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Chris Gould was sleeping when the text messages started coming in Tuesday morning, congratulating him on the news that his Portland restaurant, Central Provisions, had been named one of Bon Appétit’s 10 “Best New Restaurants in America.”
“I don’t know who reads the news at 7 a.m., but apparently a lot of people,” Gould said. He was taking a rare day off to visit with his family on Cushing Island, while his wife, Paige, handled lunch service at Central Provisions.
“All we really do is try to make good food and strong drinks … just provide hospitality,” said Paige Gould on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s really nice to be recognized for doing a good job.”
A week ago, when the 50 nominees were announced, Palace Diner in Biddeford was also named. Both it and Central Provisions have been reviewed by the Portland Press Herald in the past year and were awarded 5 stars, the paper’s highest rating.
Compiled by Bon Appétit restaurant and drinks editor Andrew Knowlton, the list, also known as the “Hot Ten,” has been the centerpiece of the magazine’s September issue since 2011. This is the first time a Maine restaurant has made the list.
“There are a lot of big-name chefs that opened restaurants this year – and it’s not their first restaurant. Just to be on the list with those people, it’s pretty impressive,” said Chris Gould.
Describing Central Provisions, which came in at No. 6, Knowlton wrote:
“Chef Christopher Gould isn’t just pairing pristine slices of fish with really good olive oil, sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon at his rustic restaurant in Portland, Maine. He’s also garnishing pieces of yellowfin tuna with radish, sesame seeds, tangy mustard-soy vinaigrette, and slivers of fried shallots in what eats like a spicy tuna roll (minus the rice). Paper-thin slices of fluke get a boost of heat from peppery piri-piri sauce, micro-cilantro, and a hint of lime. Scallops, meanwhile, are barely warmed in rich brown butter and then showered with toasted hazelnuts for crunch—an unforgettable ode to trout amandine. Of course, there’s more to Central Provisions’s small-plates repertoire than crudo (see: crispy skate with XO sauce or caramelized sheep’s cheese with fresh peaches). But at the end of the day, you’ll find me at the restaurant’s kitchen counter, rooting for team raw all the way.”
The raw fish preparation called crudo, like sashimi and sushi, requires a sure hand, experience and pristine fish to execute properly. It’s not something many people would expect from a place like Central Provisions, but Gould is hoping Knowlton’s praise will encourage more of his customers to try it.
“From his point of view, there’s not a lot of restaurants in the country that are doing what we do with crudo,” the chef said. “If people are more keen to the fact that we are really good at that, it will be easier for us to buy more exotic fish and not be worried about what if people don’t buy it because there’s foie gras, or sweetbreads, or lamb on the menu.”
The Goulds opened Central Provisions in February in one of the Old Port’s historic brick buildings. The chef’s open kitchen and dining counter is the focus of the dining room on the Fore Street level. Below in the bar, which has an entrance on Wharf Street, bartender Patrick McDonald presides over the creation of cocktails with the same finesse Gould has established in his kitchen and his small plates menu. Sommelier Chris Peterman handles the impressive wine list and along with Paige, ensures that the busy place runs smoothly.
“Briana and Andrew (Volk, owners of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club) are dear friends,” said Paige Gould. “I think it’s great that we both got this great accolade at the same time.”
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