Portland Fine Dining Over Xmas
I am coming to Portland from Toronto during Xmas and want to splurge. Price is no object, I want a tasting menu with as many courses as possible plus wine pairings. Where should I go? What is open? It would need to be on the 26th or 27th.
Your best bet for a tasting menu in downtown Portland is Hugo's on Middle Street. Chef Rob Evans has been named one of top young chefs in the US by Food and Wine and has a long list of accolades (including a stint at French Laundry). They do chef's tasting menus with wine pairings if you call in advance. I did their 10 course Maine Potato tasting (with wine pairings) a couple of weeks ago and I must say it was fantastic. It cost about $120 per without tax or gratuity. If you are willing to leave the Portland area, there is always the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk or Arrow's in Ogunquit. His food is definitely modern American and you can probably expect foams, savory ice creams, sous vide and techinques like that.
Hugo's is exactly what you are looking for. Make sure that Rob will be there that night and ask that he prepare the Chef's Tasting for you. Be prepared to spend a few hours over dinner. You will be in heaven. You should call well ahead to get the Chef's Tasting menu.
This links to the Chef's Tasting menu:
Visiting from Toronto, huh? What a wonderful dining city. I got married there on Valentine's Day, and we had our wedding dinner in the private back room at Susur. It was the best dining experience I have ever had -- exquisite service, wonderful Chinese fusion tasting menu, expertly paired wines. Worth every penny.
I would say that Hugo's is the Portland restaurant that best suits what you are after, regarding a tasting menu and wine pairing experience. However, I personally find Hugo's to be overpriced and pretentious, and the portions are miniscule even for a tasting menu. To be fair, I haven't been in over a year.
Cinque Terra also offers a tasting menu. In my experience there, the service is wonderful but the food isn't quite as sophisticated as I would expect for the price. If you're interested in Italian, it may be worth a shot.
Five Fifty-Five offers food the caliber of what you are looking for, and the menu is designed for a dinner of three or four courses. However, I don't believe they offer a chef's tasting menu. This used to be my favorite restaurant in Portland before a couple of problems with service, from one waiter in particular. There used to be a server there named Bonnie who was excellent at pairing wines, but she has unfortunately left. Here is my review: http://eatmeportland.com/blog/article....
Regarding the previously suggested Fore Street, many folks love it and hold it as the best restaurant in Portland. I am not among them. Mediocre food. Unbelievably bad service. http://www.eatmeportland.com/blog/art...
Just my opinions, but I hope they are helpful. Sorry I don't have a home run suggestion for you.
Hugo's is fine if you are not hungry. The food is wonderful but every course offers a mere taste. An extremely pretentious place with ridiculous prices. Example. for bread you get a biscuit about 1 inch in diameter. The give you one. We were there recently and would not go back again.
I'm not a Portland native, but my family has eaten at Fore Street several times while vacationing up that way and it's one of our favorite restaurants in the world. Although getting a table in a reasonable amount of time can be hard, we've always had excellent service, and the food is wonderful. Simple, unaffected fare. The mussels are pure heaven.
I know it's past the 27th, but I thought I'd put in a good word all the same.
I've been hesitant to post twice on the same topic, but this talk about Hugo's being overpriced and serving tiny portions astonishes me. We are talking about the Chef's Tasting Menu here which consists of 12 plus courses, each course consisting of 3 items (small, yes, but do the math). This is the most daring, delicious experience I've found in New England and rivals any I've heard of anywhere. I've enjoyed Hugo's a dozen times at least and I've never left hungry or anything less than completely satisfied. The prices are clearly posted.
I know this reply is a little late, but I just want to agree with Win. I've been to Hugo's twice and both times experience was transcendent. Some courses were just a bite, but it was a perfect bite, and some were rather substantial. But with 15 or so courses that they sent out (it's was technically a 10 course menu, but they always send extras), we were absolutely stuffed by the end and couldn't finish dessert.
I know that Fore street gets all the accolades, but I don't see how it can be even put in the same category as Hugo's. Fore street is very good home cooking in a very loud atmosphere. We had a good dinner there once, but I wouldn't go there for a special occasion.