Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maine Eats: Portland 2019

The final blog post about our trip to Maine will take you through our Portland eats. Trust me, it needed a post of its own, because that city is bursting with great local spots. We visited a couple that we knew, and stopped at a few new-to-us restaurants as well.

First, any visit to Portland must include a visit to Eventide Oyster Co. because not only do they have a robust list of raw oysters...
...but you CAN'T MISS their Brown Butter Lobster Roll on a steamed bun. Do yourself a favor and get two!
However, the rest of the menu shouldn't be overlooked as well, including the Fried Oyster Bun...
...or the daily specials posted on the chalk board.
Now it's an incredibly popular place and they don't take reservations, so we've found that the trick is to hit it for a weekday lunch and arrive prior to noon.

The next place we dined at was also a repeat for us, because it continues to rank among the top food we've ever had. And if you follow along here regularly, you know that's saying a lot. I'm talking about Central Provisions.
All small plates, you're intended to share 2-3 per person, and it's so much better that way. The flavors and techniques they use are outstanding, and you just want to try more. We enjoyed several plates between the three of us, including the Goat Pupusa (above), the Foie Gras Bahn Mi...
...Suckling Pig...
...and Halibut.
A final Central Provisions highlight was the Bone Marrow Toast, which we'll be recreating at home. But the menu is changing frequently, so just dig in. You truly can't go wrong at this spot, and there's a reason several of our Cleveland chef friends have suggested it. Just be prepared to put your name in and have the wait be up to 2-3 hours. It's worth it, and there's very few places I'd ever state that for.

I try and keep my eye on the James Beard Foundation Award finalists and winners for cities that we travel to every year, so Drifter's Wife caught my attention recently and we made a reservation as soon as they opened up a month in advance. 

The menu is extremely small and changes daily. The first thing that caught my eye was the Sourdough with dulse butter ($6). I had to look up "dulse" and it is in fact seaweed. Sure enough, the butter had a salty, ocean flavor to it. 
The second thing we had to Google was Spearings, and our serve did confirm that they were sardine-sized fish battered and fried. "Think of them as fish French fries.," she said. Get over the fact that you're eating a whole fish and sometimes you could see their little eyeballs peeking out, and they were quite delicious.
Both my mom and I ordered the Cod ($27) with blistered tomatoes, basil, and charred eggplant.
It was a nice meal, and had us trying some things we hadn't had before, but overall I was underwhelmed and it wasn't my favorite meal of the trip. I've had better in Portland.

Our last dinner was at David's Opus Ten, which is a "restaurant within a restaurant" that is only open 40 nights a year. This intimate chef's tasting only seats 18 diners, and it's nestled in the back of David's Restaurant with chef/owner David himself preparing the meal with a view of the action from your seat.
The 7-course, wine paired meal was wonderful from start to finish, including dishes like the Moulard Duck Three Ways with seared foie gras "buttered toast, tenderloin with date and goat cheese roulade, and sauterne with ginger and tamari sauce and apple-bronze fennel salad.
And Smoked Ricotta Gnudi with porcini, butter oyster and shiitake mushrooms, a madeira sauce, curly kale, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nasturtium petals.
My mom was not beneath licking her plate on several courses!
It certainly ended our Portland dinners on a high note, so if you visit between mid-June through August then I suggest you check to see if any tickets are available for Opus Ten.

My mom left very early the next morning to drive back to NY, but our afternoon flight time left Mr. H and I just enough time to squeeze in Sunday brunch. Since we love Central Provisions so much, I had been curious to try their Italian sister restaurant, Tipo.

Sadly, the quality of the food was so drastically different than Central Provisions, I would never have believed they were run by the same group. While the Scrambled Eggs Crostini ($14) with mushroom duxelle, ricotta, and fresh truffles wasn't terrible, it didn't live up to the high-end ingredient expectations.
At least it wasn't downright awful like the Spaghetti Carbonara ($15) with Romano beans, pancetta, and parmesan. The watery, bland sauce left a lot to be desired.
I wouldn't bother giving this spot another try, particularly when CP is infinitely better.

Phew, did you make it through the whole post? But, Portland is just full of it, and I know Clevelanders often travel there. I hope you find this series helpful if you ever head to Maine.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
Portland, ME 04101

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

Drifter's Wife
59 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04101

David's Opus Ten
22 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101

182 Ocean Avenue
Portland, ME 04103


Kate @ said...

Yesss! I'm going to Portland next month & TAKING NOTES ON ALL OF THESE!

Bite Buff said...

How fun! After 4 trips, I’ve got alllll sorts of recommendations. If you’d like to grab coffee or a cocktail before you go, let me know.