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Jul 30, 2007 05:41 AM

My recent New England restaurant experiences

My S.O. and I recently returned from a jaunt through Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and I thought that I would share some mini-reviews of some of the places where we dined, and one where we didn't.

In Newport, Scales and Shells was strongly recommended. We arrived, gave our names, and were told that a table should be available in approximately 30 minutes. So, we proceeded to wait, only to be quuickly driven out of the place by the incredibly oppressive noise level. I am sure that those who rave about the fish at Scales and Shells are correct about the excellence of the food, but I honestly can't imagine enduring the noise of that place. If my S.O. and I couldn't converse while standing next to each other, how could one hold a conversation while seated on opposite sides of a table? Or, for that matter, how could one communicate with a waitress? Restaurants that don't install adequate sound-deadening materials will not have me as a customer. We crossed the street to Zelda's, and found a welcoming oasis of quiet and calm, in complete contrast to Scales and Shells. The food at Zelda's was very good, as was the service.

The following night, we dined at Bouchard, in Newport, and here we found another establishment that was quiet and comfortable. The service at Bouchard was very attentive, and the food was excellent, if a bit pricey.

A number of years ago, I had dined at The Dolphin Striker, in Portsmouth, NH, and I wanted to return because my earlier experience had been so good. I can report that The Dolphin Striker is still excellent, and the food is very pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. The highlight of the meal was the house-made sorbets, which were really good. The waitress had a bit too much attitude, but overall, we really enjoyed the Dolphin Striker.

In Burlington, VT, the Lake View House may not seem very imposing when viewing the establishment itself or its menu, but I can report that they do have a talented chef. The pan-seared salmon with sauteed spinach was excellent. Even a simple dish, when cooked properly and when made with very fresh ingredients, can be impressive.

And, for the true high point of our dining experiences, I can report that Pauline's Cafe in Burlington is truly excellent. I really enjoyed the Cod Soubise, and my S.O. loved his Potato Crusted Salmon. Both were possibly the best-prepared fish dishes that we have ever eaten, and that includes a very long list of restaurants! My dessert, a sampling of three sorbets, was simply incredible. The fruit flavors were both complex and intense, and they presented a great ending to a wonderful meal.

The only thing that marred our experience at Pauline's was the arrival of a party that drank to excess and became very loud. In the somewhat confined area of the porch seating area, the noise level quickly became oppressive. The next time that we go to Pauline's (and there will be a next time!), we will ask to be seated somewhere other than the porch in order to avoid the close quarters of that area. However, despite my problem with the noise level toward the end of our meal, I am happy to say that Pauline's offers excellently-prepared food at prices that are reasonable.

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  1. Ted, ITA on loud restaurants - I don't care how good the food is, I won't stick around to find out.

    And at Pauline's, the mgr should have asked them politely to keep it down.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JaneRI

      I'm glad to hear about your experience at Pauline's. How was the service? My husband and I use to go there frequently, but stopped about a year ago due to an increase in poor service and downslide in food quality. I actually created a post about it because I was so upset. Pauline's is right down the street from my house, so to hear that you had a good experience food-wise (minus the loud table) made me happy.

      1. re: katiepie

        Katie--The service was actually very good. Of course, there were only 4 other occupied tables when we arrived, but even later when there were more occupied tables, the service was still both prompt and polite.

        As to a downturn in food quality, I can't compare the present state of their food prep with previous levels of quality, but I am serious when I say that our meal was one of the absolute best that we have ever eaten. Either we were very lucky or the quality of the food has returned to its earlier level of quality.

        I have to say that I envy you for living in the beautiful Burlington area and to have access to so many good restaurants, including Pauline's Cafe!

    2. Glad you liked Pauline's. We go there for practically all our meals when we are up there...There's an upstairs dining room that is slightly less rustic, same great food.