Portland, Maine is the foodie paradise featuring some of the freshest seafood in the country. Lobster is king here and the title of “Best Lobster Roll” is a highly coveted honor. Yet, there is more to the city’s food scene that just lobster. This article isn’t about where to find another lobster roll, instead, it’s about something different in an unlikely place, a hotel restaurant. The new chef at Portland Harbor Hotel’s BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood Restaurant is bringing his Miami roots and flair to classic New England ingredients. With a new menu and attitude, make plans for dinner and experience what’s new.
BlueFin’s New Chef & New Menu
Recently, a group of friends and I gathered in Portland, Maine. While there, we were invited to BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood Restaurant to sample the new spring menu from their new Executive Chef, Gil Plaster. Hailing from Miami, this chef arrived mid-March and has been hard at work revamping the kitchen, the menu, and the city’s perception of the restaurant. In the past, critics have said the menu and food left them feeling a little blue. Yet today the chef and his team are turning things and that is apparent in the flavors. Menus will change seasonally utilizing fresh, local ingredients. For current menu offerings, visit their website.
Hotel Restaurant = the Hidden Gem
Hotel dining often gets a back rap. Many travelers skip hotel restaurants in lieu of other options. It could be the fear that quality isn’t there, lack of crowds, atmosphere, or another reason. Visitors and locals are finding that BlueFin’s new team is doing things much better. The decor is relaxed and features tables and lounge areas around a central fireplace. My favorite area had comfortable couches around low coffee tables overlooking the garden area. When the weather is nice, outdoor seating is available in that area. This downtown Portland, Maine restaurant is a great place to come and enjoy a meal or have drinks and hot apps with friends. The chef says popular dishes on the new menu include seared scallops, ciopinio, grilled burgers, and the tuna burger.
BlueFin Restaurant Must Try Dishes
During my visit, we got to sample some amazing dishes. Some were popular menu items, while others were not. These are the items that I really enjoyed and would recommend you try on your next visit.
Crispy Pork Belly Lollipops with Candied Jalapeño
Seriously one of the simplest and best hot apps I’ve had in a while. Could be because pork belly is just another version of bacon and you know how I know bacon. (If you don’t, I REALLY LOVE bacon. It and butter are the reasons I can’t consider going vegan.) Back to pork belly lollipops. They are small cubes of pork belly seasoned and seared for a crispy crust. When you take a bite, it just melts in your mouth. Then the candied jalapeño finishes the bite with a little sweet heat. Divine!
Imagine a rich garlicky butter sauce with large chunks of Portland Lobster. That’s what you’ll enjoy when you order this baked hot app that gets its name from a play on words with escargot. The lobster bites are topped with a herbed crumble and served with toasted crostini. Portion sizes are great to share, but order a second one because you won’t want to after you take your first bite.
Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad
This refreshing salad with sliced heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions, arugula, pistachio crumble, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic drizzle isn’t actually on the menu. At least it wasn’t when we dined there in May, but the chef is playing around with the recipe to future inclusion. The pickled onions and pistachio crumble make this salad. It adds another layer of flavor to the freshly made mozzarella and tomatoes that improves their flavor. Each bite is a burst of refreshing flavor. If you don’t see it on the menu, ask your server.
Asian Tuna Loin
This seared tuna basted with a miso glaze and served with braised Bok Choy, cold Soba noodle salad, wasabi and miso garnish is my favorite entree. Not your typical New England dish, but the flavors are on point. I ordered my tuna as rare as possible with just a smidge of crust. That’s what I received and it was flavorful. The dressed cold noodles and braised Bok Choy complimented the tuna and added layer upon layer of flavor.
Seared Sea Scallops with Mushroom Risotto
Sea scallops are amazing when cooked perfectly. The BlueFin kitchen team has mastered it. Served atop a creamy mushroom risotto, each bite is fantastic. I did find the risotto to be on the salty side, but when paired with a bite of scallop it was well balanced. I like salty food, but if you don’t ask them to go easy on the salt.
I can’t talk about “What to Eat in Portland” without talking about dessert. I’m not a cake or a chocolate person. But offer an ice cream, flan, or creme brûlée and I’m all in. At BlueFin, I loved the Creme Brûlée. Like a few others things at the restaurant, it isn’t quite what you’d expect. Here it isn’t served in the traditional wide, low rimmed dish for optimal brunt sugar crust. It was served in a dessert bowl topped with fresh fruit. I missed a little of that cracked sugar crust, but flavors were on point.
Overall BlueFin Restaurant in Portland, Maine is a great dining experience. You can get the classic steamed lobster dinner or their version of a lobster roll (Lobster Popover), but why not try something different. The new kitchen team is turning our great flavors, new ideas, and a dining experience you’ll want to try when you are here.
Thank you to BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood Restaurant for complimentary meal for content consideration. All opinions are my own. Menu items are current as of publication.