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May 14, 2013 01:49 PM

Primo Report

My spouse and I have been long-time supporters of, and frequent diners at, Primo and couldn't be happier for them with their recent James Beard award. We feel it is well deserved. That said, our visit this past weekend was not so great. As usual, we sat upstairs at the bar so that we could order from all menus, and because we prefer the atmosphere there. The selection, the variety, the quality of menu ingredients are all still very much present. What I have noticed over the last couple of years, however, is a rather steep pricing creep. I realize it costs a lot to serve the breadth of what Primo's menu offers, at the quality they achieve, but I have to say, $38 for a rather small halibut entree was a bit much, however good it was. And while I've noticed this creep in the last couple of years, what added insult to injury for me this first visit of the season, was the rather puny size of the entrees, a quibble I don't usually have with Primo. In addition to the halibut, we ordered a braised pork and pasta (agnolotti, stuffed with cheese, I think?) dish which tasted very good, but the rather small bits of pork in the dish were so fatty, that we literally got maybe four bites of meat. That and the four agnolotti, plus a few stray carrots and fresh peas. We mentioned the pork issue to our server, but his response was something like, "yeah, that's the way it comes"--as though, our reluctance to eat the pork fat was like we were some rookies unfamiliar with the "all things pig" club (of which my husband and I are maybe charter members!) Fine lardo, this was not. And, at $30, a little spendy.

All that aside, our meal was fine (we had lots of other things); it's just that I came away a bit unsatisfied with the experience and uneasy with the pricing. I'm wondering if others are feeling this, too.

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  1. Hey Shooley, thanks for the input. I was there on Sunday night...maybe we crossed paths?

    I have to say I've completely moved away from the "appetizer / entree / dessert" model...not just at Primo...but anywhere else that I can. That is especially true at Primo though...where there are just so many options to sample.

    Sunday included mostly counter bar menu items - the fiddleheads, dandelion greens, the "tater tots" with 3 dipping sauces, involtini (asparagus, mushroom, garlic pesto), scotch egg, 18 $1 oysters from Gay Island, the grilled cheese, and the oxtail "checcino". The only items that came from downstairs was the Josh Pie pizza, two farmer's salads, and the duck prosciutto carbonara.

    Then we finished with the zeppole.

    This was a party of 5 by the way =).

    The price was kept reasonable because of all the small dishes (I think those prices are very reasonable)...and the secret that not a lot people know is that you can get 1/2 orders of the pasta dishes (great for keeping to the "small plate" theme)...and you can also split the farmers salad (ditto)...though we ask for an egg on each salad (so it's the farmers salad split with egg on each).

    For me anyway, this has become the secret to a great meal there....not that I don't usually love the entrees...but I just love to sample too much!!

    On another side note, there are now 10 "craft" beers on tap (a big improvement from the two last year)...and they have what's called a "Reverse Happy Hour" that starts late (9pm). All beers are 5 bucks, and there are add'l menu items that pop up...all at a reduced price from the normal price.

    9 Replies
    1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

      Yeah, we know the drill at Primo, and often get small plates (my husband's a big eater, though, and often likes to get entrees, too)--in fact, we ordered three of them Sunday. Since it was Mother's Day, and my mom was with us, we decided to add a couple of entrees to our order.

      We, too, often do the 1/2 pasta order, and were considering this on Sunday. But, that's my point. This pasta dish was so small, I really don't see how they could have halved it and that's never been my experience at Primo. I've been a frequent diner since their early days, and I'm just saying that I've noticed a trend that has me a but dismayed.

      1. re: Shooley

        I'm an absolute gluttonous pig and my wife and I can easily dine for about $100 total, before tip. Sometimes $100 with tip depending on what we drink (finishing with a glass of Scotch doesn't help).

        1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

          Finishing with a glass of Scotch always helps... oh, you mean on the cost of the meal. Never mind.

          1. re: bobbert

            Starting AND finishing with Scotch helps on so many levels...

          2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

            Ok but what if you feel like having a nice piece of fish, and not having a bunch of small plates? I'm just sad that my days of ordering nice entrees at Primo may be over. On the other hand, we were at another local fine dining spot and had two apps, two entrees, a bottle of wine and two desserts for $144 including tip...and the meal blew us away.

                1. re: Shooley

                  Talk about a place that drives me crazy. Some things u get there are amazing...others...downright awful. Sometimes I think Brian tries to do too much with a dish and the flavors don't work together...

                  The only places in Camden that I now consistently go to are Long Grain and Fromviandoux, though I do want to try Seabright...

                  Don't get me wrong, I like Francine well enough but the inconsistency keeps me from including it in my regular rotation.

                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                    I know what you're saying but the last three meals we had at Francine were stellar. And I've heard only mixed reviews of FromVD...enough so that I haven't been tempted to go there. Re. Long Grain...I agree with you.