Restaurant Grace, 15 Chestnut Street, Portland, Maine
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Full of Grace, Portland, Maine
My experience at the restaurant, Grace encapsulates my love of Portland, Maine. I had asked around for the best place to have a drink on a Saturday night. The consistent answer: "You HAVE to see Grace." Rarely did people stress the food or drinks, but instead it was the locale and space that provided the need for this to be an essential visit. As soon as I walked in, I understood. For Grace exists in a renovated Methodist Church, Circa 1856. The kitchen sits below the organ. Patrons dine in place of former pews. And the circular bar rests below vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. It is the perfect spot to begin an evening. I started with the Afterglow, a house infused maple-orange-fig Bourbon. It was warming on a cool evening. My first course, pork cretons were...fine. The bartender had described the dish as a Quebecois pate and in fact what arrived was a cylinder of rustic pork served with mustard and pickles. However, while the portion was generous, the pate was a bit too cold and underseasoned. As the initial chill wore off and I added a bit of salt, the dish improved. However, my salad exceeded my expectations. A wonderful mix of watercress and arugula was served with a poached pear and poached crab apple. The fruit was nestled in the ubiquitous foam that shows up so often on menus these days. However, here the intense acid of the lemon foam and the fresh pepper played beautifully off of the bite of the greens. My dish was missing the walnuts, but had just enough blue cheese to make this a substantial starter. You can make reservations to eat at Grace for dinner, where entrees hover around $20. Or do as I did-get the bar on the early side, be seated immediately and feel free to order from either the bar menu or the regular one. But you get a chance to see the restaurant at play and to experience the glory of the space.