I can almost remember it like it was yesterday. When I first heard about Maine Restaurant Week, I couldn’t believe it. Here was a whole week, dedicated to the restaurant scene in Maine. I first started this blog when I was a senior in college at USM, when I was looking for any and every excuse to go to Portland. My approach towards Restaurant Week has changed as the years have gone on. I originally used it as the ultimate excuse to eat out, and often went for lunch and dinner multiple days in a row, for the full week.
Now, I prefer the quality over quantity approach, and will often use it as a way to try unique specials that chefs are testing out at restaurants that I’ve had on my list to taste. Last year, I pared back, and only went to two restaurants for Restaurant Week. It was the first year that someone besides my boyfriend got to join me on the inevitable food journey, and my friends loved our amazing experience at Tempo Dulu.
This year? I haven’t quite decided where I’m going, but these seem like the standouts on this year’s list of participating restaurants. Some of these I’ve tried in previous years, some are restaurants I’ve wanted to try, and some are restaurants that have always provided delicious food and a great experience.
Tempo Dulu: $55, Dinner
Last year, Tempo Dulu was the highlight of Restaurant Week for me. This is a meal that my friends and I still talk about and relive, because it was incredible. It’s not just about the food at Tempo Dulu, although Indonesian Dutch cuisine makes it incredibly unique in Portland. It’s about the commitment to service, and making every patron feel welcome the minute you walk through the door.
For both foodies and cocktail lovers alike, there’s something for everyone. Restaurant Week is a unique opportunity for anyone to enjoy the experience that is Tempo Dulu. Expect incredibly high quality ingredients, prepared in ways that you may never have thought were possible. To really drink in the experience that is Tempo Dulu, expect to stay at dinner for at least a few hours. It’s worth it.
Roasted Mushroom Pickled Mushrooms Mushrooms Confit Coconut Broth
Bumbu Fried Rice Cake Crispy Shallots Peanuts Smoked & Pickled Mussels
Smoked Venison Carpaccio “Nua Nam Thok” Roasted Rice Herb Salad
Hangar Steak Brisket Confit Pearl Onions Fried Potato Lotus Seed Massaman
Steamed Cod Magic Sauce Rice Gnocchi Fermented Black Bean
Bumbu Fried Rice Lobster & Shrimp Sate Pan Fried Egg
Sweet Sticky Rice Mango Sorbet Lime Leaf Cream Charred Pineapple
Indonesian Spekkoek Maple Ice Cream Cinnamon Crumble Glazed Oranges
Solo Italiano, $35 for five course tasting menu
Solo Italiano falls under the category of restaurant I haven’t tried yet, although I had tried it when it was still known as Ebb & Flow. Now, Solo Italiano is the talk of the town, which isn’t easy to do when you consider just how many Italian restaurants have opened in Portland. Not only is it the talk of the town, but their five course tasting menu for $35 is a steal, and is filled with several things that I’m dying to try, like their traditional cannoli, salmon rosa, and homemade potato gnocchi. This is one of those situations where I like to use Restaurant Week as a way to try new places, and I haven’t had a bad experience yet!
Salmon Rosa – beet-cured salmon with crème fraiche
Misticanza di Campo – mixed green salad, shaved pecorino, dressed with rosemary garlic and olive oil
Gnocchi di Patate al Vero Pesto Genovese – homemade potato gnocchi with traditional basil pesto
Polletto all Diavola – half poussin with spicy Italian marinade and roasted Stonecipher new potatoes
Ribollita, $35, Dinner
Though I’ve never dined at Ribollita during Restaurant Week, I can tell you that this will be a great stop for those that love Italian food in Portland. Ribollita is tiny, and only has 12 tables, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for an intimate or romantic place to go. Of course, with a restaurant so small, you should definitely get reservations, just to be safe. Or go during a snowstorm, which is what a friend and I did a few years ago. We ended up having the whole place to ourselves, which is always a nice experience. The style of Italian food at Ribollita is comfort food. Every dish goes great with a glass of wine, and I don’t doubt you’ll leave thinking, how is this the first time I’ve ever been here? It’s worth a visit after Restaurant Week is over as well.
Petite Jacqueline, $35 for dinner, $15 for lunch
Petite Jacqueline was one of the very first restaurants I ever reviewed for this blog, and I’ve always enjoyed it. When I heard that they were closing their State Street location and moving down to the Old Port, my heart was a little bit crushed, but despite the change, nothing has really changed. If you like French food, this is the place to go!
I have fond memories of Petite Jacqueline, and they stem from Restaurant Week in 2013. Going to school in Gorham at USM, I tended to feel a little bit isolated living on campus. Having the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone, and try a place that I’d only imagined before, just made it that much more special for me. Most of the menu is still the same, but that’s because these are entrees that are well known, and Petite Jacqueline executes them perfectly. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the parisienne gnocchi, or the chocolate pot de creme that I ordered 4 years ago.
salade verte – simple green salad
charcuterie plate – crostini, mustard, pickles
soupe du jour – seasonal soup of the day
poulet roti – half roasted chicken . pommes puree
pot de creme au chocolat
These are just a few of the many amazing restaurants in Portland that are participating in Maine Restaurant Week! Let me know in the comments below, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tell me where your favorite restaurants for Restaurant Week are!