Fabulous Still: Five Fifty-Five
After a long overdue visit to Five Fifty-Five I’m happy to report that nothing has really changed since my last dinner there. The food is as spectacular as it was at the restaurant's initial trail-blazing debut in 2003. In fact,Five Fifty-Five gets better with age. That wisdom of experience and expertise continue to shine upon chef and co-proprietor Steve Corry and his extremely able kitchen crew.
More so than ever the kitchen focuses on using local provender to carve out some pretty stellar food. From the finest organic vegetables to heritage meats and fish just about every component has a local pedigree.
What’s more Five Fifty-Five’s menu is like none other in the city. Each dish is an incredible formulation of ingredients, method and execution that would easily leave lesser chefs bewildered.
Also, Corry’s wife and co-owner Michelle Corry is easily one of the best dining room managers in Portland’s restaurant world. She hovers over every detail from hostess to task manager to kitchen overseer with a relentless sharp eye that other Portland restaurants should emulate.
The waitstaff is another constant at the restaurant. Some of the waiters and waitresses have been there for years and their knowledge of the menu is complete.
As I studied the menu on my recent visit, so much sounded so good, but one dish stood out, and I advise you not to miss it.
It’s an incredible first-course offering that begins with a lemony goat cheese panna cotta — wickedly smooth, set in motion with a puree of beets, smoked salmon, a spike of caviar, and chilled heritage beets. The panna cotta itself is dizzyingly delicious — you won’t find it anywhere else. It could almost pass for a sweet except there’s enough astringency from the goat cheese to make it clearly a savory. This is nursery food for the gods.
Later in my meal, which I enjoyed at the bar, a friend came into the restaurant and sat down next to me. Barely saying hello, my first words were,” Order the panna cotta.”
My first course was a hard act to follow. But that didn’t me from stop having a breezy intermezzo of peach sorbet to cool my heels if only for a moment.
My main course brought me back on the road to what was turning out to be an incredible meal in little old Portland.
Before me was a braised pork shoulder set on a field of ravioli filled with white beans and rosemary set in a smoked pumpkin puree, black lentils, cubes of sweet pumpkin, and a surprise visit by a goat cheese mousse just for fun.
What an incredible combination of flavors and textures. Where does one start? The pork, which hailed from the Wriggins Farm in Nobleboro, sweetly assaulted my palate in a meltdown of tenderness. The ravioli were perfectly done, and the smoky flavor of the pumpkin puree made the whole dish seem like it had emerged from a mist of woodsy aromatics.
Oh what fine eating. I thought my meal last week at Back Bay Grill had brilliant moments, but this was no less dazzling.
Dessert beckoned from a list that seduced too easily. Why gild the lily if the bloom is already so perfect?
But I have an insatiable sweet tooth, and the persimmon tart on the menu was too tempting. It was prepared in a free-form sugar-glazed pastry case with candied macadamia nuts and vanilla ice cream. Persimmons are very assertive but it all worked beautifully--tempered by the ice cream, the few last sips of the California Cab in my glass and the very sweet dreams of a meal that was heaven sent.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.