Saturday, September 6, 2008


Beachouse Restaurant
3204 Coeur d'Alene Lake Dr.
Coeur d'Alene,

There are times when the critic’s credibility threatens to exit stage right. If there is a food reviewer’s high code of ethics, the critic has never needed to look into it because sadly, nobody’s ever offered to bribe him for a good write-up. Well, none that he’s accepted anyway. Besides, it’s not like he’s writing for the New Yorker; we’re talking about reviews of small-town drive-in burger joints and taco trucks. So it was disconcerting for the critic to recently find himself in a rather awkward and amusing position.

He was recently summonsed by a friend to join her for dinner at her workplace, a fine dining establishment. Now, the critic wouldn’t necessarily want to think of himself as miserly, but given his druthers he would have likely just have ordered a nice burger and called it good. So it was natural for the critic to slightly wonder about the cost aspect of the extravagant smorgasbord unexpectedly laid out before them. When his friend mentioned after the second course that she was thinking that most of the meal would be complimentary, the critic began to ponder how to explain to her that he really couldn’t do the review after all, that it just wouldn’t be right. Heck, the critic enjoys freebies as much as anyone, but even he must draw the line somewhere and say “I cannot be bought!”

Fortunately, such concerns were immediately laid to rest when a bill did arrive and the figure printed at the bottom of the slip was stunningly reflective of the enormous gourmet feast they had undertaken. Let’s just say that the critic could have reviewed many months worth of delis and drive-ins for the cost of that night’s meal. Despite the cheap critic’s sticker shock, he was able to laugh and breathe a sigh of relief to at least have the freedom to give the place a fair and just critique.

All in all, my experience at the Beachouse Restaurant was quite worth it. For me, it was a memorable and rare extravagance, and it was nice to have a fun friend to share the occasion with. We were sat in a back cubby at a table which I was told was owner Duane Hagadone’s favorite spot because he can see nearly everything going on. Sitting in his very chair, I tried to absorb some kind of unidentifiable Haga-essence. I pressed myself deep into where his posterior had previously rested but felt nothing unusual save for a slight buzz from my dank Huckleberry Pina Colada.

I was just planning on ordering from the menu like a normal person when Chef Paul Wagner emerged from the kitchen to introduce himself and fill us in on his plan to create for us a “presentation” which would include “a little bit of everything.” Wagner, who recently relocated here with his family, has over 14 years experience in the upper echelon of the cuisine scene, including a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and a gig working at Wolfgang Puck’s famed Spago in Las Vegas. Even with his impressive credentials, Chef Wagner is as down-to-earth as it gets; a quality that’s reflected both in his back-to-basics cooking style and in the newly-revamped Beachouse menu itself.

The incredible lake views from both inside and on the popular deck are reason enough to visit the dimly-lit, sea-shanty themed eatery. We were absorbing a gorgeous purple and orange sunset and catching up on gossip when our convivial server Amber brought our appetizers out on a slab of wood so big it was almost too heavy for her to carry. We dug in ravenously. The bowl of steamed clams was fragrant and flavorful, bathed in white wine and garlic and served with a bright sprinkling of tomatoes and onion and wedges of garlic toast. The Potato Buoys were delightfully depraved; fried tater skins smothered in artichokes, crisp prosciutto and gooey melted Colby cheese and served with a rich creamy spinach dip. I fell in love with the blissfully tangy-sweet Huckleberry BBQ Ribs, which were cooked so perfectly tender that the meat slid right off the bone. Less impressive were the Beachouse Drumsticks, which were reminiscent of Japansese-style chicken drumettes, but the crunchy panko coating couldn’t mask the oversmoked, slightly gamy flavor that permeated the meat.

Next was an interlude with an ice-cold and very crispy Wedge Salad with Maytag Blue Cheese dressing, bacon and sweet hazlenuts, after which enough time passed that we began to wonder what, if anything was next and also what ever happened to dear Amber. Finally, she tottered out with another massive wooden plank, this time topped with a sampler of signature Beachouse entrees. I was thrilled about the meaty crab legs, pre-split for easy access and served with melted herbal butter; such a divine and rare treat. Also noteworthy was the tenderloin, so pink and moist it almost mooed and walked off my plate and the skewers of grilled tiger prawns were simply presented but masterfully done. I wasn’t over-the-moon about the general blandness and mushy texture of the Beer Can Chicken which seemed more Coors Light than Guinness, and the mixed veggies were seasoned to the point of identity crisis. On a much better note was the “GMAc & Cheese”, an intense, gooey concoction made using the 2008 winning “Good Morning America” recipe. Outstanding.

I wouldn’t make a visit to the Beachouse an everyday occurrence, but it’s a great place to take friends and family from out-of-town to impress them with the gorgeous views and food that is simultaneously simple and high-class. Prior to leaving, Chef Paul re-emerged to graciously see off the critic and his friend who couldn’t rave to him enough about how fantastic everything was. However, that was before the critic saw the check. Kidding! We left feeling spoiled and satisfied, like real big spenders, perhaps a lingering after-effect of sitting at the Hagadone table.


The Wicked Brian of the West said...

Madge, darling —

Is there anybody trying to get through? My eyes so cloudy, I can't see you...

Anonymous said...

We had not been to the Beachouse for 3-4 years and recently had friends in town that wanted to dine by the Lake. We won't go back. Waitress couldn't answer simple questions, meals were over cooked, over priced. Very dissapointed.