Story & photos by Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from 10 stories above the beach, Fathoms Penthouse Restaurant and Bar is the perfect place to watch the changing of the seasons at the Oregon Coast.
And, as well as admiring the late summer light through the wraparound windows, guests can also watch the seasons change on their plates, as the restaurant adapts its menu to take advantage of fall delicacies.
Led by Executive Chef Ken Martin, the kitchen team is preparing to add a Pacific Northwest twist to a menu that focuses on combining local ingredients with Mediterranean preparations.
Martin said the fine-tuned recipes will make use of Oregon favorites including hazelnuts and fresh-foraged mushrooms.
“We like to put out the freshest product possible,” he said. “We are always striving for that.”
And when it comes to reading the Oregon Coast seasons, Martin is an expert. Born in McMinnville, he graduated from Lincoln City’s Taft High before beginning his culinary education at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. From there, he went on to complete a culinary apprenticeship in San Francisco, setting himself up for a career that has included stints in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Seattle.
In 1993, Martin returned to the coast to raise his family, working first as sous chef to Rob Pounding at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort before moving to lead the team at Fathoms.
This varied experience left him with a deep appreciation for different food cultures and how to meld their various flavors and techniques.
“In San Francisco there was a lot of international influences: a lot of French cuisine, Asian influences, Creole influences,” he said. “The focus at Salishan was much more Northwest regional, using produce from local farms and pulling fish from right off the boat.”
That access to fresh seafood is the best thing about being a chef on the Oregon Coast, Martin said, with current catches including halibut, lingcod and rockfish.
While the Fathoms menu has something for every palate, seafood reigns supreme, with popular dishes including grilled wild Pacific salmon with a choice of tarragon butter sauce or mustard-horseradish vinaigrette; sea scallops served with pancetta, stewed leeks and tomatoes in a chardonnay-cream sauce; and pan-roasted cod topped with feta cheese, olives, sun dried tomatoes and pistachios.
Fish also features prominently on the restaurant’s list of specials. Recent offerings have included grilled swordfish with sweet pickled red grapes and artichoke in a light butter sauce as well as several blackened fish dishes served with a cucumber coulis — a popular combination created by chef de cuisine Russell Strickland.
Martin said changing up the menu helps keep the kitchen staff energized as well as offering restaurant diners the chance to try out new flavors and combinations.
Whatever dish they go for, guests would be well advised to save some room for one of Fathoms’ delectable desserts, displayed prominently in a glass case that diners file past on their way in. The range includes favorites like peanut butter pie, marionberry cobbler and crème brûlée as well as occasional specials such as lemon mousse.
Putting desserts by the entrance means some diners are thinking about a sweet treat all the way through dinner, but Martin said it also gives people the chance to act on their impulsive side.
“Sometimes, people that are staying here, they stop on their way out and order a couple of desserts for their room,” he said.
After more than 20 years cooking at the coast, Martin’s affection for the area remains undimmed. He said he is always striving to hit new heights of service, ably assisted by a veteran kitchen staff, many of whom have been at Fathoms for eight to 10 years.
“We have a great team,” he said, “and we’ve been able to accomplish quite a bit.”
“Quite a bit” turns out to be quite an understatement. Earlier this year, Fathoms became only the third restaurant in Lincoln City to receive a three-diamond rating from AAA.
Fathoms Penthouse Restaurant and Bar is located at the Inn at Spanish Head, 4009 SW Hwy. 101 in Lincoln City and is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For details and reservations, call 541-994-1601 or 800-452-8127. To book lodging reservations or learn more about the hotel, go to www.spanishhead.com.