Hugo’s opened in 1988 and had a major rennovation in 2012. There are booths along a brick wall, a couple tables by the windows to the street and lots of seats at a curved counter that wraps around the open kitchen. The lights are quite low (spots highlight each table and the bar) with lots of wood and dark leather upholstery make up the interior. The tin ceiling, music in the background and decorations made of local organic material finish out the stylish and striking design of the interior. In fact they strived to make all the interior from materials found in Maine. The red bricks are from Moose Head Lake, the slate plates from Monson, and a huge painting at the end of the room is by local artist Eric Hopkins. They offer an a la carte menu and also a chef’s tasting of about 10 courses. The tasting offers items not on the menu and the whole table must participate. For the tasting they have wine pairings available. We chose the tasting but ordered our own wine after a cocktail and they did give me a list of what we had after the meal.
The amuse bouche was lobster Ceviche with cilantro, nuoc cham and aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chile pepper). A few grains of puffed rice added some wonderful texture to go with the soft lobster. It was a delicious combination with great textures.
Beet-cured fluke was raw and plated with almond, radish and nasturtium. Some almond milk and sweet beet gel were perfect to pair with the hot radish. The toasted almonds added a great crunch to the dish. The beets turned the fish red which was a fun effect for the mild fish. A great dish.
Roasted cauliflower was served with cranberry, pork rillette and yogurt. The cranberry yogurt was accented with a bit of beet purée and a couple thin slices of apple added another accent. The pork was cooked perfectly as was the cauliflower. All the sauces were tasty to make this a wonderful dish.
Some divine biscuits were an extra surprise and I’m so glad. They were warm, tender with a crisp top and totally yummy. Served with some softened butter with a touch of salt, they were a heavenly. Did I say delicious? Something so simple can be so great when done well.
Panisse was made with chickpeas and tahini (sesame seeds), black pepper powder and pancetta. It had the perfect crisp exterior and custardy center and was topped with a thin slice of lardo and a tarragon leaf. Some carrot purée was one of the dots. It was very good but I would have liked a bit more texture in the dish.
Grilled octopus was plated with brussels sprouts, capers, Royal Corona beans, charred cabbage and parsley purée. The beans were king sized and the other sauce was a Gribiche (hard boiled egg dressing with chervil, capers and cucumber). The octopus was excellent, cooked perfectly, with a good chew. The beans were wonderful as was the Gribiche. A good one.
A half moon ravioli was stuffed with duck ham, petit coeur and mushroom. This was a less attractive dish and on the salty side. Otherwise though, it was well flavored and fairly good.
Another bread service was a loaf of hot sour dough bread served with cultured butter. It had a giant ‘H’ on the crust, obviously for Hugo’s. The crust was moderately crisp and the butter was tasty. It was a perfect thing to have to mop up the sauce on the coming dishes.
Monkfish was served with parsnip foam, whole lemon purée, roasted sunchoke and pickled cippolini. The combination had nice flavors with a fun blending of sweet and tart. The monkfish was firm and mild.
Pheasant breast was served with pomme purée, mustard greens and autumn olive berry. A piece of shiitake was over the olive berry purée and it had wonderful flavor. The mustard greens below the pheasant had been braised whereas the pheasant was cooked to a nice pink, still juicy, moist and tender. The skin on the bird was a perfect crisp. his was a good plate of ingredients that blended well.
Fig jam was with bee pollen ice cream, cranberry and covered with kataïfi. Some phyllo dough was used to make the kataïfi and some candied walnuts were underneath. The fig jam was underneath and added a good sweetness. This great transition course brought sweet, creamy and crunchy together for a good dish.
Chocolate tamal was served with koji mole, horchata stracciatella (ice cream) and mezcal dulce. Some sweet little blueberries added another touch. The corn pudding was well flavored but overall this dish had too many competing flavors for me to work with. It was not cohesive even though it had some nicely flavored components and the ice cream melted way too fast.
Petits Fours included peanut toffee that was crisp, sweet and excellent. A blueberry caramel was chewy and sweet. The last was a lemon verbena black tea caramel that was harder than it looked and didn’t have as much flavor. But overall this was a great ending for a really fine meal.