The Cove Restaurant exudes comfort and luxury. This isn’t an accident. When I interviewed father-daughter team George and Gwen Goodrich as they were planning this new business, their focus was on creating a pleasant experience for their guests by emphasizing the gorgeous river view and complementing it with a focus on seafood.
The Cove opened its doors in August. This is the second restaurant for the Goodriches. Visitors to their other restaurant, The Hammond Kitchen and Craft Bar in Camas, will notice similarities. Both locations provide a relaxed but elegant atmosphere, professional and friendly service, and a straightforward menu. In addition, the Goodriches brought chef Dylan Reish from The Hammond to The Cove to create a seafood-forward menu for their new waterfront space.
I arrived at The Cove early on a Sunday evening, and the host seated me by the windows overlooking the Columbia River. On a prior visit, I tried the seafood chowder ($9 a cup, $11 a bowl) and some dishes from the raw bar. Eating seafood felt right as I gazed out onto the river. The Cove’s cream-based seafood chowder comes with red potatoes, clams, prawns, scallops, halibut and king salmon simmered with tomatoes, spices and fresh tarragon — a hybrid of a creamy New England chowder and tomato-based Manhattan chowder.
On this visit, my husband and I started with cocktails. I had The Cove Mai Tai ($16) and he had the blood orange margarita ($17). Both cocktails were well balanced, refreshing and served with attractive garnishes in rocks glasses.
For starters, we ordered a dozen Luna Bella oysters ($39) from the raw bar. The Cove sources fresh seafood for the raw bar from Corfini Gourmet, True World Foods and Ocean Beauty.
The Luna Bella oysters were harvested by Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington’s Hood Canal and purchased through Corfini Gourmet in Clackamas, Ore. The oysters arrived on ice with slices of lemon and a trio of sauces: cocktail sauce, minionette and a daikon relish. The oysters were well chilled, a modest size and easily slurped.
The sauces meshed well with the briny sea flavor of the shellfish. I especially enjoyed the daikon relish made with fresh daikon radish, tamari and ponzu. The tangy relish played well with the sweet sea flavor of the fresh oysters.
We also ordered meatballs (four per order, $15), which came on a long white platter, placed in tomato sauce with spurts of spinach pesto on the side and two large fried basil leaves on each end. To make the meatballs, ground Carmen Ranch grass-fed beef is mixed with sweet onions, fresh herbs and ricotta cheese. After they’re cooked, the chef tops them with a small round of fresh buffalo mozzarella and a tassel of blackberry shallot gastrique (a sweet-and-sour sauce). The meatballs were tender, flavorful and pleasantly portioned.
For my main course, I ordered the special: Ora King salmon lightly coated in a Cajun spice blend, served with seared jumbo prawns tossed in a sweet chili-lime sauce, and topped with a citrus salsa of grapefruit, blood orange and cilantro ($40). The prawns sat curled upward and arranged around the salmon like flower petals. Tender seasonal vegetables — purple cauliflower, parsnips and Brussels sprouts — along with a generous mound of mashed potatoes (red potatoes, buttermilk, sour cream and roasted garlic puree) rested underneath the fish.
My husband ordered the braised short rib sandwich ($19). The short ribs were slow braised with sweet onions and IPA beer until tender. The wasabi aioli, pickled carrot and watermelon relish created a banh mi-type sandwich, served au jus.
Beside the sandwich sat a pile of thick steak fries with a crisp outside and tender, creamy interior. The fries involve a two-day process. The Kennebec potatoes are hand cut each morning and soaked overnight to release the starches. The next morning, they’re blanched in oil at low heat until soft and then cooled for three to four hours. Before serving, they’re fried on high heat until crispy and then tossed in malt vinegar salt and fresh chives. The creamy side of fry sauce with Mama Lil’s peppers and garlic aioli adds a kick of spice and flavor.
For dessert, we shared a chocolate peanut butter pot de creme with whipped cream and shaved chocolate ($11), a mix of thick, rich dark chocolate custard and chunky almond butter. All desserts at The Cove are made in house.
The Cove isn’t flashy. For a new restaurant, it’s refreshing to visit a place that isn’t working so hard to create Instagrammable moments. The food is beautifully plated but not over the top. The cocktails lack the smoke and glitter found elsewhere. Chef Reish doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything overly experimental, but his food is thoughtfully prepared and good.
Likewise, the Goodriches’ focus seems to be on the pleasure of their guests. The space is comfortable and airy. The service is excellent. Everyone from the servers to the host appeared happy to be here and pleased to help the restaurant’s patrons. These three elements (atmosphere, food and service) create an overall feeling of being pampered and nudge guests to put their smartphones away to soak up the experience.
The owners’ intent in the beginning was to provide something they felt their customers wanted — a serene environment on the water for people to eat seafood and other fancy but not fussy dishes. Based on this criteria, The Cove is a success.