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May 26, 2013 06:27 PM

First visit to Primo, Rockland, Maine

I had the pleasure of dining at Melissa Kelly's Primo a couple of weeks ago. I've wanted to go there for at least a decade. I was in Maine anyway and we were able to get a reservation. Much of this story will be old hat to the lucky Mainers who can go there when they feel like it. (By the way, since I got home I've read a few recent posts from Primo regulars who've had some disappointments, but for me I have only this one meal, expensive and worth every penny, in every way!)

It's in a big, old house that sort of looms above the street. You can see the garden plots, edible pansies were blooming, and the greenhouses were visible from the parking lot. Pigs and chickens are further back on the property. "Farm to table" for sure!

We were seated in the downstairs dining room, the formal area among 3 maybe 4 other options. It wasn't stuffy in the least, though. And so I ordered a glass of ale, a Peak Organic Summer Wheat--just delicious. There's also a very nice wine list and interesting cocktails.

The amuse bouche was served in a slender liqueur-type glass containing a brownish hot liquid. They call it lobster bisque. It was garnished with a tiny crisp cube of seasoned cornbread and an equally tiny crispy fiddlehead. So I ate that, then took a sip of the briny, intense distillation of lobster flavor. They used tomalley for sure, hence the color. It was like "drinking" a lobster fresh from the steamer!

Appetizer was "octopusa la plancha". A good size tentacle, just tender enough, had been nicely grilled. It wasn't alone on the plate, but I can't remember what else was there! One could easily make a gorgeous meal from the appetizer selection.

The main course was potato gnocchi, with Primo chicken in a cacciatore sauce. The chicken was predictably tender and juicy and the sauce was very complex, with herbs, tomatoes and clamshell mushrooms. I mopped it up with my bread. Gnocchi were as light as air.

By this time, I was nearly comatose. It's possible I had dessert, but I don't remember! The service was warm, friendly and nicely paced. The portions were perfect for me. As a friend used to say, "An elegant sufficiency."

Thanks for reading. It was a very special evening.

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  1. What a great review Pat, thanks, just starting to plan a vacation in that area and will definitely try to get there based on your review and a quick look at the menus.

    5 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      Check out the other spaces in the restaurant too. I asked an innocent question of one of the servers and before I knew it, we were whisked upstairs and shown around. I love the idea of the Counter Room, with a reasonably priced, intriguing menu and "reverse happy hour, 9 p.m.-?". Dollar oysters on Thurs. and Sun. Thanks for your reply. I figured this post would probably languish here, since I felt I was preaching to the choir. Pat

      1. re: GretchenS

        Be sure to call early for a reservation, Gretchen, esp. if you're going to be there in high season. It's always full.

        Last time we were there, I didn't call enough ahead and was told they were booked for several nights. When I begged, they told us to come in toward the end of the evening and they'd make sure we got to eat. And they did. How often does that happen? But the staff is wonderfully friendly and accommodating.

        1. re: nomadchowwoman

          Just remember though, upstairs is no reservation only...and the only place to enjoy all menus (including the counter menu). And the reverse happy hour only applies at the "bar" bar.

          1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

            This is such good information. I had no idea! Are the oysters available only at the bar too? The next time I'll be up there is in August.

            1. re: Pat Hammond

              That's a good question. I THINK the $1 oysters are available in all rooms.

      2. I'm green with envy. Primo is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. We try to make it to Maine in July or August every other year or so, and Primo is always a highlight; sometimes we have two dinners there. I've never been disappointed. Between the fabulous food and the ambiance--for me, it's just about the perfect dining experience.

        Thanks for reminding me.

        1. Pat, good to hear Primo is doing well. It has its ups and downs from season to season. I lived on the water just a few hundred yards further down the road towards Owls Head a few years ago and stopped by all the time for the bar and food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JMF

            I bet you miss Maine, especially at this time of year. I'll be back in August and hope to visit Primo again. Yes, they seem to be doing very well; for me, it was a wish fulfilled. I read somewhere that one can walk around on the grounds. I'll do that, if I get there!