Reader Review of this French Restaurant
in Portland, Maine's Old Port
Guest Review submitted by: Rick
Rating: Three gold leaves. Pretty good.
Bandols delicate French cuisine is so filled with subtle flavor that it is worthy of being called poetry on a plate. However, try to picture that poetry set to words in such miniscule handwriting that it is hard to read and impossible to remember.
Taking it one step further, imagine a poem of nine stanzas where each one abruptly ends after the first line. While some may consider the sheer brevity of chef Erik Desjarlais offerings a blessing, others are likely to view it as a curse.
Located on upper Exchange Street in Portlands Old Port district, Bandol treats patrons to a quiet, intimate dining room; the minimalist decor provides the first hint of your dining experience. Neutral walls with colorful posters, crisp white linens and gleaming white china become the perfect foil for presenting chef Desjarlais culinary arts. When we arrived for our 8:00 reservations, the dozen or so tables were filled. The friendly hostess apologized for the delay and invited us to enjoy a glass of champagne at the small bar that divides the room in half.
After a short wait, we were escorted to the first available table that happened to be closest to the kitchen. My date chose to sit against the wall. An artfully placed wine rack discreetly blocked her from the open-door kitchen, while my seat in the aisle provided a clear view of the chef plying his trade. It also made me wonder if the music flowing through the door was solely for the chefs enjoyment or intended to entertain his guests.
The menu has fixed-price five-course or nine-course offerings. We each ordered the nine courses ($89 per person) and opted for the wine pairing ($45 per person) to accompany each course. However, after each receiving a half-glass of champagne with our first course--one small oyster on the half-shell adorned with a dollop of black caviar and a hint of minced shallot all sitting on a thimble of salt --the next three courses arrived without wine. When we asked our waitress if this was by design, she seemed genuinely surprised and apologized for the oversight. Although she quickly presented us with a delightful white burgundy, we were still disappointed at the three opportunities lost. From that point, the wine pairing was a bit uneven but did arrive on time. We had the impression that the glass of 94 Château dYquem Sauterne that accompanied our dessert course was an apology for all the confusion.
While each course was artfully plated and loaded with flavor, the stingy, bite-sized portions were far more appropriate as hors doeuvres. Even the single serving of a rock-hard, bon-bon size roll was a bit disconcerting. After spending $250 (before the tip), you should not leave a restaurant wondering if its too late to grab a hot dog at your local convenience store. All in all, while we felt the quality was excellent and the atmosphere was intimate and friendly, the value received for the money we spent was totally underwhelming. It is one dining experience we do not plan to repeat.
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