Saturday, March 8, 2014
Here we go again. Another success story of a new restaurant surging with a voracious following in its first hours of operation.
If you haven’t heard, Central Provisions is up and running—and it’s the proverbial runaway success right out of the gate. I stopped in on Night One (Tuesday) on my way to dinner nearby, and the place was jammed with patrons looking as though they’d been going there all their lives, sporting happy-go-lucky grins with their rears firmly planted on seats at the bar and tables upstairs and down.
The downstairs bar in quiet repose before the crowds arrive
The space itself looks like it’s been there forever, which in fact it nearly has since this historic building dates to 1900. It spans Fore Street to Wharf Street, on the corner of Dana Street, with entrances at both ends. It’s been meticulously renovated and is a gleaming tribute to the virtue of keeping old spaces looking fresh.
The upstairs dining room and bar with its gleaming open kitchen; there are banquettes along the side for dining as well as dining bars upstairs and down that serve both food and drink
I could wax poetically about the food, the drink and the ambiance with its nightly asylum of epicurean pretense. But instead I’ll not litter this forum with the loquacious totems of purple prose and get right to the point. This is a great place. The food is amazing, the vibes are everything an Old Port establishment should be in the best sense, and kudos to Chris Gould, proprietor and chef, for giving Portland this fine dining establishment—the ultimate pub with international flavors.
Be warned. This is a menu of small plates, anathema to some New England appetites. There are replications of meat and potatoes on the menu, but they’re not of the three squares variety.
But suffice it to say it’s all awfully good no matter how it’s been sliced and diced.
Here’s what we had on our second visit for dinner Thursday night.
Deliciously cured anchoves (boquerones) with chives
Spectacular tuna confit with celery leaves, salted orange and an under-coating of creme fraiche
An amazing dish of carrots smoked in hay with a fresh goat cheese sauce, cinnamon and pistachio
Savory croquettes filled with ham and cheese served with pomegranate honey
Fried Maine potatoes well seasoned and served with Heinz 57 ketchup
The crispy chicken cutlets of white and dark meat are coated in panko, fried and served over the most captivating mingling of lentils in lemon cream with Sherry and tarragon
One of the best dishes of the evening was the suckling pig, which is compressed and cut into wedges and served in an apple vinaigrette with marconna almonds
There is no burger in sight on the menu but there is this splendid steak tartare with housemade crackers
There were four desserts on the menu: key lime tart; braeburn apple donuts; salted caramel mousse and this delicately textured bread pudding shown here with elderberries and almonds in a rum custard
Central Provisions, 414 Fore Street, Portland, ME 207-805-1085
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.