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'Beyond' At Frontier; Brunch At The Bayou Kitchen; More

Frontier dining room.
Frontier dining room.
Photo: Iis Maine

Joe Ricchio discovers what is meant by the Frontier's motto of "going beyond," admitting to "entering a state of slight sensory overload" as he navigates the restaurant/bar/art gallery/cinema in Brunswick for a review on Maine Magazine's Eat Maine blog. Settling in at the bar, he finds he is "comfortable with the vibe at Frontier. It's equally conducive to large, boisterous crowds as it is to private conversation ... It is also worth noting that patrons are permitted to bring their libations from the bar with them into the theater. Ricchio enjoys what he samples from the recently overhauled menu, including a "delicately spiced chowder loaded with fresh lump crabmeat and sweet corn" and fish and chips.

A sizeable piece of tender, flaky haddock, battered in rice flour, rests atop a pile of both regular and sweet potato fries, with ample amounts of parsley and lemon wedges to complete the classic equation. What really elevates the whole affair to the next level are the condiments, tartar sauce, and ketchup that have both been augmented with curry powder.

New Year's Eve is far from the ideal time to visit a restaurant for a review, so when The Portland Press Herald's Shonna Milliken Humphrey sat down at The Bayou Kitchen on the cusp of its afternoon closing time and ordered "almost every item on the menu," it must have seemed like a cruel joke to the staff. But she is sure to applaud them in her 4 1/2 star review: "The server's reaction was fantastic ...We heard "You have got to be kidding!" from the kitchen, but it was a good-humored shriek, and we never once felt rushed or like an inconvenience." The food, "prepared with an expert and subtle hand," equally impresses. Jambalaya and gumbo both boast "smooth, subtle and well-portioned heat wrapped in layer after layer of flavor." An egg dish, the Cajun scramble "with crawfish, Andouille sausage, sliced jalapenos and cheddar," has "enough heat in the abundance of peppers to power a furnace." And pancakes, although the box of mix on the counter reveals that the batter is not homemade, are "light and biscuit-y."

Kushiya Benkay's "Japanese pub fare," mostly delights John Golden, who spotlights the sister restaurant to "sushi emporium Benkay" on his blog for The Portland Press Herald, blog, The Golden Dish. An overcooked "deep-fried skewer of tuna kushikatsu" is "the only blooper" in his menu explorations, which include lunch and dinner bento boxes, tempura and yakitori items.

Kushiya Benkay is a very intimate and likable restaurant. The wait staff is good and so very gracious. And the food is not complicated by the usual kickshaws of more sophisticated, trendier fusion fare found in so many other places around town.

Travelin' Mainers George and Linda Smith follow one of their favorite chefs, Arturo Montes, who cooks at the BlueNose Inn in Bar Harbor from spring through fall, to Orono, where he is presiding over the kitchen at the Black Bear Inn for the winter season. "It's astonishing to us that he's cooking right now for a tiny dining room that seats only about 20 people, sort of like having him cook for you in your home." Their blog post is based on Montes' Chef's Table New Year's Eve dinner, but they point out that their "favorite course," grilled beef tenderloin Marsala, is on the regular dinner menu.

· Frontier, Brunswick [MM]
· The Bayou Kitchen's A Brunch Joint Worth The Early Visit [PPH]
· Kudos For Kushiya Benkay [TGD]
· Chef Arturo Montes Brings His Kitchen Artistry To Black Bear Inn [TM]