Experiences at 555?
Whenever a restaurant gets a lot of press there will always be a backlash. All of a sudden people begin to wonder if it lives up to its reputation. So I'm curious to hear reviews of 555 in Portland. There's no question this is a good restaurant. But having eaten there twice in the last couple of weeks I have to say that as good as it is, there are many places in Portland I think are much better. The chef at 555 seems to love cheese. Scallops with cheese. Crab risotto with cheese, which completely overwhelms the delicate flavor of the crab. (A cardinal rule of Italian cooking is don't mix cheese and seafood--except in very rare circumstances, although I can't think of any of them right now . . .) I give the chef credit for inventiveness--the "peas and carrots" dessert was interesting, but I liked the concept better than the execution.
I doubt there'll be much agreement on which restaurants in Portland are better although there are plenty of candidates. One that I think deserves mention is Bresca, the newish place next to the police station on Middle Street near Franklin, where everything that comes out of the kitchen seems very carefully and lovingly prepared. I've had a couple of wonderful meals there.
I've had three great experiences at 555 in the last several months -- twice for dinner and once for brunch. The brunch in particular seemed impressive to me, if only for the care that was taken at what is usually an afterthought of a meal. Yes, they tried to sell us drinks, cheese course and all kinds of extras to boost the bill, but we had wonderful entrees (including a couple that pleased some very fussy eaters) and a very nice time. I really appreciate the service there, as well as the creativity. We had a dessert there that was, I think, the best I've ever had: I'm a bit fuzzy on the details (my husband ordered it and was stingy with tastes for me!) but it involved some amazing chile pepper ice cream.
Yeah, the backlash is inevitable, but that's ok. Fore Street doesn't seem to be having any problem, despite all the hounds who think it's over. ;)
I've heard great things about Bresca, too, though, and can't wait to try it.