Maine Restaurant Week, which begins March 1, is a great time to visit all the places you wanted to go, but haven’t had the chance.
And there are a lot of them, right? Sometimes it seems like we hear about a new restaurant opening every day in Portland. It’s hard to follow.
Leaders can empathize. They would love to see what other restaurants are feeding their customers, or just have a good night out, but they’re busy in the kitchen several nights a week, or – like the rest of us – have other obligations that keep them from dine around town.
Take Niko Regas, the chef of his family’s Greek restaurant, Emilitsa. Before taking over the kitchen duties and starting a family, he used to eat in restaurants every night of the week. Now, with a 2 year old and a 7 month old at home, dining out is a real luxury.
Places he can’t wait to try? Drifter’s Wife and Scales in Portland, and the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk.
“I haven’t been to the Back Bay Grill in ages,” Regas said. “I’m dying to go back.
When chefs change roles and sit down to eat, it’s a treat – and if they taste something particularly great, they remember it. Who better to turn to for advice on what to order?
So, one week before Maine Restaurant Week, we revisit a favorite subject, asking local chefs about their most memorable meals over the past year. Chefs, like the rest of us, often flock to the new, lively places, which may be why a lot of them are talking about Tipo, Chris Gould’s latest addition – he opened six years ago. weeks. And maybe it was inevitable that at least one chef would mention Thanh Thanh 2’s Beef Salad on Forest Avenue in Portland. If one dish could be proclaimed a favorite of Portland chefs, it probably would be this one. As Josh Berry, Executive Chef at Union, said, “Nothing fancy about this salad. It’s just awesome!
Here are the favorites of other Maine chefs, served by phone and email:
REBECCA AMBROSI AND FRANK ANDERSON, chefs, Rum Food & Grog and Big J’s Chicken Shack, Portland:
Ambrosi and Anderson are big fans of The Honey Paw in Portland.
“Everything we’ve enjoyed there has always been up to par,” said Ambrosi. “The way they develop the flavors shows real skill and passion.”
Stars ? The homemade citrus gravlax plate, mushroom udon and wonton soup.
“Always enjoyed with a strong paw… or two…” said Ambrosi, referring to a cocktail made with tequila, mezcal, honey, lime and chili.
The couple also praised the crab club sandwich (Maine crabmeat, mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes on Texas toast) at DiMillo’s on the Water, “always simple and delicious,” Ambrosi said. “We love to sit at the bar, enjoy a good martini and the view.”
STEVE CORRY, Executive Chef / Co-Owner, Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline, Portland:
“My son Seamus and I took our new puppy to dog training classes at Planet Dog every Monday night and had a casual bite to eat ahead of time. I have to say the top of our list is the selection of BBQs in Terlingua. Whether it’s the brisket, pork shoulder, or whatever else they have that night, we both like to share that option with a few smaller plates to round it off.
FRÉDÉRIC ELIOT, chef, Scales, Portland:
Eliot fondly remembers a foie gras parfait he had at Central Provisions.
“I was expecting something very heavy and too much (even for someone like me who loves foie gras), but it was light and smooth and had the consistency of a well-executed jar of cream. And the lemon jelly on top brought a touch of acidity to the dish which was much appreciated. I ate it all! Very well balanced and delicious.
MICHAEL MacDONNELL, Executive Chef, Tempo Dulu, Portland:
MacDonnell moved to Portland to work at Tempo Dulu, but his wife and children stayed at the family home in the middle of the coast. The family sees each other one or two days a week.
“What I miss the most on the days we’re apart is eating the meals my wife makes with my family,” MacDonnell said. “When I have free time and looking for a meal in Portland, I tend to gravitate towards small family restaurants. I love Huong’s Vietnamese restaurant on St. John Street. When I visit Huong, I have a mother and a grandmother who cook for me. The children are there to help mom manage the dining room. The food at Huong is as I remember it when their family ran their restaurant on Cumberland Avenue in the late 1990s. Their space is bigger now and the kids have grown up, but when I have a bowl of Beef noodle noodle soup, I’m comforted. I feel closer to home.
CHRIS GOULD, Chef / Owner, Central Provisions and Tipo, Portland:
Gould is another less dating man now than daughters Lucy, nearly 2, and Jocelyn Paige – born just two weeks ago – are pictured.
Gould likes to stop at Maple’s in Yarmouth on his way to work for coffee and a bagel. Maple bagels, he says, are “the best bagels I have eaten since coming to New York.
“My favorite bagel right now is the salted bagel with honey rosemary cream cheese,” he said. “The sweet and savory combo with the crunchy and chewy bagel is terrific. “
JOSH BERRY, Executive Chef, Union Restaurant, Portland:
Berry says when building Union, “I think I ate at the Corner Room every day.” (The corner room is in front of the hotel and the hotel desk was above the restaurant.) The restaurant’s mushroom pappardelle quickly became her favorite. It’s also the favorite of the hotel’s general manager, Berry said.
“It’s so full of mushrooms, of all types,” Berry said. “It’s not heavy. They are so consistent with it. Some chefs try to go crazy with the food or try to make things different just because they can. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. “
KARL DEUBEN AND BILL LAVY, chefs / co-owners, East Ender, Portland:
“We recently had the pleasure of witnessing the gradual launch of Tipo. (The restaurant opened on January 11.) The most notable dishes were the beef carpaccio and the hand-drawn mozzarella. Both simple and delicious. It’s also very nice to see familiar faces from our Hugo’s time. ”
PAOLO LABOA, Executive Chef, Solo Italiano, Portland
Laboa, still relatively new to Portland, has discovered three restaurants near Solo Italiano that he loves to visit: Fore Street, Eventide Oyster Co. and Central Provisions. He also visited Chris Gould’s new restaurant, Tipo.
“I don’t have much time to go out, unfortunately,” he said. ” I’m always working. Fortunately, that means we’re always busy, even though it’s winter.
At Fore Street, he tasted cod nestled in a “very warm and inviting broth.” Very pleasant.”
At Tipo, he was happy to find the corzetti dish – made with pork sausage, squash, ricotta salata, pistachio and vincotto – because it reminded him of home. Corzetti are typical pasta of Ligurian cuisine.
“For me it’s nice and fun to see real genoa on the menu,” said Laboa.
On Laboa’s wishlist: Lolita, Drifters Wife, and Street & Co.
SHELBY STEVENS, Executive Chef, Natalie’s, Camden:
Stevens and her husband, Chris Long, are co-executive chefs of Natalie’s, located in the Camden Harbor Inn.
“Chris and I really enjoy Chase’s Daily in Belfast, a vegetarian breakfast with a great menu and a morning program that includes some of the best coffee in town,” Stevens said. “I always get their fun pastries and the staff are very warm and welcoming.”
Chase’s Daily is a semi-finalist for a 2017 James Beard Award in the Outstanding Restaurant category.
MATT GINN, chef, Evo Kitchen & Bar, Portland:
When Ginn gets a chance to go out to eat, he goes to eat pasta.
“For as long as I can remember, a hearty, tasty and satisfying pasta dish has been my favorite dish,” he said. “From ramen at Miyake to carbonara at Piccolo, I love them all. I recently had a very memorable rye cavatelli with pork stew, mascarpone and Calabrian chili sauce in Tipo which was absolutely delicious. I will be going back for more. But the dish I ordered the most has to be the braised rabbit garganelli at Isa’s. Isa is a bistro on Portland Street.
“Every time I get it, it’s very well executed and consistent,” Ginn said.
NIKO REGAS, chef, Emilitsa, Portland:
Regas always thinks of the ribs he ordered from a restaurant down the street from Emilitsa, Union in the Press Hotel.
“I’m a sucker for short ribs,” he said. “I can still taste it right now. (It was) a raisin icing on a cream of potato emulsion. There was crispy garlic sprinkled with roasted shallots and an ash of rosemary. It really marked me. The icing was what hit me. It was perfectly cooked. The portions were great.
Regas says the dish reminded him of Greek cuisine, which sometimes uses raisin marmalade.
BRIAN ANDERSON, Executive Chef, Congress Squared, Portland:
“I recently returned to Fore Street after not going for a while and had an amazing meal. Had an apple pie dessert with cheddar cheese and freshly turned custard ice cream which was unreal. A real nod to the old school, but perfectly done and probably the best thing I have had in a restaurant in quite some time.
SAM HAYWARD, Founding Chef, Fore Street, Portland:
Hayward’s choice for the best plate was a wide-ribbon pasta dish he enjoyed at Solo Italiano in December.
“I don’t remember the name of the shape of the pasta, probably a regional name that I didn’t know,” he said. “It was served with a delicate stew of pink tomatoes with pieces of roasted mushrooms all over it. I loved the smoked meat sauce, of course, but the standout attribute was the pasta itself – very thin, rolled up and expertly cooked. In fact, I pointed out to the waiter that I thought it was perfect, a word that doesn’t come from my lips very often. It was a coup de grace, not for an innovation or a flight of whimsy, but because of the authoritative perfection of the cuisine. Best pasta I have had in Maine in quite some time.