The double whammy of pandemic and labor shortage eighty-sixed a lot of fine dining in Portland. Gone are Hugo’s, Piccolo, and Drifters Wife, to name a few. But momentum lately seems to have swung firmly back in the other direction. Bon Appétit named 2022 debutant Regards one of the country’s 50 best new restaurants, while the New York Times listed Twelve and Leeward as two of the year’s 50 best overall. Last year’s James Beard Awards tapped Chaval’s Damien Sansonetti, Cong Tu Bot’s Vien Dobui, and Woodford Food & Beverage’s Courtney Loreg as semifinalists for best chef in the Northeast, and this year’s semifinalist list repeats Loreg and adds Fore Street’s Tony Pastor and Isa’s Isaul Perez.
Has any news been more welcome, though, than the return of Miyake (468 Fore Street, Portland. 207-871-9170)? Chef Masa Miyake has been a Portland fixture since 2007, and he opened his elegant sushi bar in 2011, only to close it in 2020 and keep it closed, through a stretch of takeout-only service and renovations, until last December. Now, broiled Maine sea urchin, lobster tempura, and glistening cuts of raw tuna, mackerel, and snapper are back — a sure sign that Portland’s restaurant scene isn’t anywhere near swimming with the fishes.