GORHAM – Several of the ideas on the plates at 91 South catch the eye and the appetite. Rice noodles and thin strips of zucchini with shrimp, ginger, lime and grilled green onions is intriguing, and so is pizza with Manchego, caramelized onions and spinach.

Quinoa — with dried fruit and almonds — made a fine side dish with poultry, and those ingredients also reveal the varied repertoire of the chef who has some local history in the business.

The PineCrest Inn is the site of 91 South, a private club that anyone can join for a $1 lifetime fee. Matt Mattingly is the owner with his wife, Amy Mattingly, Chef Maureen Terry and two other partners. Due to a local zoning ordinance, it cannot be licensed as a restaurant.

The comfortable screened porch and a small, festooned dining room hold an atmosphere more intimate than many eateries, an intimacy that carries over into the attention some folks receive. Some repeat customers have multiple allergies, and a list is kept in the kitchen to accommodate their diets. Others who are on raw food diets have also been accommodated by the chef.

“When we bought the place five years ago, we wanted to have not just the standard bed-and-breakfast,” said Matt Mattingly.

The Mattinglys met their chef when her father was staying at the bed-and-breakfast a year after they bought the business. “Maureen, or Mo as we call her for short, used to own Cafe Always in downtown Portland,” Mattingly said. It turned out she was ready to return to restaurant work.

The dining room was open just one night a month at first for wine tastings. But since the beginning of the summer in 2009, dinner has been served three nights a week, with Friday-night jazz and occasional small concerts on the schedule.

The wine list offers 65 wines by the glass. How does he keep those wines fresh? “We drink them,” Mattingly laughed.

Wines by the bottle are sold at $10 over retail price. “I hate going into a restaurant and seeing a bottle of wine that you know you can buy for $13 on the list for $27,” Mattingly said.

The house was out of the Laurent Miquel Cinsault Syrah rose on the wine list, our first choice. We decided to try the same maker’s 2007 Syrah Grenache blend ($22) from southern France, a red, fragrant and well-balanced wine with robust fruit. The server reminded us that under Maine law, customers can take unfinished wine home at the end of a meal, which can make ordering a bottle more attractive.

Little round cylinders of oozing goat cheese ravioli ($10) made with fresh pasta had been fried to a golden brown and set on yellow beet puree with toasted walnuts and sauted fiddleheads. While the parts didn’t quite cohere into a harmonic whole, each was excellent in itself.

Better together was an appetizer of lobster and roasted asparagus ($12) with a lime and cilantro aioli and toasted, crunchy brioche.

Watercress with seared beef and Parmesan ($9) was dressed with a slightly sweet molasses vinaigrette, nicely tempering its spicy flavor. The “simple PineCrest salad” ($6) lived up to its name. Tender lettuce out of the gardens owned by the inn and the chef, dressed with lemon and good olive oil, was a welcome intermission from the more elaborate flavors of the appetizers and entrees.

The favorite dish on the menu, according to our excellent server, was the lobster with couscous and goat cheese ($20). The capacious soup-rim plate held a serving that proved both over-generous and over-rich with a sauce composed of butter and cream. But that also made it easy to see why the creamy fine-grained couscous was so well-liked. Mild lobster meat was a good match for it, too.

Better for the figure — or, at least, giving that impression — was the mix of slightly nutty quinoa with apricots and sliced almonds. The mixture recalled recipes from an earlier era, updated and better than ever. Roasted game hen ($17) came into its savory own with a sauce l’orange, where some of the butter was hiding on this plate.

Strawberry rhubarb tart ($7) was over-sweet, but one of us had a sweet tooth and didn’t mind. The tender crust was perfection. “Risotto” rice pudding ($7) was served cold, molded into a low mound, surrounded by dots of rhubarb sauce and capped with fat blackberries. A criticism that the cold temperature endowed the rice with too hard a texture was shrugged off and every bite thoroughly enjoyed, as we each pleased ourselves.

Coffee ($2) had an agreeable taste. The server told us it came from a pinch of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of brown sugar mixed with Folger’s coffee. The “secret recipe” is put into the grinds, adding a subtle aroma, Mattingly said. “The idea is to keep it so subtle that you can’t tell exactly what’s in it.” 

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s Web site, www.chowmaineguide.com.