Time for a Dip
A Port Clyde shack surprises and satisfies.
- By: Brooke Dojny
Thousands of vacationers stream through Port Clyde on their way to and from Monhegan Island every summer. A goodly number of these visitors happily “discover” the Dip Net in the process, but countless others are beginning to make the trek down to the very tip of the Saint George peninsula for the sole and specific purpose of savoring a seafood feast at this wonderful restaurant. [For the rest of this story, see the September 2008 issue of Down East.]
Right outside the Port Clyde General Store, overlooking the Monhegan boat pier, the Dip Net has the attractive summer shacky look common to lots of other places up and down the coast. There’s a cute little raftered indoor space — nice on a rainy day, especially since you get to observe the cooks in the open kitchen — and a huge outdoor deck, with spectacular views of the ledged and island-dotted harbor. Port Clyde is a working fishing village, so the constant parade of work boats and pleasure craft threading their way among the lobster buoys creates the kind of Maine summer scene that cannot be duplicated anywhere else on the planet.
But even more stunning than the gorgeous view is the food. Owner Scott Yakovenko is a chef who trained in fine dining restaurants in New York and the Virgin Islands. His genius lies in having created a menu that includes top-notch renditions of all the expected summer shack fare — fabulous, crispy, cleanly-fried clam, oyster, scallop, and haddock baskets with fries and a refreshing ground coleslaw, steamed clams and lobsters, sweet crabmeat rolls, burgers, and dogs — but then advancing the concept to a whole new level. He’s added, for example, a beautiful raw bar with local oysters, tiny little neck clams, chilled lobster and Maine shrimp, and Jonah crab claws. And Yakovenko’s Maine Bouillabaisse alone is worth the journey. It’s a huge bowl of saffron-tinged tomato broth replete with lobster and crab claws, two kinds of clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and (my favorite touch) a chunk of ultra-fresh grilled haddock, lending its smokiness to the mix.
“Almost all our seafood is local — bought right off the boats in this harbor,” says Yakovenko. One of the evenings I was there he was out back having his picture taken with a big man and a big fish. The big man was a local fisherman who had just delivered a huge, gorgeous, sparkling fresh halibut. Photo op first — then the cleaning began, with swift, sure strokes, breaking the halibut down into its various parts (“cheeks first, they’re the chef’s private treat”), en route to becoming tomorrow’s specials: a halibut ceviche (one of Yakovenko’s signature fish treatments) cured with lemon and lime, and pan roasted halibut with roasted red pepper butter. Very sorry I missed it!
But there’s always a special catch of the day that’s bound to be something fabulous. On one recent night it was fresh cod, served nicely blackened, with blackened scallops and a cucumber-melon salsa. Yakovenko often turns fresh-caught diver scallops into ceviche, and he says he tries to freeze enough of the sweet little mollusks during their season so he can include them on the menu all year. “They freeze beautifully,” he says, “and their texture and flavor don’t suffer at all when used in cooked dishes.”
Other non-standard items on the Dip Net menu are Saint George smoked salmon on a potato latke over greens with an emerald dressing, lightly fried oysters with a ginger shallot dipping sauce made blushing pink with pureed beets, and monkfish nuggets with a chipotle lime aioli. For non-fish-eaters, the offerings include a grilled free-range chicken with garlic and fresh herbs and a grilled strip steak with rosemary and crispy potatoes.
Yakovenko says, “Our beef and chicken is hormone-free, raised within twenty-five miles of here. Most of our produce is also local, and I’m really proud that we can offer this kind of quality and support area growers and producers at the same time. My goal is to have an ‘all-twenty-five-mile menu’, and we’re getting very close.”
Dessert is all pie all the time — homemade, with various fresh in-season fruit fillings and a gloriously decadent chocolate pecan. Beer, cocktails, and wine are available — the lists are varied and include ample choices in styles and price ranges.
The Dip Net Restaurant is located at 2 Cold Storage Road in Port Clyde. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, June 20 through Columbus Day Weekend. Memorial Day through June 20, Thursday through Sunday. Appetizers $4 to $12. Entrees $7 to $20. Desserts $6. 207-372-6307. www.dipnetrestaurant.com
Once a fixture on Rockland’s Main Street, Amalfi on the Water (12 Water St., Suite 106, 207-596-0012, www.amalfionthewater.com), has moved to the corner of Ocean and Water streets — in what was once MBNA’s grand complex — near the boardwalk. With more tables (including a harborside deck), more staff, and more hours (they now serve lunch), Amalfi has transformed from quaint to sizeable, but the menu remains under the guidance of David Cooke and Nancy Wood.
- By: Brooke Dojny