I am posting a new thread on this new restaurant because they are hosting an event this coming Sunday, September 14 that people might want to know about.
But first, a review.
Mind you, I had eaten at Fore Street (for the first time, shockingly) on Friday night, prepared to be underwhelmed but was blown away there. The roasted sardines/octopus/cuttlefish app was perfetto, the best I have had this side of Italy, and rivaling what I have had in Italy, and then I had the whole oven roasted fish, which while bony was mighty tasty, finished off with the almond cream plum strudel with cinnamon ice cream. Fore Street's staff should get an award for the best corps de ballet in New England. And I applaud this restaurant for having so many drinkable wines in the $30-$40 range: I wish more fine restaurants of this class had the confidence to offer this.
Then, last night, I went to Bandol. On Exchange Street in the Old Port, between Middle and Federal Streets: it is so new there is no signage other than an etching in the door.
This blew me away even more than Fore Street, which says more than I can possibly say, I guess. After the delicious spoonbill roe (caviar) amuse de bouche, I started with the seared sweetbread over a touch of frisee: fresh and delicate. Then we had the quail legs (2 tiny but well boned) with caramelized fresh fig -- go to heaven. Then I had the roulade of duck/cassoulet: very interesting, with very delicate (rather than bold) seasoning, a very understated and refined version of a peasant classic. My dinner companion had the steak, which was perhaps the finest exemplar I have witnessed. Then the cheese course -- we let them choose for us, and out came two small pieces of lovely cheese, nicely presented. Then, the deserts: I had the wild blueberry tart (no custard -- just dressed berries in the tart pastry cup) with orange marscapone cheese, and nearly expired; my companion had the chocolate cake, and likewise. Both were enhanced by the Banyuls dessert wine.
The menu offers six courses, with a bias towards Provencal and related cuisine: portions are European, but it really makes sense to order as many courses as possible to get the range of this chef's talents.
The wine list is well chosen, though not as ample or diverse as Fore Street, which makes sense, given the cuisine.
Now, for the special event. On September 14th, the chef (Erik Desjarlais) is hosting a five course $59 prix fixe ("wine flight" not included) : "simple French food, and a tasting of Domaine Tempier [a Bandol producer].... from the last bouillabaise of the season, and a traditional pot of cassoulet, to an array of French cheeses, we will pour everything from the crisp Tempier Blanc and Rose through the robust single vineyard reds."
Sorry if this sounds like a promotion: it's not -- my dinner companion just died and went to heaven, that's all! I wanted to share the good news.
Portland has one more (and brilliant) star in its diadem as the Queen of the realm of New England dining.