Street & Co - Portland - great all around
I was in Portland for the weekend catching up with some old friends (one of whom lives there) and we decided to have dinner at Street & Co last night. I have heard consistenly good things, and was not disappointed!
We had an 8pm reservation, and when we arrived we were told it would be a short wait while the earlier diners finished. No problem. None of us were starving, and were just as happy to grab a drink in the cozy bar. We waited for the bar waitress to take our orders, but she didn't ever stop at us. Since they do bar seating it wasn't possible to squeeze into the bar to place an order. Eventually we were able to flag her down and ordered a bottle of wine. Once placated with our drinks, things were on the upswing again. We managed to score a few chairs in the back area of the bar, and were content to chat and enjoy our wine while we waited. After some time passed the hostess came over to apologize profusely for the fact that we were being kept waiting. As a gesture, she let us know she had taken the liberty of ordering us a few tastes to enjoy while we waited. I place a great deal of importance on good service, and was quite impressed by this, especially since we were not bothered by the wait. I also appreciate the fact that they did not rush out earlier customers as they tried to turn the tables. I looked at my watch for the first time we arrived and saw it was nearly 8.30. The tastes were a nice touch. We had a fava bean and crab crostini, a scallop ceviche with lime rind, and a brin d'amour goat cheese with dried cherry and port reduction. Since we split each of them among the four of us it was literally a bite for each of us, but I enjoyed all of them.
When we were seated at our table the good service continued. The waitress promptly arrived and explained the specials (all of which sounded delicious), let us know of a few things that were finished for the evening, and took our drink order. We shared a field green salad with carmelized shallots and sherry vinagrette, and asparagus with roasted potatoes. Both were delicious. The salad was very fresh, with the perfect amount of tangy dressing. The asparagus were cooked to perfection, and were complemented nicely by small white potatoes and a balsamic reduction.
For an entree I took our waitresses recommendation and tried the linguine in white clam sauce. I order this fairly often, and think this might have been the best I've had. Perfectly al dente pasta nestled with littleneck clams. The sauce was very flavorful, finished with just enough butter to thicken it up and add a nice richness. It was brought to the table in a saute pan, which made for a nice rustic presentation. My friends also enjoyed their orders--one had the scallops in pernod and cream sauce; one had the shrimp, tomatoes, and capers over linguine; and one had grilled tuna. The scallops were perfectly done, and not overpowered by the licorice flavored sauce. The shrimp was nicely seasoned and not too salty, as I sometimes find meals with capers to be. The tuna was probably the least favorite item. While the tuna itself had a good flavor, it was ordered medium-rare, but was closer to medium-well. The sides with it were wonderful though--nicely prepared broccoli as well as amazingly smooth mashed potatoes.
By the time we finished all of our meals we were sufficiently full, but decided to indulge a bit more and share an order of the poached plums with amaretti cookies and vanilla honey sauce. We also tried a glass of their house-made limoncello. The plums were nothing to write home about, but the limoncello was very nice. I've had limoncello all over Italy, and this certainly rivaled it.
On the whole, we were all thrilled with this meal. I live in Boston, so I have the opportunity to enjoy nice meals on a regular basis, but this was right up there in my book, and was more reasonably priced. I'll definitely look forward to returning on future trips to Portland.
We had exactly the opposite experience at Street & Co. We arrived on time and were told we would have to wait. After about a half hour they gave us a tiny bowl of olives. After 45 minutes we'd had enough so we left, walked to Hugo's, and had a wonderful meal there.
This was about a year ago. Maybe things have improved.
Attempting Street & Company on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night without a reservation is a mistake - you might sneak in if you get lucky, but don't get your heart set on it. I'm not sure that this reality is something that needs to be "improved" upon, as much as its something to simply be aware of...