white rosemary pandura, from Big Ed’s Artisan Bakery — didn’t really contribute to our enjoyment of the meal to come. We weren’t wowed by a dish of balsamic dressing that accompanied, and requested simple butter instead.

Our shared tuna poke starter ($16) was so-so. A terrine of chilled ahi was tossed together with cilantro, ginger, shallots and lime zest in a bath of soy sauce and chili oil, then topped with guacamole, creme fraiche and potato crisps.

The combination sounded great, but the flavor was somehow subdued.

Superior to that was “Our Famous Caesar” salad ($10), made with chopped romaine lettuce that we were assured had not come from Yuma, Arizona, site of a recent recall. A house-made tamarind dressing was full of flavor, as was a Parmesan cheese crisp. Better yet were the polenta croutons, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Steak dinners

A rib-eye steak is fatty by nature, marbled throughout for tenderness. My Northwest Ribeye ($36) was no different, though I wished that it had been trimmed around the edges: I removed a lot of fat that I didn’t need.

That said, the meat was delicious, and a roasted mushroom bordelaise was superb. The dark-brown sauce also served as gravy for fluffy mashed potatoes, blended with creamy horseradish and topped with crispy red onions.

My companion was less impressed with her Tender Rogue ($40) grilled tenderloin filet, which she found to be unevenly cooked — medium rare (as per her order) on one side but medium well on the other.

And there wasn’t much subtlety to the flavors. Sunchokes and leeks braised in red wine, served next to a bed of fresh spinach, were fine. But I could smell the truffles in her potato sauce from across the table. And the crumbles of Rogue Creamery smoked bleu cheese tended to overwhelm every other taste but the truffles.

We finished our meal with a Classic Brownie ($11), adorned with a candle for my friend’s special day. It was perhaps her favorite course of the dinner. Layered with a filling of chocolate ganache, it was topped with vanilla-bean ice cream, salted caramel sauce and candied almonds.

Lounge meals

Our server was outstanding from start to finish. Professional but not presumptive, she took our orders with an efficient smile, delivered them in good time and responded promptly to additional requests.

In the adjacent lounge area, a lighter menu satisfies patrons who prefer a nosh to a full meal. You can get the Caesar, the poke, the corn dogs and polenta fries here, as well as the Blacksmith Burger ($14), a half-pound patty topped with caramelized onions and all manner of other delicious toppings.

Other popular bar meals include truffle-smoked macaroni and cheese and beef carpaccio, wrapped around shaved celery and arugula with truffled aioli and fried capers. I haven’t tried the carpaccio, but it sounds like a fine replacement for “new ranch cuisine.”

(This article has been corrected. The original version misidentified the bakery from which the Blacksmith Restaurant buys its bread. The Bulletin regrets the error.)

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at .