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Chef Et Al, Portland ME? Nice food, need new digs


Restaurants & Bars 6

Chef Et Al, Portland ME? Nice food, need new digs

Dual | Oct 25, 2008 03:09 PM

Searching, I don't think this place has gotten a lot of discussion here.

I tried it for lunch a few month back, had a bad experience and concluded "no reason to be out on this depressing strip", but wife and I dropped in last night for a quick snack and enjoyed a -really- admirable chicken pot pie. You can tell the people here care a lot about what they're doing with their food.

THE THING IS: this place has the ambience of an airport concourse restaurant. Very bad 80's-style appointments, walls the color of squash soup, and a giant customer-is-always-right statement attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (?!?: famed author of "Who Moved My Paneer?") as about the only visible decoration. Floor tiles from Home Depot. Ceilings way too high, making for clamorous sound with only 8 customers in place. Very large picture windows, unrelieved by muntins or drapes, look out onto the strip and the parking lot. Empty slots for large video screens up at the ceiling. It takes a lot of badness to make me notice an unattractive restaurant, but this place is baaaaad. To succeed where they are (Portland's most strip-like strip, down near the Oakhurst dairy and the Palmer Spring auto repair shop), they have to be warm, at least a bit intimate, and offer a tinge of sophistication.

I bring all this up only because I can't do so on "The Bollard" where Chef Et Al was given kudos for a nice brunch: I wanted to respond "Yeah, but wasn't it like eating in a food court?"

My guess: the building they occupy was built on spec by a developer. It spent months after construction standing vacant, with a generic CocaCola sign naming it "Venue". I think Developer was thinking sports bar, and Chef and his alia moved into what was there.

So: I dunno. I really dunno. Wouldn't a restaurant making an effort at notably good food do better if they had someone pay attention to set and setting? Is this post fair?

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