I’m starting this thread for the places I stopped at during my recent Maine trip. I ate extremely well, and did a ton of walking to not gain weight. I had been looking forward to trying several high end places. I also limited my alcohol consumption at most meals, and made this as close to a seafood-but-not-fried trip as possible. This is not necessarily in chronological order, and if the pictures are too large I may repost them in a smaller size later.
Twelve (Thames St, Portland). I had not been over to the streets where Twelve is located since the Wex buildings were completed, and it was surprising to see the completed construction in the area. I walked over from Franklin Street area via the walking path, and was right there at the building.
I walked into Twelve for a 745 reservation on Saturday and was seated at the chef’s counter. The person seated next to me was in from Michigan after dropping his son off at a sailing camp. He was eating his chocolate pudding and was clearly not only loving it but trying to get as much of it as possible on his spoon. When he cleared his plate, he said “You will love it here (Twelve), and you have to get the mushrooms.” I was going to get the monkfish in the $82 tasting menu, so I asked my server Andrew if it was possible to also have the mushroom dish in addition to the regular menu. He jokingly said something about knowing the right people, or something close to that.
Unfortunately, I did not take specific notes of what I had. The amuse bouche (pictured here) was a seafood flavor explosion in my mouth. My new friend laughed at the look on my face when I bit into it, and asked if I liked it. I said that it was amazing - I used that word a lot - and that I absolutely made the right decision to have an extra dish.
My first plate was a vegetable (zucchini?) dish. Again, loaded with flavors, and a light addition to the tasting menu.
Because I was seated at the counter, I got to watch the team up close. There was no screaming, no confusion, just dedication and careful work on making sure that each dish was prepared perfectly. Although the restaurant had only been open for two weeks and I think the staff came from many different restaurants, you would have assumed they had been open for two years.
The tomato tonnato similar to a small arepa, tomatoes that were seemingly packed with extra concentrated tomato flavor, and an orange/red egg. Again, flavors exploded in the mouth. Monkfish was melt in the mouth perfect, with a broth filled with trout roe, enabling multiple layers of fish taste to take over my palate. I was so happy they gave me a spoon with this so I could finish all the delicious broth. The menu undersells the number of ingredients that were being prepared with each dish.
That mushroom dish? A must-get not just for vegetarians, but for anyone. I don’t often get mushrooms by themselves, but had a feeling that they would be worth it here. I was right.
Although I didn’t get the steak, I watched as the chef salted the steak - cooked it almost all the way - took it out, checked temperature, then salted / butter? it a little more, and finished it to gorgeous perfection. I have no doubt based on the look it would taste amazing, and I think I overheard preparation temperature was in the high 120s, which would be medium rare. I believe from pictures his name was Cameron, who my research shows worked at high end establishments in Chicago and Boston, and he periodically checked on how the food was.
I do not like talking to chefs at a higher end restaurant when they are cooking - every moment spent talking to me is time that might be needed to monitor or prepare someone else’s dish. When I told my server how excellent the food was, he mentioned that to Cameron, who had gotten very busy again. He smiled, I told him I didn’t like talking while he was working, and he laughed and said how he’s prepared for this all his life. There truly was an enthusiasm behind the counter, and an enjoyment for the preparation of this food.
My final plate was an ice cream bar of blueberries and corn macaron, very filling and very delicious. I had non-alcoholic drinks here, both of which were perfect complements to a warm summer day.
I have no critique about Twelve - I absolutely loved it. I appreciated the simultaneous flavors working together, and it was obvious there was serious prep involved before the restaurant ever opened for the evening. However, I can definitely say it is NOT for someone who doesn’t appreciate those qualities in their dinner, or is looking for quantity as their main measuring stick for a meal.
After the meal was over, manager Danny (I’m guessing that he is the person who formerly worked at Per Se) came over to check how the meal was. And before that, Andrew surprised me when he said they had comped the mushroom dish! Thank you, friend from Michigan who recommended the dish. Thank you (Cameron? Danny? Chef Colin?) for comping me the dish. And thanks all at Twelve for a meal that will not soon be forgotten.