I love Ribollita, so much. I've been there so many times, and every time the service has been absolute perfection. The pan-fried gnocchi with proscuitto and snap peas is just so good. Simple, good, food. I can't say enough good things about this place. The waitstaff are so friendly and accommodating, and they know everything about the menu and wine list. Their rapport is just as great with new patrons as it is with regulars. I would go here just for them, even if the food wasn't stellar. Which it is.
If you're looking for something fancier, you can't go wrong with 555 or the Back Bay Grill. I haven't had a bad dish from either restaurant. Again, service was fantastic. Cocktail list at 555 is creative and delicious. Back Bay has my favorite scotch. I've been known to giggle a lot when food is divine, and both of these places have had me in fits.
Oh, no. Eggspectation? They did chain-quality food for higher prices than necessary.
Also, the Good Egg Cafe really is fantastic. They brew Coffee By Design coffee (not the best, but so much better than Folger's), and they have a decent menu with the regulars (pancakes, eggs) and a few more creative options.
Both of those are reasonably priced, also, which is important. The Front Room is costly, crowded, and overrated. They try to be a comfortable neighborhood place, but they just come up short every time. Heavy handed with the oil, not so with the friendly service.
The chefs at Chase's, the farmer's market, restaurant, and bakery in Belfast, have been named semifinalists for the James Beard Best Chef award (Northeast category).
Just a head's up! This place is spectacular. They serve dinner on Friday nights only, and reservations fill up fast. It's more than worth the drive if you live in the Portland area, and if you live closer, you're lucky!
With the nod from the foundation, this will most likely be an even busier summer, so I'd get up there before tourist season starts.
I'd try for 555- their tasting menu for Restaurant Week is really spectacular, and I've never once had a bad experience there. Oh goodness. Another good bet that no one has mentioned is Evangeline! Delicious, sexy, fun French food prepared well.
Our table wasn't ready when we walked in (we were early!), so we grabbed seats at the bar and started the evening off right with drinks. Highland Park 12 year scotch for me, Grey Goose martini, dirty, for my dining companion.
Since it's resto week, Back Bay had a three course menu- first course, salad, and main course. Most restaurants on the list are opting for a dessert option, but Back Bay chose to leave dessert off of the three course menu, instead offering it as a $9 addition at the end of the meal.
Amuse-bouche: maine shrimp, potato chip, aioli, spinach. Yum. The perfect introduction to the meal, it was surprising and creative. The aioli had just a bit of spice to it, but not enough to overpower the flavor of the sweet shrimp.
First course: I chose the carpaccio with white anchovies, olives, and parmesan. It was spectacular. This is my first carpaccio of the week, but not my last. I love carpaccio. This particular preparation has made it into the top three I've ever had, but might get knocked out by 555's later on this week- we'll see. The salt of the olives and anchovies perfectly balanced the freshness of the meat. goodness. I was knocked flat.
Sam opted for the mussels, which were very tasty, but I was so distracted by my course that I couldn't pay any real attention to what they were prepared with. Oops. (She says it was a white wine lemon, I don't remember.)
Salad course: I chose the watercress salad, which was served with a poached pear and mustard vinaigrette. Delicious, but nothing to write home about. Sam had mixed baby greens, gorgonzola (really, really good gorgonzola), walnuts, and a red wine vinaigrette.
In between courses, there was a wheat bread, served warm. It was crusty on the outside and perfectly doughy in the middle. Not sure where it came from- the menu didn't specify if it was in-house. Compliments to the baker.
Also, our waitress was attentive but not intrusive. The service was impeccable- I was surprised, because not only have I not had the greatest of experiences (service-wise) in Portland, but restaurant weeks tend to bring out the worst in waitstaff, because everyone is so busy. Quite the opposite here- we were given a great table, our glasses were constantly filled, and our silverware was refreshed with every course. With a restaurant of this caliber I was surprised that there weren't black napkins, but otherwise, it was stellar.
Entree: I chose the lamb, which was served with red cabbage and spaetzle. Lamb is not my favorite meat, but my first bite forced me to erupt into a giggling fit. It was that good. I was broken. It was so tender, and it melted in my mouth, and it was just pink in the middle, and I loved it. Honestly, I ordered the dish because I'm a sucker for spaetzle, and it's so infrequently on a menu that I have to get it when it's offered. It was the right choice. I don't think I stopped smiling.
Sam ordered the braised short ribs with fettucine (or linguine?) and beets. They were forkable and falling apart. The pasta was perfectly al dente. We giggled like schoolgirls. Seriously. It was that good. Meaty goodness. She left fat on her plate, i ate it. It was delicious.
Dessert: Even though it wasn't part of the 3-course, we figured it was a "go big or go home" kind of evening, and ordered dessert. Sam opted for the creme brulee- she is ordering the creme brulee everywhere she goes this week, in a battle of the custards. It was slightly less dense than I usually like it to be, but otherwise very good. I ordered the lemon chiffon cake with vanilla creme and candied pink grapefruit. It was everything I wanted in a dessert.
If there are still reservations available for this week, you should make them. Especially if the cost has deterred you from experiencing this delightful restaurant in the past.