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Old World At Squire Tarbox; An Asian Trio

"The novel calm of a carousel, not the thrill of a roller coaster," is how Nancy Heiser describes the food at the Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport Island, near Wiscasset for her 3 1/2-star review in The Portland Press Herald. In a an "unusual and historic setting with a lovely and tranquil ambiance," the owners, chef Mario De Pietro, a native of Switzerland, and his wife, Roni, serve mostly Old World-style food, organic vegetables grown in their garden and "two or three times a year," local lamb, which the chefs butchers himself.

In general, how much you enjoy Squire Tarbox's regular entrees will depend on how much you enjoy food that doesn't shy away from cream, butter, bacon fat, and potatoes. Those who prefer a gentle simplicity, where the same high-quality ingredients are more likely to be prepared with olive oil and garlic and a lighter touch, will be less excited by the food options here, as will those who crave novelty and fireworks.

An un-bylined reviewer for Portland Monthly magazine has only raves for Zen Chinese Bistro in Portland, starting with the service: "the warmest, kindest and most attentive I've encountered almost anywhere."

Put that together with the high-end Chinese cuisine (invigorated by Japanese and Thai), snappy decor with beautiful Brazilian hardwood, sensational cocktails, good brews, and fabulous wines, and you've got a sure-fire winner at this legendary location on Pleasant Street.
Brian Duff of The Portland Phoenix, himself no stranger to hyperbole, calls Tao "the newest, best reason to go to Brunswick," for "Chinese-inflected dishes that are surprising and delightful."
Tao seamlessly brings foreign techniques and flavors to bear on local ingredients like Maine blueberries and local scallops. The kitchen is run by Cara Stadler with help from her mother, which sounds quaint. But in fact Stadler has a bewilderingly impressive globe-trotting resume, including stints at celebrated restaurants in California, Paris, and Shanghai.
For the Eat Maine blog, Joe Ricchio visits yet another Asian restaurant, Kushiya Benkay, Portland's first izakaya-style Japanese eatery, "a watering hole of sorts that specializes in small, delicious snacks to accompany one's beverage of choice." Open until 2 a.m. on weekends, the menu includes a range of meats grilled on sticks, sushi rolls and noodle dishes, which are "generally consumed when the drinking session nears its late-night conclusion." Ricchio samples all manner of yakitori:
beginning with grilled Bluefin tuna belly topped with shichimi tograshi, which translates to "seven flavor chili pepper" and leading into insanely tender beef tongue, chicken livers, scallops, beef short ribs, pork belly, chicken hearts, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and chicken thighs. The skewers are served with three options for dipping—a sweeter, miso-based sauce that my companion refers to as "satisfying in the same manner as Duck Sauce," a sweet chili sambal of sorts, and a small mound of green tea salt.

· Squire Tarbox Inn Does Old World Food In A Tranquil Way [PPH]
· Zen &The Art of Far East Cuisine [PM]
· The Newest, Best Reason To Go To Brunswick [PP]
· Kushiya Benkay, Portland [Eat Maine]

[Photo: langleytoday.ca]

Squire Tarbox Inn

1181 Main Road, Westport Island, ME