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May 27, 2008 02:17 PM

555 Portland: Slam Dunk

My dude and I had a terrific meal at 555 this past weekend. The restaurant now holds place in my top 10 restaurants ever, as it hit the high marks in terms of service, atmosphere, and especially food and wine. Everything – and I mean everything- was remarkably perfectly seasoned and cooked (and boy, did we remark). The timing was consistent without any drag or lag, but also without feeling rushed.

We had the spring tasting menu which, at 60$ (I think) per person + $35 accompanying wines, was, IMHO of super value.

We sat on the second floor that was a veritable perch overlooking the kitchen and the dining room. A great spot for people like me who like to see the food both in the kitchen and coming out.

Here’s our menu:

Amuse Bouche: Smoked Bluefish croquette with ramp cream: perfectly fried little nugget with perfect smoke. Ramp cream gave it a high five…we knew were in for some good eats after this starter.

Maine “lobster roll”: Butter poached lobster wrapped in phyllo and served with pickled ramps, fiddleheads, and salad. Served with Pine ridge chenin-blanc
Buttery phyllo atop the sweet/sour salad worked, though I could barely taste the lobster. Wine pairing was spot on.

Marinated Spring Lamb Sirloin with potato parsnip boxty, caramelized onions, and sorrel green garlic pesto. Served with Perrin Cotes du rhone
Probably the most tender and flavorful lamb I’ve had in a long time. Lamb was perfectly cooked to medium rare and needed nothing. Dipping it in the sorrel pesto took it over the top from perfect into UBER. Wow.

Roasted Squab breast with braised green kale, annas potatoes, and squab liver enriched pan sauce. Served with 2005 Joseph Drouhin Pinto noir.
When I first saw the menu I was surprised and then a bit disappointed that the final course would be pigeon. I needn’t have been. Cooked medium rare and set atop sauce like no other, this bird was through the roof good and could have been cut with spoon, much less a butterknife. Potatoes Anna, usually a disappointment of slightly undercooked/overcooked potatoes wowed us well. Delightful

Smiling hill camembert with brown butter brioche, candied pineapple black pepper jam and maple walnuts.
Waitron graciously asked us if we’d like a bit more of the above pinot to savor with the cheese course. Well of Course! We replied, to which she promptly refilled our glasses. (now that’s what I call a wine course)
Individually, components were good; Together, they were shazam.

Cherry Chocolate Charlotte with glazed cherries, ladyfingers, chocolate fudge sauce and toasted almonds.
Neither my dude or I are real dessert people, so it’s hard to be objective. It was a good, though very rich, finale to the meal.

After a disjointing (and expensive ) dinner at Hugo’s the night before and extrodinarily disappointing (and expensive) second visit to Arrows a year back, we were in a showmewhatyougot kinda mode. 555 exceeded expectations and shakazooloed us both. Can’t wait to go back.

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  1. 555 is tops. Again, too bad about Hugos... they usually are fantastic. Have you been to Cinque Terre ?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Farnam897

      i just heard about cinque terre recently, but don't even know where it is in it in portland.? we come up about twice a year and i'd love to hear more about it.

    2. I went for the first time recently as well. I couldn't agree with you more, excellent meal, excellent service.

      1 Reply
      1. re: EastRocker

        I'm glad to hear others liking Cinque Terra. It's long been one of my favorite places to dine in Portland, and I particularly value their willingness to allow people to mix and match various course offerings without skipping a beat in timing the service. IMHO, their tasting menu is better value than Hugo's, and much less pretentious. Sixe, sounds like you should compare with the excellent 555 experience!

      2. Great report--love your writing style.

        2 Replies
        1. re: whs

          I love 555! And I can't rave enough about Cinque Terre. Two of my favorite restaurants, hands down. Mainemal brought up Hugo's, so I'll just say I was underwhelmed. Pretty, arty, TINY portions. I haven't been there in a few years, but I do remember the chairs at Hugo's: those bad, stackable chairs you see at wedding halls/convention centers. Very strange , considering all of the thought that went into the food.

          1. re: la ciclista

            Yes, Cinque Terre is a longtime favorite in Portland, we started going soon after they opened and have kept going back every time we are in Portland. The tasting menu is a great deal.

            I don't think it's expensive for what you get - Italian food as good as we've eaten in Italy. My test is if you can cook vegetables like in Italy, where I wouldn't even miss the meat course, then you're doing it right. So many places with good meat and pasta can't do the vegetables or other sides right.

            Nice atmosphere inside, we sat outside once and if it's not too late (when the bars across the way are playing loud music) then it's really nice.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. 555, Cinque Terre, Hugos and Fore Street Grill are all serving food together at a big event in Portland. I don't know how to let everyone know without running afoul of posting etiquette, but damn it looks like good eats.