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John Golden

John Golden writes about food and has a highly opinionated blog, The Golden Dish.

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Posted: May 4, 2015

The Press Hotel and Union Restaurant will set the new standard of elegance in Portland when it opens later this week

Written by: John Golden

Over the weekend I went through the new Press Hotel and its restaurant, Union, for a sneak peek. While I was asked not to show any photos of the interiors, which are still in the last-minute stages of completion, what I saw was already pretty impressive. In the restaurant there’s banquette seating covered in suede throughout most of the room, which can accommodate 90 diners including bar seating facing the magnificent open kitchen.

The Exchange Street entrance at the Press Hotel

The Exchange Street entrance at the Press Hotel

The level of design is very sophisticated and cool, like no other hotel or dining space in the city, and without the usual brick walls and wood-raftered ceilings.

The hotel lobby, seating areas and lobby bar are creamily soft in high design—a look that says loud and clear this is a seriously chic boutique hotel on a par with those in major cities like New York, LA, Chicago and Boston. It reminded me somewhat of the SoHo Grand in New York, perhaps less staged but still quite posh.

If Portland is to have so-called power rooms, the hotel bar, lobby and restaurant will qualify. Leave your baseball caps at home! Union will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’m certain many of you are asking if Portland is ready for such a stylish shot of urbanity in our low-key port city. Perhaps it’s time that Portland grows up from its gritty quaintness while keeping the charm of the old and letting the millennial age come through. We’ve shown how accepting we are in embracing our extraordinary restaurants.  So now it’s time to complete the circle and be a city with fine places to eat, live, shop, work and play.

See below for a sample menu and photos of what the food will be like from executive chef Joshua Berry who was hand-picked by Arrows pros Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier in a series of cooking demonstrations that awarded him the top post.  Many people were surprised that Mark and Clark are no longer affiliated with the hotel, but bear in mind they were hired as consultants to get the restaurant going, design the kitchen and oversee the creation of the menu. Perhaps there’s more to the story, but that’s not important any longer.

The style of cuisine is very much a farm-to-table concept, one that is just absolutely natural to Maine because so many specialty farmers are practically at our doorstep. It’s not the complete menu but rather a broad outline of what will be coming out of the Union kitchen.

Sample dishes: top, Casco Bay cod with clams; bottom, l to r: buratta with peas and asparagus; housemade pappardellel with marjoram and Pecorino

Sample dishes: top, Casco Bay cod with clams; bottom, l to r: buratta with peas and asparagus; housemade pappardelle with marjoram and Pecorino and roast pork with spring vegetables

 

S M A L L P L AT E S

Golden Lentil Soup Vadouvan Curry | Local Yogurt Creme Cilantro
Salt Cod Croquettes Stewed Apricots | Kalamata Petite Greens
Farm Fresh Duck Egg White Corn Polenta | Mushroom Conserva Prosciutto Powder | Parmesan
Panisse Chickpea Fritter | House Preserved Lemon Aioli Caper Relish | Tonnato Sauce
Maine Mackerel Escabeche | Marinated Carrots Pickled Shallots
Local Dairy Buratta Guinciale | Spring Peas | Olive Oil Asparagus | Crostini
Flash Seared Tuna Shaved Scallions | Charred Lemon Ponzu Toasted Garlic | Tear Drop Chilies

G R I L L E D

Maine Salmon Lemongrass-Ginger Broth Vegetable Premieres | Cilantro
Aged Beef Coulotte Steak Black Garlic | Roast Up State Potatoes Oyster Mushroom | Radish | Artisan Salt

 

B R A I S E D and S A U T E E D

Confit Spring Farm Lamb Shoulder
Roast Heirloom Carrots | Local Honey Watercress | GreekYogurt | Za’atar Spice
New England Shellfish
Lobster | Clams | Scallops Yellow Pepper Emulsion | Sea Beans House Preserved Orange Connecticut River Shad Roe Botarga MP

 

P A N S E A R E D

Scallops
Crisp Pork Belly | Spring Dug Parsnips Spinach | Pickled Lentils
Mountain Trout
Farmed Asparagus | Morel Mushrooms Pea Tendrils | New Potatoes | Local Cream

 

R O A S T E D

Casco Bay Cod
Littleneck Clams | Soy Brown Butter Bok-Choy | Chinese Fermented Sausage
Farm Fresh Chicken
Confit Thigh |White Corn Grits Braising Greens | Thyme Jus

 

P A S T A and G R A I N S

Pappardelle Pasta
Poached Farm Egg | ’Nduja Sausage Marjoram | Pecorino | Chili
Ricotta Gnocchi
Hand Picked Maine Lobster Spring Peas & Carrot | Chive Beure Monte

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