Eventide – the transition between day and night – is an apt name for the bustling oyster bar in the Old Port of Portland, Maine, where I happily whiled away an evening sampling some of America’s finest oysters. At its central granite bar, shuckers’ labours make for great theatre and briny Winterpoint Selects are the house speciality. As oyster season is nigh, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley have won many awards in the year since the restaurant opened – just one taste of their house-made pickles and sophisticated clam chowder with salt pork, and it’s easy to see why. Unsurprisingly, oysters on the half shell figure prominently – with nine varieties from Maine and another nine “from away” ($28 for a full dozen). A summer menu of cold items, including a refreshing Peekytoe-crab salad ($12), local halibut crudo ($11) and greens with nori vinaigrette ($7), were gleefully shared among our group.
Lovers of the classics – lobster roll ($12), fried chicken ($7) and thick sea-bass steaks – will not be disappointed by Eventide’s take on these perennial favourites. I like to think of myself as something of a connoisseur of the lobster roll – the proper ratio of meat to soft bun is key – and Eventide’s is, without exception, the best I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant’s upscale creations come with a choice of condiments – house mayo, a light hollandaise, or the brown-butter vinaigrette that I opted for, which lent a tangy, deliciously salty twist.
Savoury cocktails (from $9) washed down the food with aplomb: tequila-infused Bloody Marias, Celery Gimlets and Dirty Dirty Martinis made with oyster brine were some of the highlights sampled by our thirsty crew.
After an enormous supper in this bright, convivial setting, I was nervous of even broaching the topic of dessert. I manned up, however, and a slice of strawberry and rhubarb pie ($7) was sweetly sumptuous enough to be unforgettable.
All in all, this was a meal that is now etched on my sensory memory.