The Catbird Seat seats just 22 people in the evening for a tasting menu. Reservations are a must and that will give you the time when you are to arrive. The building has a club on the upstairs level but there is one blond wood door below where a small reception room with an elevator is located. The hostess will escort you to the restaurant in the order you arrive for your appointed time. Seating is at a U-shaped bar around the kitchen. Our night they did not seat those who arrived at the same time at adjacent seats so people on either side will be ahead of or behind you in receiving the set menu. People were of various ages and pretty friendly as were the 4 chefs. Chef Ryan Poli was in there cooking as well as presenting and explaining courses. His brother Matthew Poli serves as Beverage Director and has assembled a nice wine list to chose from as well as offering pairings.
The pairings are 2-3 ounce pours for $65 and they also have wines by the glass. We chose to order our own bottle of red and white and mix and match as we pleased and then for dessert Matthew was kind enough to present us with a glass of dessert wine. Rock music plays in the background and sets a nice tone along with the good sized kitchen towel that serves as a napkin. At the end of the meal you are given a copy of the menu and surprisingly it includes the wine pairings as well as descriptions of the ingredients in the dishes. It was a delightful evening of wonderful food, tasty wine and a good interactive show.
The tasting started with sashimi of Blue Fin Tuna from Casco Bay. The tuna had been marinated in 5 year old soy and kelp salt and was served alongside Russian Osetra Caviar. Both components were terrific and I believe I liked them better eaten separately than together so I could better savor the essence of each. The only ding here was no special utensil to eat the caviar with, so the metallic taste did not interfere. A simple but totally delicious course.
A Sunflower Seed Risotto coated with last of the summer truffles was amazing. The truffles had a wonderful aroma and sunflowers made for a most interesting risotto base. It was creamy with a good texture and the truffles even though mild in flavor were a great addition to the dish. I particularly loved the nutty crunch of the sunflower seeds.
Two pastas made up the next course and we each received one and so sharing and passing of bowls was in order. A Wakame Seaweed pasta was covered with grated dried smoked scallops (or scallop Bottarga). The pasta was cooked perfectly and the smokey scallop addition was most interesting. It gave it a bit of texture in addition to the pasta and creamy tasty sauce.
The other pasta was made from red miso and mixed with sea urchin butter and Maine lobster with a hint of chilies. Black sesame and scallions added to the outstanding flavor blast. It was marvelous. Small chunks of lobster gave it a chew and the sesame seeds a crunch. The ingredients blended together to make an incredible dish.
We watched the cauliflower being grilled for the next course. It was marinated in sake and and served on a tasty cashew puree alongside a butter poached turnip. But the secret here was the final brushing with aged beef fat. A rich, sweet and wonderfully savory dish. The turnip had a lovely texture and was cut in a long rectangle that made it look like a rolled up long flat noodle. The coating of beef fat totally amped up the flavor of the grilled cauliflower. A real winner here.
We also watched the umami crusted Bearcreek Farm beef strip loin being carved and then received our portion with smoked tofu puree and a roasted Cipollini onion. The beef had been aged 25 days and the crust tasted like it also contained a number of sweet and savory spices. The tofu puree was a tad smokey. The meat was tender but not as fatty as some so it didn’t burst in your mouth but it was plenty tasty and worked great with the other ingredients.
A palate cleanser of Earl Grey panna cotta was enhanced with crumbled tea biscuit and dip & dots milk ice cream. The dots are made of raw milk and the cookie a buttery shortbread – a killer combo. Sweet and creamy with some varying textures, you couldn’t fault this one at all. It was yummy!
The Catbird “Snickers” was peanut butter sorbet on top of dark chocolate cremeux and salted caramel cream then topped with a crispy peanut slice. You were to break up the peanut ‘glass’ to mix in with the other ingredients and the result was better than any Snickers bar I’ve ever eaten. Good textures and a perfect amount of sweetness made this another great course. They were nice enough to serve us a glass of dessert wine to go with this course.
Last was Cookies in a Jar and this one has added fun with the terrific variety of cookie jars they’ve collected to serve this course in. Thoughtfully they found a cat to present ours in and what a perfect choice. The cookie assortment was not a throwaway either. They all had been made with generous amounts of butter and sugar and were simply a delightful way to end a spectacular meal.