Restaurants & Bars

(portland) hugo's and bresca - both wonderful

bob gaj | Jun 11, 200810:54 AM

i know some haven't been too happy with hugo's...my quick thoughts are expect small portions that will taste incredible. do NOT go in expecting a $25 3 course meal. bresca's is a much more (relatively) affordable meal,

i went up to portland last summer, thought 555 was really good (basically, higher expectations which weren't matched; if i had no opinion, i'd say real good stuff) and hugo's, whose flavor pairings blew me away. so my wife and i went up there this time...didn't take notes, so my comments are a bit fuzzy. i'm typing most of what she sad...

quick summary: hugo's was great, but not as awesome as last time. bresca was very very good, just a bit below hugo's. which is no slam on bresca.

first, hugo's. they now have a la carte options, as well as tasting menus. i figured it would be better to go individuals, to have more choices. so we had:

their "rolls" and goat butter. wife was bowled over, said she could have kept eating these all night. we actually got some more later; the bread melted in your mouth, butter was wonderful. the SIZE of them, like everything else, is small; they were probably 2 inches across? but delicious.

salad - included ramps, fiddleheads, edible flowers, incredibly small pieces of egg (size of bacon bits). ramps were pickled and tasted sweet, not oniony. smooth...

a finnan carpaccio, with little cube squares of potato on the side, and many accessories. my wife thought they were like tater tots.

beet risotto - wife didn't care for the grapefruit in it much, UNLESS there was a healthy portion of beet risotto eaten at the same time. then, as she said, it went together brilliantly.

caramelized sweetbreads - she doesn't eat them, i only like them in the hands of a good chef, and these were top notch.

we also got some mains; steak (which was only a couple pieces of steak), char, and flounder/crab. dessert, we had a dark chocolate cake and a cheesecake, i think? really nice, and when we were done, not sure if it was because of our anniversary, we got some candied petit fours, anise cookies, a jellied candy, and something else.

the combination of tastes isn't as exotic as last time, but was still a great meal. oh, and as a side note, andrew zimmern (travel channel) was up in portland filming a special, and was in hugo's friday night. so that will get them some publicity...

we went the next night to bresca. had "before" fried almonds, and mine was chorizo / gorgonzola stuffed dates. oh, the blue cheese/chorizo combination was great; i've had these before where the dates were too strong for the chorizo/cheese, this was almost the reverse, just as i liked it.

next, we had beets over burrata (it's a restaurant-made version, not the italian import) and something else which escapes me. for our main course, gnocchi and duck breast; some of the best either of us have had, and for dessert (their specialty), i'm drawing a blank on the desserts - but i remember we both thought they were top notch.

both restaurants change their menus semi-regularly based on available ingredients, but i'd eat at either one again in a heartbeat.

as a side note...brought a blueberry pie home from two fat cats, it still tastes great. and my wife and i had similar lunches the 3 days we were up there. she had fried fish, i had lobster roll (2 of the 3). i thought cape elizabeth lobster roll was decent but small, bob's clam hut (kittery) was as good as i remember. she thought fried fish @gilbert's was the best of the bunch, far and away. i think she said crispy...

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