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Portland, where's the SeaFood???

ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 06:42 AM

GF and i will be in Portland next week for a night. we've been to (and Loved) 555 where we did snacks at the bar one night and the Tasting Menu the next.

so, last night we checked out the menus at Hugo's, Cinque Terre, and a couple of others and were surprised that most places have only a smattering of seafood choices.

we'd really like to find someplace in Old Port (or very close) that has a greater variety of seafood on the menu. i mean Portland harbor is a working fishing port, right?

we'd be looking for up(ish)-scale or fine dining, no 'family' or 'shack' type joints please.


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  1. i
    irwin RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 07:07 AM

    Hey, Scuba Steve, that is why we have this site for guys like you to ask !!!
    Old Port Sea Grill on Commercial St is wonderful. Also, Street & Co is one of the best but you will need a resv. Hope this helps you so let us know what happened !!!!!

    1. m
      mainemal RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 07:32 AM

      It's an interesting dilemma. Portland, as it turns out, is less a working fishing port than you might think, since for a variety of reasons, most of our fleet is now calling Gloucester home. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of quality fish around. I'd agree with irwin's Street & Co. recommendation: nothing except fish, and one of Portland's best restaurants overall: if you haven't dined there, you've missed a wonderful meal. There's not much in the middle range between the fine dining places and the shacks, but I'd observe as well that all Portland's better places will have multiple items on the menu at any given point. Frequently, they won't be found on the on-line menus because they treat them as specials, changing depending on what's available. Places that seem to me to have more offerings than most would include Bresca, and Caiola's.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mainemal
        Noreaster RE: mainemal Mar 19, 2008 08:04 AM

        This question has been batted around before. My answer is the same. There is no "fine dining" option for seafood. As far as I can tell, the poster wants fine dining or upscale and mentions Hugo's, 555 (the "Triple Nickel") and Cinque Terre, some of the finest dining Portland has to offer. I'm sorry but Street and Company is no where near this level of ambience, decor, presentation, wine list or any other element of "fine dining" as I do not consider fish served in the pan it was cooked upscale. That said, Street and Company has never really recovered from its loss of Abby, now owner and head chef of Caiola's, and is only "ok". Old Port Sea Grill also serves a mostly seafood menu but, again, not upscale or fine dining.

      2. ScubaSteve RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 07:48 AM

        i know all about this site, i'm quite active on the Boston Board. last September we did go to Old Port but only for oysters and beers as J's was just too sketch to hang around in. we'll give that place another look.

        does Street have a web site? Google is coming up with nothing but references and reviews. and Caiola's does not list their menu on it's site.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ScubaSteve
          mainemal RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 08:31 AM

          SS, I don't think either has a menu on line. And Noreaster and I will have to agree to disagree--no, Steet isn't quite as high on the elegance scale as 55 or Hugo's, but I've found the food consistently delicious, and I don't object at all to one of their signature dishes, pan-cooked sole, coming to the table in the pan. It's owned by the same restaurateur as Fore St.

          1. re: mainemal
            Noreaster RE: mainemal Mar 19, 2008 10:31 AM

            I have had some great meals at Street, have always enjoyed the whole fish. However, my recent experiences over the past couple of years have been inconsistent. I am sad, believe me, as I used to frequent them almost weekly a few years back. The discussion, it seemed to me, was related to fine dining which it clearly is not. The "food in the pan" made famous by the No Name in the South End twenty years ago is kinda played out and as casual as it comes. Dana Street, the restaurateur you refer, has been approached to create a new seafood restaurant, hopefully more upscale, whenever they get around to expanding the pier project...

            1. re: mainemal
              irwin RE: mainemal Mar 20, 2008 06:21 AM

              Mainemal: I also love the pan-cooked sole at Street & Co. I think its nice and different for that signature dish coming to the table in a pan. Its definately not as classy as 555, but totally different, and again both are very successful.

          2. k
            khepler RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 10:29 AM

            Street & Company doesn't have a website, but are mentioned on the Fore St site at http://www.forestreet.biz/en/Other-Re.... Also, Fore Street usually has quite an extensive seafood offering. Street & Company is good, but if you're looking for a comparable "555" experience, Fore St would be my recommendation.

            1 Reply
            1. re: khepler
              ScubaSteve RE: khepler Mar 19, 2008 11:03 AM

              Fore Street is not in consideration for reasons not associated with food/ambiance/service/pricing. thanks though.

            2. mjg0725 RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 11:03 AM

              SS - If you there during the day, do all in your power to get the Duck Confit Panini at Duckfat! Transcending is the only word that comes to mind.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mjg0725
                ScubaSteve RE: mjg0725 Mar 19, 2008 01:03 PM

                oh don't worry. Duck Fat is already on the books for Saturday lunch. but i have my mind set on the Poutine.

                1. re: ScubaSteve
                  mjg0725 RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 04:26 PM

                  If you enjoy Duck Confit, you have order both. It's not like we have a Duckfat in Boston, splurge man.

                  1. re: mjg0725
                    ScubaSteve RE: mjg0725 Mar 19, 2008 05:11 PM

                    oh, all right.

              2. t
                treb RE: ScubaSteve Mar 19, 2008 01:45 PM

                Scuba, when I'm up there, the one place I gravitate to for seafood is Street & Co. on 33 Wharf Street. You should also throw in Gritty McDuff's and 3 Dollar Dewey's just for character. Chow On!

                4 Replies
                1. re: treb
                  ScubaSteve RE: treb Mar 19, 2008 02:49 PM

                  we're down with Gritty's. we're staying at the Hotel about two blocks away. wel within Stumblin' Distance.

                  hey, about Gritty's; what's the deal with the mashed potatoes and gravy? when last there it seemed like every fourth person at the bar was sitting in front of a big steaming bowl of 'em. it looked good.

                  1. re: ScubaSteve
                    treb RE: ScubaSteve Mar 20, 2008 07:09 AM

                    That and a beer, now that's comfort Down Maine style!

                    1. re: ScubaSteve
                      steve999 RE: ScubaSteve Mar 20, 2008 07:51 AM

                      Maybe it was Shepard's pie?

                      1. re: steve999
                        ScubaSteve RE: steve999 Mar 20, 2008 09:15 AM

                        with a brown gravy? maybe.

                  2. m
                    merrvally RE: ScubaSteve Mar 20, 2008 12:19 PM

                    Great site for trips to Portland...www.portlandfoodmap.com

                    I can't recommend Cinque Terre because of both mediocre food AND service.

                    ..and although it's definitly not seafood-focused, Bresca is HOT and the buzz is real good. Too good...I could not get a table at 5:30 on a Wednesday when calling a week in advance. But they do have a small bar.

                    I guess I would recommend Street & Co. even though it leans casual ...but it IS a puzzle, the lack of great, seafood-focused restaurants in such a city.

                    I know it's not what you are looking for but if you find time for sushi in your short visit...please try Miyake on Spring St..I think you will enjoy.

                    Also, perhaps you could stop at Harbor Fish Market before you head out of town...an amazing selection of fresh fish, shellfish...although they are closed Sunday if you are staying Sat. night.

                    So much food and drink, so little time. Let us know about your trip!

                    1. s
                      StevensAve RE: ScubaSteve Mar 21, 2008 11:03 AM

                      Take a look at the new Greek restaurant in town, Emilitsa, which has gotten super reviews. I haven't been there yet but all the Greek places in NYC feature many varieties of fish and shellfish.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: StevensAve
                        mainemal RE: StevensAve Mar 21, 2008 11:12 AM

                        I've been to Emilitsa, which is very nice indeed, but has a relatively limited menu. There was one seaford first, and one entre, the night I was there recently, in addition to taramasalata (with two other dips) on the appetizer menu.

                        1. re: mainemal
                          maina RE: mainemal Mar 21, 2008 01:59 PM

                          Sorry to hear posts about Street & Co being inconsistent since they lost their chef. Altho we haven't been there recently, we used to go regularly and thought it had the best, freshest seafood in Portland. Has it really fallen that far?

                      2. nanis RE: ScubaSteve Mar 22, 2008 03:54 PM

                        My husband and I only go to Portland every once in a while, but we enjoy DiMillo's. It's a converted boat, and while not gourmet, it is a decent place with lots of seafood options.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nanis
                          grant.cook RE: nanis Mar 24, 2008 11:03 AM

                          Its a bit north, but I always like hitting Harraseeket Lobster up in Old Freeport.. more of a picnic-table, lobster roll scene though. Beautiful view..

                        2. m
                          mainemal RE: ScubaSteve Mar 25, 2008 05:16 AM

                          So, SS, any report?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mainemal
                            ScubaSteve RE: mainemal Mar 25, 2008 06:03 AM

                            not yet, it's this Friday/Saturday that we're heading up.

                          2. mjg0725 RE: ScubaSteve Mar 25, 2008 10:37 AM

                            SS, part of Chronicle's show tonight is on the Portland dining scene. Doubt you'll get too much out of it, but I wanted to mention it. Might get you fired up for your trip...


                            1. ScubaSteve RE: ScubaSteve Apr 1, 2008 11:40 AM

                              ok, so we braved the storm friday and made pretty good time arriving in Portland right around noon.
                              after checking into the PHH we headed to Gritty's for a couple of pints, which were Very Good. we again braved the cold nastiness outside and walked to the Old Port Sea Grill where oysters were the order of the day and we had a dozen of various lineage and all were excellent examples of their breed.

                              dinner that night at 555 was a bit disappointing (we did the tasting menu.) don't get me wrong, it was all Very Good and service was spot on. the only thing that really stood out to me was an amuse of steak and truffle on a potato chip, i could of eaten a bunch more of these. during the tasting menu we had a scallop thing with mushroom and a beef-type reduction sauce that was meh, a pan fried turbot filet that while decent the filet was so thin as to not carry too much flavor. there was also a sorbet amuse of passion fruit and another of grapefruit that even though served in the tiniest of cup was pretty intense flavor wise. we also had a salt cod salad with sprouts and radishes that was also 'just ok.'

                              i suppose if we had not had our expectations up (they Really Wowed us on our last visit) we would of enjoyed the meal more. i guess 555 peaked for us then.

                              saturday we had lunch at DuckFat where i had the poutine and the GF had the meatloaf panini. the poutine was decent although after a while the taste became one-dimensional, i think if i had asked them to toss in some confit it would made the dish more dynamic. the meatloaf panini was decent, but nothing to rave about. the fries were Awesome though.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: ScubaSteve
                                treb RE: ScubaSteve Apr 1, 2008 11:56 AM

                                Sounds like a few dozen of those steak and truffle on a chip would have gone nice with the pints at Gritty's.

                                1. re: treb
                                  ScubaSteve RE: treb Apr 1, 2008 12:27 PM

                                  ahhhhh Yah!

                                2. re: ScubaSteve
                                  mjg0725 RE: ScubaSteve Apr 1, 2008 12:02 PM

                                  Awwww man, no Duck Confit Panini? Booooooooooo.

                                  A mound of Poutine is apt to get one dimensional after awhile. Should of gone with both and then you coulda ditched the fries once you got sick of them.

                                  1. re: mjg0725
                                    ScubaSteve RE: mjg0725 Apr 1, 2008 12:28 PM

                                    i know, but i've not had poutine in such a long time. oh well, we'll be going up again once the summer comes.

                                  2. re: ScubaSteve
                                    merrvally RE: ScubaSteve Apr 2, 2008 08:17 AM

                                    I agree completely about 555. Nice experience ... but no WOW. You still get that at Hugo's.

                                  3. m
                                    maina RE: ScubaSteve Apr 4, 2008 05:10 AM

                                    Went to Front Room, menu had a couple of seafood dishes, but they also had 3 specials that were all seafood. Our meals - salmon and rose fish - were terrific, and reasonably priced. Might be worth calling to see if they've decided on specials if someone is looking for seafood. Much more casual and bistro like than 555, but quality of food is very high.
                                    Sorry to hear about your experience at 555.

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