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Reviewers Enchanted By Tao, Natalie's, The Last Unicorn

The dining room at Tao in Brunswick.
The dining room at Tao in Brunswick.
Photo: Tao

This week has been especially rich in restaurant reviews from around the state - Portland, Waterville, even Fort Kent. The November issues of the magazines have contributed, of course, but bloggers and even TV stations have been busy chowing down.

The "unique and deeply flavored" tapas-style dishes at Tao in Brunswick are inspired by the places chef Cara Stadler has lived and worked: France, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Maine, writes an enchanted Nancy Heiser in the November issue of DownEast magazine. She is enchanted by small plates of smoked duck over buckwheat noodles and Stadler's version of "grandma Tang's roast pork buns" with the pork prepared sous vide. "The presentation was like opening little gifts throughout the evening." In the magazine, large photos show Tao's modern, serene interior, which is perhaps why Heiser doesn't describe it, focusing instead on the food and Stadler's vision for the restaurant.

I want to introduce new things ... There is so much amazing food in the world. The people in Brunswick are up for new adventures and taking a leap of faith. It's really nice to see.

The Last Unicorn, a quirky Central Maine favorite with a "legendary" menu surprises Shonna Milliken Humphrey, who gives the Waterville restaurant 4 stars in The Portland Press Herald.

... friends suggested the restaurant would be good, but in my ignorance, I expected "good" would include a "for the area" disclaimer. Not so. The Last Unicorn's menu is ambitious, and its unifying theme seems to be flavor
The biggest flavors are on the specials menu, "where the fun happens," which may include "Housemade Harvest Ravioli with Amaretto Cream and Toasted Almonds," or "Tennessee George's Sweet Whiskey Grilled Pork Tenderloin." For dessert? "Magnificent, decadent and food dream-worthy" Coffee Toffee Pie.

In the November issue of Maine Magazine, it takes Joe Ricchio a little while to get into the actual dining experience at Natalie's at the Camden Harbor Inn - enthralled as he is with his luxurious surroundings in the inn's Royal Dutch Suite. Once he tears himself away for dinner, he finds equal pleasure in chef Geoffroy Deconinck's tasting menu at Natalie's, which "inspires the belief that the restaurant is truly one of the finest in the country." The dining room has been designed "to recreate the feel of a Parisian brasserie, though one that is decidedly more modern," Ricchio calls the look "bordello chic." After a meal of "braised short-rib croquette," pickled mackerel with roasted beets and "a succulent duck breast in all its medium-rare glory," the "crescendo of the meal" are hot beignets, "what I want to eat every single morning of my life."

Emily Burnham's first taste of real ramen set the bar high — after her experience at Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC, she despaired of finding anything even remotely comparable in Maine. In a review and video for the Bangor Daily News, she reveals that her "noodle dreams" have been fulfilled at Pai Men Miyake in Portland. "Ramen is one of the world's great comfort foods, and fortunately, there's a place to find it here in Maine."

For his review of Flores in The Portland Phoenix, Brian Duff uses his descriptive skills to paint a vivid picture of the "good hole in the wall" Salvadoran restaurant in Portland.

It feels like you have stumbled into a Wong Kar-Wai movie set — like the lunch spot in Chungking Express in fact. They even have a girl behind the counter who looks like an actress playing a girl behind the counter.
Oh, and the food - particularly the pupusas — is pretty good too.

In the blogs: For Eat Maine, Amy Anderson checks in on her hometown of Brunswick, where Henry and Martyis "all about feeding people local, healthy, comforting food." The Bedells of From Away have lunch at Sunfire Mexican Grill in Rockland, one of the city's "casual, cozy eateries where the food is like home cooking, but you don't have to do the dishes." The Map & Menu bloggers have an awe-inspiring dinner at Grace in Portland, where the meal and the mood are "simply divine."

And finally, on TV: WAGM's "Eats, Treats & Sweets features Mill Bridge restaurant in Fort Kent, with a wall of windows looking out onto the Fish River and American comfort food. WABI highlights Red Sky in Southwest Harbor, where "service is almost like a choreographed dance."

· Brunswick's Best New Restaurant [DE]
· The Last Unicorn's Special Menu The Stuff of Legends [PPH]
· Natalie's At The Camden Harbor Inn [MM]
· Real Ramen At Portland's Pai Men Miyake [BDN]
· The New Salvadoran Spot On Congress Is A Must-Taste [PP]
· Henry and Marty, Brunswick [Eat Maine blog]
· Sunfire Mexican Grill [FA]
· Grace: Portland [M&M]
· Eats, Treats & Sweets: Mill Bridge Restaurant [WGAM]
· The Maine Course: Red Sky [WABI]


Grace

15 Chestnut Street, Portland, ME 04101 207-828-4422 Visit Website

Pai Men Miyake

188 State St., Portland, ME 04101 207-541-9204 Visit Website

Natalie's at Camden Harbour Inn

83 Bayview Street, Camden, ME 04843 207-236-7008

Tao Restaurant

22 Pleasant St. Brunswick, ME