December 2, 2013

Dine Out Maine: Oscars New American in Yarmouth

The chef is cooking in the fluid style of new American cuisine with southern and Spanish influences.

By John Golden

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Oscar’s New American in Yarmouth is located in the space on Route 1 formerly occupied by Sea Grass café, with fine food prepared by chef Nick Krunkkala.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

IF YOU GO

OSCAR’S NEW AMERICAN

***

WHERE: 305 Route 1, Yarmouth. 846-3885

HOURS: Dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

CREDIT CARDS: Yes

PRICE RANGE: First courses, $5 to $14; entrees, $18 to $28; desserts $7 to $18

VEGETARIAN: Yes (a few choices)

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes (a few choices)

KIDS: Yes, welcome

RESERVATIONS: Yes

BAR: Full bar

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: This young chef is cooking in the fluid style of new American cuisine with southern and Spanish influences. Typical dishes include the butternut squash gnocchi, pepper-crusted scallops, marinated sirloin, lobster sliders, smoked fish cakes, chicken fried egg and such nightly specials as spice-rubbed petite tenderloin. Dessert offerings include terrific house-made ice creams and a luscious pistachio carrot cake.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value: * Poor ** Fair *** Good **** Excellent ***** Extraordinary. The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

The wine list is typical of new restaurants and needs more fleshing out. But there were some moderately priced choices by the glass or bottle.

The service throughout was excellent, and the kitchen kept pace on a busy night. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about every dish on the menu and guided us well to main-course selections.

My guest ordered the butter-marinated sirloin ($28), which was served with delicious truffle mashed potatoes, fried kale and piquillo pepper purée. The beef was excellent and the meat tender, but my finicky guest wasn’t thrilled that the steak was served already sliced. This might suggest that there’s a certain tactile buzz in carving a steak yourself to judge its tenderness and succulence.

My choice of seared arctic char ($25) was superbly done. The fish was precisely cooked, emerging flakey and moist. And I loved the medley of local vegetables: celery root purée, braised fennel, roasted baby carrots and beet chutney.

The dessert menu is short and sweet. There’s Oscar’s banana split ($10); a trio of house-made ice creams ($10); sour apple bread pudding ($10), buttermilk beignets ($7) and pistachio carrot cake ($8). We opted for the dessert sampler ($18), which included all of the above. The ice creams were superbly creamy, especially the intense balsamic strawberry and the bracing pinot noir dark chocolate.

A few days later I returned solo to dine at the bar, something I do often for a focused second impression of the food and ambiance. The room was much brighter than before (someone had raised the dimmer switch).

At the bar I was tended to by Trevin, the young mixologist (and a member of the chef’s family), formerly of Danny Meyer’s famed French brasserie, Comme Ca, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. I watched him make one of his fabulous drinks, a whiskey tango with bourbon, Benedictine, lemon, orange, maple syrup, bitters and thyme.

For dinner he suggested the butter-poached lobster sliders, the lobster meat bathed in an amazing smoked tomato aioli ($15). For an entree I chose the butternut squash gnocchi, wrapped in a silken cream sauce with wild mushrooms, kale and sage butter. These were phenomenally light, as they should be when made by a chef who knows his craft.

John Golden, who lives in Portland, writes about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for local and national publications. He can be reached at:jdgmaine@gmail.com

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