Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane –no it’s the Top of the East, a beacon shining over the heart of the city, Portland’s first hint of “ progress” where the “no’s” couldn’t stop this behemoth from opening.
When was the last time someone came to town and invested $50 million in our fledgling metropolis? That there should be consternation from a scruffy faction of naysayers, decrying the fate of Congress Square and its pending use by the hotel is a ridiculous state of affairs.
Walk into the lobby of the Westin Portland Harborview hotel and see what all the fuss is about. It’s the only first-class structure in the city to come online in 30 years, an historic building that’s been brought back to life from its moribund past.
The Westin Portland Harborview lobby--a bit of urban flash in the city
As I reported last week, the Top of the East, the former rooftop lounge in the old Eastland Hotel, was so full last Saturday that it was SRO at the elevator and over an hour’s wait to ascend to its glorious perch 15 stories high. My word, the building is like a veritable skyscraper in a city with the shortest urban skyline in the Northeast..
As for the lounge itself I made it up there mid-week after our second snow storm passed and it’s a marvel of urban design that should give new life to Portland’s creative economy.
Smack in the middle of the Arts District, the most vibrant part of downtown, it’s being embraced by Portlanders in a big way. By 8 PM the sprawling spce with the killver views was still jam packed.
You can get some very good light fare from the bar, which has its own kitchen that serves this spectacular venue.
One of many bar stations at the Top of the East lounge
The views are dazzling in every direction
The lounge is nearly triple the size of the old space
From the arts crowd to the business community, the lounge is already attracting a great cross-section of city folk
I had an excellent cocktail made by Josh, who was formerly the gatekeeper at Spread’s active lounge area and is doing a great job here. I also enjoyed a plate of smoked swordfish belly that was absolutely delicious. It was served with pickled radish, a red-pepper coulis and saffron aioli—all perfectly done. The rest of the menu offerings is a compelling list of small plates like panko-crusted goat cheese and assorted panini perfect to accompany wine or cocktails.
Smoked swordfish with three sauces is from the bar menu
I eventually made it down to the C-Squared restaurant, the dining facility off the lobby, and ordered a simple dinner at the bar. The dining room was fairly busy at that late hour. (Note that the dining room also serves breakfast and lunch.)
The dining room at the C-Squared restaurant was still fairly busy after 9 PM
The restaurant serves Standard Baking banquettes that comes in a neat little white paper bag and accompanied by a delicious spread of ricotta with herbs and accented with lemon peel, a real winner.
As for a my main course I chose pan-seared duck breast served over a potato hash that was sautéed in duck fat and moistened with a balsamic fig glaze. It was an excellent rendition of this the dish, and as good as you can get from some of our other top dining establishments.
An excellent rendition of pan-seared duck breast witih fig molasses and olive oil served over a potato hash
The dessert menu beckoned, but I asked if the kitchen had a cookie plate, which wasn’t on the menu. They devised one on the spot..
The cookie plate with vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, biscotti, brownies and lemon butter cookies
The chef is Michael Bates-Walsh and so far he's putting on a pretty good show. It’s also fairly clear that this will be another restaurant to add to the city’s list of fine dining establishments.
What’s also interesting about the Westin facility is how smoothly—with blips here and there-- it’s running in the first few days of operation. After all it's is part of an international lodging company with first -class hotels around the world, and we should be fortunate that they’ve come to Portland.Tweet
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.