November 7, 2010

Taste & Tell: Shepherd's Pie's menu gives diners reason to linger


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A rare quiet moment at Shepherd’s Pie, during pre-dinner-hour set-up.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


SHEPHERD'S PIE, 18 Central St., Rockport; 236-8500

RATING: *****

HOURS: Open 4 to 10 p.m. every night of the week

CREDIT CARDS: Visa and Mastercard

PRICE RANGE: $8 to $28

VEGETARIAN DISHES: Yes, with a meal made up of sides

GLUTEN-FREE: request



BAR: Full


BOTTOM LINE: Clear and resounding flavors mark the meals at Shepherd's Pie, with dishes dreamed up by owner Brian Hill and a powerhouse kitchen staff. The front of the house makes sure you can enjoy that food even on busy nights.

Rating based on a five-star scale. It is the policy of the Maine Sunday Telegram to visit an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory.

Charred skirt steak with chimichurri ($19) had the same kind of theme, although it played like a salsa band instead of an Edith Piaf song. Chopped parsley and garlic and vinegar anointed the savory, strong steak, and made it simply terrific.

A duck breast special ($22) was fragrant with a port wine sauce; its crisply browned skin was delectable. A side of refried white beans with gremolata ($4) was creamy and vibrant. Swiss chard braised in chicken stock, with fresh thyme and ground pine nuts, ($6) was verging on too rich -- which, considering the competition, is saying something.

But even with the luck of friends to taste so much, so much passed us by, like the organic french fries ($5), organic cheeseburger, the ribs extolled by neighbors at the bar who frequent the restaurant, and spaghetti squash with tomato, olives and sheep's milk feta.

The short list of desserts was easier to master. Chocolate pot de creme ($7), with thick, fresh whipped cream, filled spoon after spoon from around the table with thick, smooth chocolate pudding as rich as sin. Bread pudding ($7) was even more popular, its tender white bread innards studded with currants and as easy to cut as the pot de creme. Its brown crust and whipped cream added attraction, but all was just a foil for the almond caramel sauce.

Hot coffee ($3) is good with cream, too, and the restaurant's brew is strong and smooth. 

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 website,


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