Eventide: A Dining Event Beyond Compare
Eventide bears no resemblance to Portland’s other so named emporium, J’s Oyster, located on a skinny stretch of Portland Harbor, where gawking tourists think they should gather to soak up local color. There the bivalves, according to a long-time waitress, come from Maryland whereas Eventide’s boasts impeccable local provenance and varied exotica from as far off as the Pacific.
The menu features mostly small plates, a diorama that comes to life in novel ways with seafood and, surprisingly, some meat (shaved corned beef, charcuterie and roast pork belly).
The room is painted a vibrant deep icy sea blue and the seating arrangements are not unlike Duckfat--its near-relation across the street, now owned solely by Hugo’s founder, Rob Evans.
There are stools around the central bar, which is flanked by a sea of oysters in their carved out regal bed of crushed ice, a few picnic-style tables along the side and another bar-seating option in front of the glass-plated front overlooking the street.
The beautiful dishes on which everything is served are shaped like oysters or other shell motif and made locally by Alison Evans Ceramics in Yarmouth.
For a most unusual but delicious lunch the other day I started off with a cuke kim chee, cured in a very strong and spicy solution that would be overwhelming for people who hate heat. For me it was perfectly hot and wonderful. My friend had carrots with a glaze of goat cheese. These were exquisite, much milder than my dish and elegantly presented. All sides are $4 each.
Then there's Eventide's loster roll. If there’s ever a debate about who makes the best lobster rolls in the state of Maine then this contender should qualify as the most defiant of the breed. First off, the vehicle in which the lobster sits isn’t in one of those gummy hot-dog rolls. Instead it’s stuffed into a steamed bun much like Chinese dim sum. The lobster is cut into little shards and offered with a choice of dressings that include hollandaise, house mayo or brown butter vinaigrette. I chose the mayo.
To the purist this roll will come off as a strange specimen indeed. I loved it, however, for its unusual devise.
My friend’s choice of food was more conventional though no less intriguing. He had the batter dipped gulf of Maine hake, deep fried to perfection, delicately encasing the sweet fish within.
Even though we had two dishes each, we were still hungry and splurged on a shared order of baked beans (this is New England, after all) and Hugo’s fabulous little biscuits served with bacon-spiked butter. The beans were a bit heavy on molasses but were nicely tempered with dark maple syrup.
When we returned at dinner time, we hit the cocktail hour crowd there for drinks and oysters and other small plates that are offered on the menu both at lunch and dinner. The room emptied out by 7:30 but filled up fast with a lively dinner crush.
This second go-round on the same day gave me the chance to try more small dishes and two extraordinary dinner entrees. We shared a platter of 6 oysters to start ($14) that included two each of Winterpoints from West Bath, Pemaquids from Damariscotta and John’s River from South Bristol. There are several sauce accoutrements offered—and you must definitely try the frozen gazpacho, which is like having ices with oysters. Divine!
Next up were the grilled squid salad and the North Atlantic sea bream. The salad is fabulous. Perfectly grilled squid is accompanied by little thimbles of cubed potato, sprinkled with paprika and moistened with egg yolk that’s gone through the sous vide process, rendering it into an incredibly luxurious sauce. This is a must have dish. But so too is the sea bream, with flecks of pineapple and coconut.
For entrees we had the roasted seaweed-wrapped branzino and the grilled Nova Scotia swordfish belly. These were two of the best seafood entrees I’ve had in Portland. Whole fish is a pain to dissect but I lifted the central bone off easily and the fish was incredibly moist. The accompanying wheat berry salad, broccoli rabe and lemon confit added essential elements of flavor.
The swordfish was another winner beautifully presented with bok choy, Chinese mustard and daikon.
Quirky, idiosyncratic and other indulgences notwithstanding, Eventide--new and novel beyond compare--has already become a scene stealer amongst so many others in town as the ever changing lexicon of Portland’s dining options deliriously come our way so fast and furiously.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinions. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com