Dine Out Maine critic James Schwartz's lowest star rating yet goes to Bistro 233 in Yarmouth. The tone of the 1.5 star review is disappointed rather than scathing, though, as Schwartz even enlists the aid of a 13 year old neighbor for a second visit to test if having a kid in tow would help the restaurant's self-described "family" experience (it would not).
Schwartz illuminates aptly the dilemma facing many of Maine's restaurants, which seem to be losing ground to those that embrace the Buy Local mentality and get truly hands-on with their dishes:
In a metropolitan area filled with good restaurants, in a state where farmers and bakers and butchers increasingly provide the finest quality products, you don't have to go out and pay restaurant prices for second-rate food — even if you do like the booths and the music and the waitresses.
One of the only dishes the critic enjoys at the restaurant is the carrot cake ($6) — but the fact that it's sourced from food distributor NorthCenter rather than made in-house seems to dampen his enthusiasm. This issue of non-local desserts is a recurring theme in Schwartz's reviews, as with the uninspired sea salt caramel gelato "store-bought from Talenti" at Artemisia or the "bland slice" of Junior's cheesecake from New York City at Timber. (On the other hand, Timber touts non-local meat, which didn't stop Schwartz from awarding it four stars.)
In any case, from the shrimp skewers ("overcooked, rubbery and bland," $13) and the Chicken Sambuca Carbonara ("too much cream, too much sweetness, too much salt, too much cheese," $20) to the overdressed Asian Salad ($13) and Classic Caesar Salad with chicken ($12), few dishes at Bistro 233 avoid criticism. The highlights: grilled salmon ($24) was "simple and tasty" and the bacon burger with Swiss and fries ($12) "was actually pretty good." It sounds like Yarmouth could use the infusion of fresh blood coming soon.