So you want to take on a large dining space with a string of failed former occupants and a reputation for bad mojo. In that case it'd be wise to start exorcising demons with a strong game plan.
Example: Ebb and Flow, opening Thursday, November 6 at 100 Commercial Street. An experienced chef specializing in seafood-heavy Mediterranean cuisine has teamed up with a seasoned local fishmonger to provide a menu oddly uncommon in Portland's crowded restaurant market. The partnership between chef William D'Auvray and Angelo Ciocca of Nova Seafoods is a solid foundation upon which a new - and hopefully lasting - addition to the Old Port has been built.
The restaurant soft opened over the weekend and early this week, giving staff time to practice for the real thing. As seen in a photo preview, the interior design is striking, both elegant and warm, and a major departure from the look of previous incarnation Spread. A couple of features that are not quite ready as of opening day are the crudo bar and the grow wall, which will have LED lighting to nourish herbs or microgreens for in-house use.
The soft opening menu was slightly less comprehensive than the full menu, which can be seen below (sans pricing, which should be on the final menu - MaineToday coverage suggested appetizers will be $8 - $14, mains $15 - $25, and some steaks higher). Highlights included the Cauliflower, Chorizo, Rock Crab soup, the Lamb Keftedakia, the Seared Maine Scallops with a surprising Lemon Caramel, and D'Auvray's secret cheesecake recipe (which he refuses to give even to his mother, he explained solemnly). The restaurant may need to install a take-out window for the freshly made pita bread, which is bound to be a hit. Desserts and crudo will change daily, and are therefore not listed on the menu.
See previous coverage of the space, and share your thoughts once you've had a chance to try Ebb and Flow, custom-designed to ship negative spirits out with the tide.
100 Commercial Street, Portland, (207) 780-0227, website. Hours to start: Monday - Thursday 5 - 10 p.m., Friday - Saturday 5 - 11 p.m. Closed on Sunday for now, but brunch and lunch are coming once dinner is running smoothly. Reservations will be available through OpenTable.