June 23, 2012

DINE OUT MAINE: Inventive menu, upscale style earn a 'wow' for Spread

Look sharp, sample the colorful cocktail menu, and prepare to enjoy an evening of inventive and eclectic dining at this new Portland restaurant.

By SHONNA MILIKEN HUMPHREY

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The newly opened Spread has a large space separated into pockets of use: Banquette-style seating, two-tops and funky lounge furniture. The unique gallery-like space works for small- to medium-sized private parties, as well as intimate diners.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

DINING REVIEW

SPREAD, 100 Commercial St., Portland. 828-8233

★★★★

HOURS: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

BAR: Full, with signature cocktails

CREDIT CARDS: All major

PRICE RANGE: $3 to $19, with market-price seafood items

VEGETARIAN: Yes

RESERVATIONS: Yes

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: If you want to see and be seen, Spread is the space. With an upscale menu, chic signature cocktails and urban lounge decor, Spread is as contemporary as Maine gets.

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.

Spread's rockfish was served with white miso, fingerling potatoes and spring vegetables that contained a mix of fiddleheads, asparagus and sugar snap peas. The fiddleheads were a curious (and delicious) inclusion and, once again, I appreciated the creatively presented plate.

Each of the dessert offerings, all priced at $7, sounded fabulous, especially the Shortbread Sundae with lemon curd, blueberry compote and mint. But Banana Cream "Pie" with banana mousse, macaroons and spiced caramel was the table winner. The quotation marks in the name (Spread's decision, not mine) indicate that while the dessert included all elements of a pie, they were positioned distinctly and separately on the plate. Bits of banana mousse and crusty macaroon, drizzled with the caramel, tasted lovely and sweet.

Spread's Almond Financier took a respectable second place with honey, mascarpone, apricots and candied thyme. It was, again, presented on the plate with an artist's eye, and the flavors were unusual in their combination. While I credit Hur's artistic sensibility, I am told Spread's new chef is the person responsible for the inventive menu design.

The service, while adequate, needs attention, and I attribute any small timing lapses to Spread's growing pains. Servers suffered crossover confusion, dessert utensils were omitted, and the time between kitchen to table seemed to languish longer between each order.

Those gaffes noted and accounted for, Spread is still a "wow." And if Spread is a "wow" now, I anticipate a "double wow" once the restaurant sorts out its growing pains. Spread brings urban chic to Portland, along with an excuse to step outside my typical clothes closet. While certainly not Hollywood's Rainbow Room in its heyday, I did see two local celebrities in the course of the night.

Look sharp, sample the colorful cocktail menu, and prepare to enjoy an evening of inventive and eclectic dining like well-dressed grown-ups.

 

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel "Show Me Good Land."

 

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