Restaurants & Bars

The Rusticator (Sargentville, ME): not good enough (long)

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The Rusticator (Sargentville, ME): not good enough (long)

mainemal | Aug 11, 2008 11:24 AM

We (SO; ellieeggplant, and ellie's husband) had high hopes for this place, which also serves as the dining room for The Oakland House, a traditional Maine summer venue for families, once it was announced that the executive chef was the son of the chef at one of our favorite places, Cleonice in Ellsworth, where local sourcing and interesting tastes are the rule. The menu promised a lot of local sourcing, so our expectations were high. Unfortunately, they weren't fulfilled.
Given that it's a summer-colony kind of place with lots of young servers, service wasn't bad (although I had to help one young woman manage opening a bottle of wine, to the amusement of other guests). They don't have a full bar, so ellie's hubby was unable to get the martini he had in mind. Wine list is somewhat limited, but not unfairly priced, although only a few choices by the glass. The open restaurant tables are on a screened porch, overlooking some nice-looking garden produce on-its-way.
For starters, we had "Maine in a Box," which is indeed a box with mini-seafood rolls, rather like sliders: fried clam, crab, and lobster, along with cole slaw. These were tasty (rolls were bland), and the slaw quite good. I had their shrimp a la Russe, the traditional cold-rice mold with pieces of Maine shrimp, etc.: again, tasty, but not outstanding or distinctive. Ellie's beet salad was fresh, and she liked it. Remaining starter was "Mrs. somebody's crab" which was a healthy helping of fresh crab sitting on a somewhat cheesy base, with crackers. Unfortunately, for a hot appetizer, the base was pretty cold, so when mixed, it got stiff and and lost some flavour.
None of the above was enough to merit a bad review, but it was downhill from there. One of us had "scallops a la Greque," with the expected feta, olives, etc. OK, if not superior, and nothing very local about it except the scallops. But two of us went for what should have been a no-brainer: sauteed "dab flounder". We each had two large filets, lightly breaded (not overly tasty breading) that were light brown on the serving side...and completely black and hard on the bottom. As Ellie's husband commented, a decent expediter (presuming they have such) would not have allowed these to be served, since all the flavor of the fish had long since vanished. We pointed it to our server, who asked if we wanted something else. Since it was now the height of the service, and quite busy, so that we would not have been able to continue eating with our friends, we said no, so she said she would say something to the chef. Perhaps she did, but our expectation that someone would now appear to ask what might be done to improve our satisfaction...didn't happen. Nothing was said, nothing was comped. Ellie had the best entre of the night, a completely delicious (and properly undercooked) risotto and local veg made with the grain faro: very unusual, and very good.
I note that for a place with an emphasis on local, one of the 6 appetizers featured "elk tartare with raw quail egg," and one of 7 entrees featured bison flank. Maybe I'm missing some local purveyors, but neither of these strikes me as "eating local in Maine!"
For dessert, each couple shared what was billed as a "dark chocolate trifle," which led me to expect some nice layed confection with rum or sherry soaked cake, chocolate cream, etc. What arrived was fairly ordinary "mousse in the glass," with just something chocolate-pudding-y, and whipped cream, and small amount of raspberry sauce on the top: again, not bad, just not up to the standard we hoped. With wine, $210 before tip.
I'm not sure we'll make a return visit unless we hear from others of a better experience. Too bad, as the Blue Hill peninsula doesn't exactly abound in decent chow in the summer, even though you'd think it would given the volume of flatlanders coming to visit.

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