Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shepherd's Pie: Rockport Maine

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As I mentioned on Friday, we made plans to hit Shepherd's Pie in Rockport Maine for dinner after noticing that it was a semi-finalist for a "Best New Restaurant" Beard award and was only slightly out of our way on the road from Boston to Bucksport. It's so new that it's not on Google Maps and doesn't have a webpage yet, but not so new that it hasn't been written up...  with reviews out there from The Globe and Maine Magazine. Those are going to be your best bet for information from actual qualified restaurant reviewers, but I will share my non-expert thoughts nonetheless... because what else is the internet for if not that?

The current menu is located here, and seems to change seasonally, so it's possible that when you read this the dishes I mention won't be available. Your loss, since they were all excellent. Vegetarians will notice that the menu does not appear particularly veggie friendly, with no main courses without meat, however they do offer vegetarians the option of a plate of 5 sides for $20... and the sides are all really good. Some of them are made with chicken stock (like the grits) or animal fat so make sure you ask. The restaurant itself is quite cute with a lovely tin ceiling, dark wood all around, and an open kitchen. We arrived at 5 o'clock on a Friday and the place was unsurprisingly empty that early, but by the time we left around 6:30 there was a two table deep wait... and this was in February, not July (admittedly a day or two after they were probably all over the local news for being semi-finalists for a Beard award). Regardless, I would advise arriving early, as I suspect it's going to be The Hot Thing in the area for a while.

I had the fried clam tacos with avocado, cabbage, green tomato and a side of potatoes confit with crème fraiche, while Anna got the aforementioned plate of side dishes, selecting: refried chickpeas in lemon, parsley, garlic... heirloom cauliflower with tomato, olives, sheep's milk feta... shoe string onions... fried brussel sprouts in a chili vinaigrette and a bibb lettuce salad with fennel, shallot dressing. Everything was excellent, though the shoe string onions, while quite well prepared, suffered from comparison to the other... more interesting... side dishes. Note that the side plate is quite a bit of food...  if you're not famished you might want to stick to 3 or so sides to make out your meal. I particularly liked the potatoes confit (not vegetarian), though they made me feel silly for having a fridge full of duck fat and never making them myself.

They had a number of interesting beers available, a good wine list, and several specialty cocktails. The overall impression I got was one of a neighborhood bar made a bit fancy...  not fancy in an pretentious way, but  more in how they've taken a pub's comfort food and elevated it into snazzy bistro fare.

Worth a trip if you are ever "Down East". 

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