Portland’s gone gaga over baba ganoush, baklava, kebabs and more at our burgeoning fine dining establishments who feature pan-Mediterranean and Middle Eastern menus.
One way to get past the frigid, snowy doldrums of weather that have blanketed us this winter is to swath our souls in the sunny skies of Mediterranean cooking – the new hot-plate specials taking place at two of Portland’s biggest restaurants. And a third is on the way.
Now that Tiqa and Ebb and Flow are firmly established (and in record time), the newest entrant promises to be a swank-moderne palace of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine – a bit of Beirut on Fore Street in the Old Port. It will open in the late spring at the corner retail space of the Hyatt Place Hotel. The restaurant, called EVO, is the brainchild of Casey Prentice, who also owns the Chebeague Island Inn and a principal of the Prentice Hospitality Group; he’s also a partner in the massive urban renewal efforts going on a 58 Fore Street, the former home of the Portland Company’s oceanfront boat-building compound.
Here’s a sneak peak (below) of what the new space will look like. It will seat 36 on the main level and mezzanine with a dining bar around the open kitchen. Executive chef is Brandon Hicks, who also oversees the kitchen at the Chebeague Island Inn as well has having had a solid background at some of New York’s top-rated Michelin starred restaurants. Executive sous chef is Matt Ginn, formerly executive chef of Five Fifty-Five in Portland as well as L’Espalier in Boston. With a duo like that, a bit of Casablanca’s “Play it again, Sam” will fine-tune Portland’s culinary bravura to an international fever pitch.
Meanwhile we’ve still got some plenty of good eats amongst the two thriving newbies who’ve joined Portland’s culinary ranks. Last week I enjoyed a triple dose of Middle-East/Mediterranean cooking dining at Ebb and Flow for dinner Tuesday, followed by a Friday night meal at Tiqa, and concluded with a superb sampling of Tiqa’s new weekend brunch menu that includes Middle-Eastern style eggs Benedict and poached egg tomato hot-pepper pot.
Bel hana wel shefa (Bon Appetit)