Exquisite Ripoff- Hugo's in Portland Maine
this week we had dinner at Hugo's in Portland Maine. The food was absolutely exquisite. However, the portions were so small as to be laughable and my husband, who has an extremely modest appetite, declared it the supreme ripoff. The first clue was the hot marble slab with a round pot of butter and two little - about 1 inch in diameter - potato biscuits. They were so delicious but really, two bites. Accompanying that was an amouse bouche which was supposedly something lobster but was more like an ethereal foam. If you breathed on it too hard it disappeared. The dinner is a four course prix fixe for $68. First course I had a summer vegetable soup which was about a cup of soup with a few micro vegetables. Quite tasty. It haed a tiny piece of pasta which made it appear that it was actually food instead of air. Husb had a swordfish tataki which was a micro thin slice of seared swordfish on top of three small (1 tsp each) blobs of swordfish salad, with a few micro slices of radishes. Again,very tasty but about three bites of food.
Second course- H had a salmon cake which was about 2 inches long and filled with grapefruit. I had a saddle of rabbit and a ravioli filled with rabbit. The entire thing was about three bites- the ravioli was the size of a thimble.
For the third course- the entree- we expected a somewhat larger plate but that was not the case. I had cod three ways- a piece of cod about 3 inches square ontop of a puree of brandade- salt cod with potatoes - about two tablespoons- and a cup( about 1/2 cup) of cod chowder. All very delicious. But my oh my - so tiny as to be almost non existent. H had the fried trout- about 5 inches long and about 1/8 inch thick, most of which was fried skin. Accompanied by a few fried pickles and mushrooms, all of which were so small as to be almost non -existent.
Dessert- Peaches and cream- a slice of roasted peach with a scoop of buttermilk icecream was good but, of course, miniscule.
H had a savory cheesecake with two tiny pieces of figs and two tiny slices of dates and a 1/4 inch cube of fig jam. Yummy but so little.
Each course, which was about two- four mouthfulls each were $17 per piece. Again such a wonderful meal but for two people who are not big eaters - barely enough to stave off hunger- this was the most supreme ripoff of the century.
We are fans of Arrows but eat there seldom due to the expense. Although the servings there are not gigantic they are in comparison to Hugos. SO, while we loved the food we will not be going back again as one truly feels cheated out of a meal, exquisitely so.
I haven’t eaten at Hugo’s (yet), but did try their other restaurant, Duckfat, which was pretty good, casual, but not excellent by any stretch.
It appears you enjoyed the food, but that the portions were not enough. Similar to their former rival, Bandol (now closed) in that you were “teased,” but not quite satisfied. That’s a shame for I think any chef would want their customer departing fully pleased. There’s a fine line between being fed “just enough” in places that offer tasting menus. A chef hates to see any waste, but it sounds as if you were being served courses that amounted to no more that an “Amuse Bouche” and that IMO is more pretension, than anything else. But, this is just going by your review as I have yet to eat at Hugo’s and hope to in the near future.
You make a good comparison with Bandol. While Hugo's is more accessible to casual diners, it isn't the kind of dining experience to be taken lightly. Everything about Hugo's is deliberate. The portion size, the sequencing of the plates, the presentation. I would never recommend Hugo's as a place to just wander into - its the kind of place you anticipate dining a week or more in advance. Frankly, I spend more time discussing the course of a meal at Hugo's than I do actually eating it. For a restaurant of it's genre the portion size at Hugo's is perfect.