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Nov 10, 2008 06:15 AM

Evangeline Review

On Saturday night my family and I ate at Evangeline for a anniversary dinner for my parents. It is a classic French restaurant, with simple and classy decor that fits the motif nicely. We were seated by the window, and served pat-a-choux with Gruyere amuse that was warm, light, and delicious.

We ordered a red from Languedoc, but they were out of that particular bottle and our waitress offered a suggestion of something different that was very good. Overall, the staff was very attentive and helpful. They served bread (which was really not very good) and butter (which was good, although lacked salt).

We ordered three "entrees" to start (appetizers), which included ecargots, frog's legs, and calf's brains. The escargot had decent flavor, but they were very small and hardly the best we'd ever had. The frog's legs were very well cooked with great flavor, but again, quite small. We are not heavy portion people either, so when I say small I mean it! The calf's brains were lightly fried with a leek and bacon accompaniment, and they were quite good. All in all, the flavors were solid on the first course, but the portions were quite small and that left a part of 5 people hungry for more.

For our main courses, my mother ordered the cod, my sister the lobster dish (with a vanilla-rutabaga sauce), my father the steak frites, my wife the halibut (with a ratatouille and sauce romesco), and myself the pork.

This is where the evening went downhill. We were some of the last folks in the restaurant when this course was served and the steak, lobster, and cod all came out cold. The lobster was literally ice cold. We asked the waitstaff about what we could do and they offered to remake everything. We had them remake the cod and lobster, and they served a small endive salad to my mom and sister while they waited. My dad ate the steak, even though it was not hot, and said it did have good flavor. The frites were also not very hot. Once we got everything cooked correctly, the meal had a lot of nice aspects. The cod was very well cooked, as was the halibut. The halibut dish was really solid, and the lobster dish was unique and surprisingly tasty - we didn't know what to expect with the vanila-rutabaga sauce. The pork dish was nice, with tasty leek and apples. It was pork two ways, a roulade from head meat and tenderloin. I thought the roulade was very good, but felt the tenderloin was a bit overcooked. Overall, the flavor of the meal was great and I was satisfied.

However, given that we were delivered cold meals, we expected some gesture from then house to remedy this. We received nothing but a bill (including being charged for our coffees). Having spent many years in the business, both in the front of the house and back of the house, I was fairly disappointed with how the management dealt with this issue. The kitchen clearly mad a mistake in finishing the main courses, and the least they could have done was provide us coffee on the house. That along with the size of the first course will likely keep us from returning to Evangeline, even though I think the chef has talent. If they can tighten up their operation, I think they have a good thing going, but frankly it was a disappointing anniversary meal at a place with a serious amount of potential.

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  1. Oversight: Evangeline is located in Portland ME.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bgraves

      They should have comped dessert and coffee, especially considering your dad ate the steak alone while you waited for your entrees, and then he sat there while you ate your dinners. It would cost them nothing to have done that, and gone a long way in the good will department.

    2. Thanks for the excellent review. I really appreciate Chowhound when I read reviews such as this.

      I have heard mainly good things about Evangeline, though the portion size always appears to be a point of contention if there's a negative. They must have been having an off night with regards to the food being cold.

      I would say that I agree, dessert, coffee or even an after dinner drink would be in order to leave it on a high note. The fact that you didn't get that is what is so problematic and can either be attributed to an owner/chef who can do no wrong (e.g.: cannot admit a mistake due to his or her ego) or poor FOH management or both. This some times happens in places where the cooking talent of a chef is very high, but they are totally lacking in basic customer service.

      The price of a free dessert and coffee (at the bare minimum) is little compared to bad press or negative word of mouth.

      Thanks again.

      1. As an addendum, I would like to add that Evangeline offers one of the best culinary deals in town with its Monday night pre-fixe dinners for $29 pp. It’s a simple, low key, rustic menu and they have an option to do wine pairings for $28 pp and an additional cheese course for $6. You cannot order off the regular menu on Monday. It’s all quite relaxing, casual and affordable. My hat does tip to Erik for hosting this, regardless of how the place is managed the rest of the week.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bewley

          I have more to report about our visit. Yesterday afternoon my father received a call from the manager at Evangeline apologizing for the way the issue was handled and she offered to remove the meals that were served cold from the bill. My dad said he had a very nice chat with the woman who was very apologetic and sincere.

          I'm VERY impressed with this effort and appreciate a restaurant that is still relatively new (opened in April 08, I believe) taking these kinds of steps to make a situation right.

          I had read about the Monday night dinner and thought it was a great deal, and creative solution to a usually very slow night.

          I think we will return to Evangeline after these developments, as I think there is a lot of talent in the house and I would love to see them succeed. Thanks to all who chimed in on this posting - Chowhound is a wonderful venue for just such discussions.

          1. re: bgraves

            Thanks VERY much for the followup. I was having second thoughts about Evangeline after your original posting, so this is reassuring. As others have said, even great places can have an off night of service, but I'm also impressed with the depth of the response.

        2. We went to Evangeline a couple of months ago. It was me, my boyfriend and his mother who is a fabulous cook, picky, and was celebrating her 84th b'day. All in all we had a very nice night. We are all fans of traditional french bistro food and when we stuck to those items on the menu, notably frogs legs, frites,mussels and steak we were very happy. I had this pork belly thing that was to die for. As for the portion sizes I would say that some portions were surprisingly small--such as the fish-- but others were fine. It was a little inconsistent but I hate big portions so they erred on the right side as far as I'm concerned. I would still recommend this place without reservation if not for the service. Our waitress was very inexperienced and SO NERVOUS. The other servers were nice enough but just seemed like they had never served in a place like this before. I don't mind funky--sometimes I LOVE funky (ever been to Tabella in Amherst or SF Asia?) but there was no knowledge of the food. Our birthday girl was also skeeved out by the cheese service as has been mentioned elsewhere. I think the chef is very talented and the room itself is gorgeous. I wish them well and am happy to see that they are paying attention to service as evidenced by the follow-up call to bgraves. I hope they work out the kinks. I would love to go back and be able to banter with my server about the merits of marrow bone.