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Aug 2, 2006 02:11 PM

Primo in Maine

I'm going to the Lobster Festival in Rockland this weekend and have made reservations at Primo. Any exciting recommendations?

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    1. The pork saltimbocca. Sorry for being 5 years late on my reply.

      1. I know this is an old thread, but I just ate at Primo and thought I'd share my thoughts. Frankly, while it was nice enough, I was disappointed. First and foremost, there were almost no local proteins on the menu - the pork for the saltimbocca was from New Jersey, and all the fish was from Florida (I asked). Even the veggies were nonspecific; a few were specifically listed as coming from the property, but otherwise our server wasn't sure where the majority came from. I thought this was their big claim to fame - the whole farm-to-table thing - and so I was very disappointed that my fish was being flown from thousands of miles away.

        As far as flavors, it was very good but not spectacular. The saltimbocca in particular was, to my taste anyway, far too salty. The charcuterie plate was good, but not memorably great; the pate in particular was a bit greasy. The corn risotto that came with my snapper was delicious, though - I think the corn was local (it was extremely sweet, in a good way). The snapper was well cooked but not extraordinary in any way.

        Overall, the flavors were good but not great and I felt a little misled about the origin of the food, so given that we received a bill for over $200 for two of us (for two appetizers and two entrees, two glasses of wine and two beers, and one shared dessert with coffee), I was underwhelmed. I live in Boulder, CO and we have a bunch of restaurants (the Kitchen, SALT, Black Cat, Colterra) that do the farm-to-table thing much more consistently, have equally good or better food, and are much less expensive to boot.

        Did I catch them on an off night? (It was a Monday in early August, just after lobster fest had ended - maybe the top-end staff had the night off.) Am I wrong? I'd be curious to hear other opinions from folks who have visited recently.

        4 Replies
        1. re: monopod

          I would be hugely surprised and I mean HUGELY surprised if all of those things you mentioned weren't from Maine at the very least (unless you are talking about some specific fish that's not native). All the herbs, veggies, pork come from their backyard. The only thing I'm aware of that isn't local (other than those things non-native to Maine and/or their backyard) is the beef and the foie gras.

          Do you remember your server's name? I go there often enough that I will ask what the deal is with his/her response. To say that ALL the fish, the majority of veggies, and the pork isn't local would be a huge misrepresentation on the server's part.

          1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

            I was indeed hugely surprised! When we asked about the pork, our server laughed and said that the pork saltimbocca is so popular that they couldn't possibly supply enough pork for it from local suppliers and that they'd found a good source in NJ. Regarding the fish, several of the fish on the menu were listed as being from Florida, and I specifically asked about the snapper (since it's what I ended up ordering). I wanted to order local fish, but it literally wasn't an option.

            Server was a pleasant middle-aged man with dark hair and a mustache and a round face. I don't remember his name, sorry.

            And my review above might have come off as more negative than I intended; the food itself was overall tasty. It's just that there are a lot of tasty restaurants out there now, and so I was expecting (a) a stronger local emphasis, and (b) something more unusual/memorable for entrees that are priced at $35-40 each.

            1. re: monopod

              Just one other point of clarification, entrees typically range from the mid 20's to 40 - not 35-40.

              One of my recent menus had the Chicken Ballontine at $25 on the low end, and the NY Strip Steak at $40 on the high end. And that doesn't count the pasta section, which is typically in the 20's. Nor does it include any of the "small plates" available from the antipasti / bar menu.

              1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                Fair enough. I just meant that the entrees we had were each in the $35-40 range.

        2. Now I'm concerned. We have a res there in about two weeks after hearing raves, Bourdain's blessing, etc. We're coming up from NYC, so I hope we're not setting ourselves up for disappointment.

          Would we be better off sticking with Bresca or somewhere in Portland instead?

          111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

          13 Replies
          1. re: loratliff

            100% of restaurants on the planet will have both positive reviews and negative reviews. Both. For me personally, and I daresay the vast majority of people who have dined there, Primo is heads and tails above the rest. Not only Maine, but New England and beyond.

            I will also say that the whole "farm to table" concept is a bit overrated. If some source 500 miles away produces a product that is vastly superior to any source within 10 miles, I'll take the 500 mile away product any day.

            I totally forgot that I have a few Primo menus here with me...and I think for the most part if it isn't locally will say so. Examples:

            Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
            Taunton Bay Oysters (though there are plenty of Maine options)
            Spinach Cavatelli (with Oregon truffles)
            Cedar Planked Alaskan Coho Salmon
            Pan Roasted Florida Red Snapper Fillet
            Wood Grilled North East Family Farm NY Strip Steak
            Pan Roasted California Pink Grouper
            Pan Roasted Rhode Island Black Sea Bass

            Those are from 3 different weekly menus.

            And now that I think about it, the NJ pork makes sense...they do go through too much of it to house it in their barn out back. Most of their pigs are used for the charcuterie.

            To hope that any restaurant could source the best ingredients from their back yard or a 10 mile radius therein is wishful thinking at best.

            Now, if you tell me any dish that includes lobster is sourced from any other state but Maine, we'll have problems!

            1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

              MCM: Taunton Bay Oysters are from Maine. Taunton Bay is just north of Ellsworth, in the Acadia region.

              Had the privilege of touring Primo's gardens, and chicken and pig pens with Melissa Kelly--very enlightening experience. She encourages everyone to walk around them before dinner.

              1. re: Mainegal

                Thanks for the correction Mainegal...for some reason I was thinking Massachusetts (probably because of the city).

              2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                Just to add: I've eaten at Primo dozens of times, having followed Melissa and Price from their first restaurant in Chatham, NY. One of the most delicious things I ever had at Primo was an app of local diver scallops they got in that morning. Can't remember the presentation; served whole in shell with the roe. They were sublime. When I expressed my appreciation they told me the seafood market was down the road and to stop there on my way home.
                I tend to eat in the bar these days, but when I'm in the area (a few times a year) I always try for Thursday or Sunday, and get $1 local oysters, as fresh as they get.

              3. re: loratliff

                Do both. I would never cancel a reservation at Primo to eat anywhere else. On the other hand, I wouldn't cancel at Bresca to eat anywhere else either. Two of the best around but different. FWIW, if you're going to try to get a weekend reservation at Bresca in the next two weeks, good luck.

                111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

                1. re: bobbert

                  We've already got our Bresca reservation—Friday at 8:30 p.m, and our Primo reservation for the following night. I do suppose I will keep both (that was the original plan anyway).

                  Mainegal, I'm thrilled to hear that we'll be able to walk around the gardens before dinner. I made an early reservation there, hoping that we'd have the chance to do so in the daylight so I'm glad my hunch was correct!

                  Thanks, all, for the insight.

                  111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

                    1. re: bobbert

                      Hehe. We're very excited—I've not been to Maine since I was a kid, and I certainly didn't enjoy food like I do now, so it should be a great trip. I'll be sure to report back.

                    2. re: loratliff

                      I always suggest sitting at the antipasti bar (or, if full, the "bar" bar). I think it's a much cooler vibe...and fun to watch the plates or drinks being made....

                      1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                        We love sitting at the bar, so I'll definitely request this if we can. Thanks for the tip.

                        1. re: loratliff

                          Upstairs is "no reservations"....though I'm sure they will accomodate anybody with a reservation if they want to sit up there.

                  1. re: loratliff

                    Definitely don't cancel your reservation based on my review; it's all very subjective, it was on a Monday night after a crazy weekend, and the fact is that we had a very good time despite my misgivings about the locality of the food. Go and form your own opinion! And let us know what you think here!

                    1. re: loratliff

                      We ate at Primo two weeks ago, and beginning to end, it was probably the best meal I have ever had. The place was a zoo on Thursday night during lobster festival, boy once seated the service was superb and the food was remarkable. We enjoyed every element of the evening. Bourdain was right that Primo is the best restaurant north ofNYC