This was our (my husband and I) fifth or sixth time visiting Ogunquit, Maine, and we've taken a road trip from Ogunquit to Rockland, Bar Harbor, or even Quebec City, but for some reason we never thought to stop at Portland. This time we finally made it to Portland and spent a day there. Of course I consulted Chowhound immediately and decided on lunch at Duckfat and dinner at Hugo's or Miyake. I had no idea how vibrant Portland's food scene was! I can't wait to come back when we return to Maine and try more places. The summary is, we loved Duckfat like 99% of the population, and we ended up at Miyake since Hugo's wasn't taking any reservation after 6:30 p.m. (because of "Chopped" viewing party) and were very disappointed despite all the raves we read on Chowhound, Yelp, virtually everywhere we looked.
Let's talk about the positive first - I loved everything I had at Duckfat. We ordered roasted beet salad, poutine, charcuterie plate, and I had their Duckfat Original milkshake. Wow, I wish I had that poutine and that milkshake with me right now. I lived in Montreal for a short time when I was a kid, and I still visit Quebec frequently, so I'm pretty picky with poutine. But this poutine was delicious! OK, so the curds weren't the perfect consistency (a bit too melty and stringy) but the fries and the gravy were so, so, so delicious that I couldn't even complain. There's a popular place called Pommes Frites in NYC, and they also serve fries with several kinds of dipping sauce and a (mediocre) poutine, and I can honestly say Pommes Frites WISH it could be Duckfat. The milkshake was fabulous too - so intensely vanilla. Even my lactose-intolerant husband had some and said it was worth being sick later (sorry, TMI.) The beet salad was a perfect melange of flavors - the greens of the day were watercress, and I usually despise watercress, but all the components worked so well together that I told my husband I'd eat watercress every single day if it could be served exactly like this. Charcuterie is more my husband's deal, but I too enjoyed the chorizo and duck rillette and all the pickled vegetables that accompanied them. So to make long story short, Duckfat = Love.
We read so many raves and positive reviews about Miyake that I freely admit we went in with somewhat high expectations, which is usually not a good thing. I'm also usually a bit wary when eating sushi outside of NYC and L.A. but I told myself, all these people, especially my trusty 'hounds, and NY Times can't be wrong. We sat on the bar in front of Chef Masa, who was a very nice man, and decided to go for the 7-course tasting without hesitation. The first course, which was fresh, local uni served in its shell and a dish of ankimo. This was the best course of the night - we both absolutely loved it. The uni was one of best in recent memory - almost sweet in its subtleness. The second course was a sashimi plate, which ranged from pretty good to OK. Except for raw lobster preparation with lots of garlic oil - I found it too garlicky, too chewy, and simply unappetizing in general. I have enjoyed raw lobster before, such as lobster carpaccio at Le Bernadin, but I definitely did not enjoy this. The next few courses were rather forgettable - I don't remember much about them, and what I do remember are not quite positive. I remember poorly cut branzino sashimi pieces (raggedy edges) and a piece of grilled trout that was decently done with delectable crispy skin, both paired with vegetable preparations that didn't work very well together. I understood what the chef was trying to shoot for (creative use of local vegetables) but the result didn't quite work out. The duck that was served for meat course was, however, excellent. Masa-san was quite proud of "his ducks" (raised in his farm) and rightfully so. Both breast meat and leg confit were perfectly cooked. Second best course of the night. However, the nigiri sushi course that were served after the duck brought us down to earth pretty quickly. Terrible rice - undercooked and almost crunchy in parts. I was so distracted by the rice that I don't even remember much about the fish. I believe they were of reasonably good quality and were decently seasoned, but the rice, the rice! All in all, we ended up spending a little more than $200, which is certainly cheaper than what we usually spend on a sushi-blowout meal in NYC, but I didn't feel like it was worth the price at all. I was very, very disappointed. Perhaps it was an off-day? I don't know, but I probably won't be returning to find out and I can't say I recommend it to fellow visitors to Portland.
Not quite satiated, we decided to stop by Fore Street for desserts, and their excellent pumpkin bread pudding immediately improved my mood. I wistfully looked at their menu, which included grilled foie gras and sweetbreads - two of my favorite things - and wished we'd eaten there instead. Oh well, next time, right? We also took a box of their excellent homemade chocolates back to our hotel in Ogunquit, which didn't last the night.
I look forward to coming back to Portland sometime soon (most likely next spring) and trying Hugo's, Fore Street, and other excellent restaurants that I've read about!