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Northern New England

[Portland] Five Fifty Five

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[Portland] Five Fifty Five

Harters | May 27, 2012 02:18 AM

“Fine dining” is a phrase I detest. I’m never sure what it’s supposed to mean. And I suspect that if I did know, it would be different from the next person’s definition. And their’s would be different from a third person’s. And so on. So I never really use it. But, if I did, then Five Fifty Five would possibly get the tag.

A sure sign that a place is aspiring to be thought of as “fine dining” is the presentation of an amuse bouche. Here, it came on a spoon (like it often does) and was a single mouthful of braised rabbit, pickled radish and pine nuts. Absolutely delicious.

It’s short menu, offering around half a dozen starters, a similar number of mains (there’s also a tasting menu for folk who like that sort of thing). We like short menus – means the kitchen knows what it’s about and can concentrate on doing things properly. Hopefully!

I started with “pork & grits” – some long cooked pork belly which sat, somewhat unattractively, in a bowl of polenta. It was a good idea, but one which failed to hit the mark. The polenta was overly wet and under-seasoned. Alongside, a little salad of pickled green beans was the best bit to eat.

Meanwhile, my wife was enjoying a green salad. Of course, there’s not really anything to write about here. It was salad. And green. Good dressing.

Things bucked up after the uninspiring start. Thin slices of hanger steak, marinated for three days (although I’m not sure in what), came perfectly medium rare and were excellent. There were soem grilled ramps, organic mushrooms and fried potatoes alongside. Very good accompaniments with not a poncy foam in sight.

Picking up on local produce, lobster mac & cheese was rich, interesting and damn tasty on its own. The “mac” wasn’t “mac” but torchio – an interesting mushroom shaped pasta which held the sauce well. The bowl was topped with shoestring potato and a couple of slices of black truffle. It raised a simple dish to a new level.

For desserts, strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake was good, although there wasn’t much evidence of the expected sharpness of the rhubarb. However, a Mayer lemon curd did provide something of a kick.

Ice cream was made on the premises and was excellent – strawberry, white chocolate & sorrel, rocky road.

There was excellent espresso to finish. Our cravings for sweet hadn’t been fully satisfied by dessert, so we ordered a plate of chocolate chip cookies to go with the coffee. Served warm, they were really good and chocolatey.

Almost needless to say, for a “fine dining” place, service was thoroughly professional. We’d enjoyed dinner a lot!

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