Wednesday, November 01, 2006

JOHN CHUCKMAN RESTAURANT REVIEW: DOCKSIDE RESTAURANT, YORK HARBOR, MAINE

Review of an outstanding restaurant written for The Maine Sunday Telegram when I served as restaurant reviewer there. Menu, prices, and possibly other information are now out of date.

RESTAURANT REVIEW: DOCKSIDE RESTAURANT, YORK HARBOR, MAINE

John Chuckman

The Dockside Restaurant is part of an inn, actually a compound of buildings along the picturesque shore of Harris Island, which, despite its name, is a peninsula. The approach is through a driveway neatly lined with mature pines against a background of forest. The grounds include a beautiful clapboard mansion with old-fashioned, gallery porches as a focal point.

The restaurant is a modern building, built right into the slope of the island, off to one side of the mansion. Inside, it is well-lighted with clean lines and a feeling somewhat resembling the deck of a ship. At the lower part of the restaurant is a large porch, screened from floor to ceiling, that has what surely is one of the most placid, delightful views in Maine (actually, the entire restaurant shares this view - it is just more intimately framed on the porch). It looks right across York Harbor, with sailboats, cabin-cruisers and lobster boats anchored in a quiet cove and a cluster of beautiful homes on the far shore.

We were seated at the end of the porch nearest the inn, for although it was a slightly cool evening the porch is a very appealing place, considerably more aesthetically satisfying than the main restaurant interior. The very essence of a quiet summer evening softly enveloped us - a touch of breeze, the sound of crickets, the dimming yellowy light cast on the inn, a grassy slope with large white hydrangeas, white Adirondack chairs, a gazebo, and a pier at the edge of the water's shimmering surface.

The porch is simple and elegant with wood-beam floors, circular marble-topped tables, candles, woven placemats, strings of Italian lights along the top of the fine-mesh screens. You see, feel, and smell summer here.

Service at Dockside is breezily informal, almost like that in a chain, but our waitress was far more attentive, knowledgeable, and professional than one generally expects from such service - taking care of matters like a missing utensil without being asked and offering informed, helpful opinions.

Dockside has a small but well chosen wine list with most bottles well under $25. Wines are selected daily as by-the-glass features. House wines are available in carafes and half-carafes - a very nice feature, as I've stressed before. We extended our summer reverie with glasses of Dunnewood Merlot ($6.50) and White Opal Chardonnay ($6.25).

The menu at Dockside is neither large nor does it contain anything that might be characterized as unusual. The emphasis is on seafood with a few selections of beef and poultry. The menu helpfully advises that the kitchen will try to accommodate any special request .

Our appetizers were steamed mussels and brushetta (both $6.95). The mussels surely rank as one of the best values in Maine with a very generous serving of the plump morsels in garlic butter sauce (a bit too salty but very good) and two fair-size pieces of crusty garlic bread. With the plate's impressive appearance and the ado we made while eating, a couple at a nearby table was overheard saying they should have had the mussels.

The brushetta were large, warm, crusty chunks of baguette with finely diced fresh tomato, fresh basil, and a finely grated mixture of Italian cheeses - on a plate glazed with olive oil. The tomatoes were a little pale, but the overall flavor was very satisfying.

Dockside's menu does not have a selection of salads, because salad - either Caesar or a visit to the "salad deck" - is included with the price of every entrée. We had the Caesar, and it was good - crisp Romaine, house-made croutons, several anchovies, and a tangy, mayonnaise-consistency dressing.

Our entrees were broiled scrod ($16.95) and a house specialty called Lobster Dublin Lawyer ($20.95). The scrod plate had a small tureen of the firm white fish in lemon butter, dusted with breadcrumbs lightly browned on top, buttered red potatoes, and some steamed, still-crisp snap peas, slices of summer squash and red pepper. This was fairly simple fare, but it all was done well and very suitable for someone not wanting a heavy meal.

Lobster Dublin Lawyer includes half a steamed lobster, a generous serving of large, sautéed scallops - all drizzled with a sauce of Irish whiskey-and-cream reduction, plentifully speckled with fresh bits of scallion (the menu said shallots, but the scallions worked nicely). Despite a wee bit too much salt, this is a delicious dish. The plate included the buttered red potatoes (there is a choice of potato, but these are favorites) and the same fresh, steamed vegetables as the scrod.

When our waitress mentioned both fresh peach pie and fresh strawberry-nectarine pie (a delicious-sounding combination I've not come across before), your reviewer's eyes lighted up while puzzling over such a pleasant dilemma. Peach ($4), an old favorite, won out. Our other selection was easy enough, a lemon crumb pie praised as very lemony ($4.50).

The peach pie is handsome. A generous slice with thin, lattice-style crust filled with slices of fresh peach, a minimum of sugar and paste, and a fat squiggle of whipped cream along two sides of the plate next to the pie. I have a small quibble, being a stickler for detail, the crust becomes too thick along the pinched edge. Still, I seriously considered getting a piece of the strawberry-nectarine to take home.

The lemon crumb is just as attractively presented and just as tasty - a wonderfully lemony wedge with whipped cream on the sides.

Our bill came to $90.80. I broached the possibility of another piece of pie to our very helpful waitress but was quickly overruled by a slight but firm nudge to the shin.

Dockside Restaurant
Harris Island Road, York Harbor
363-2722
http://www.docksidegq.com/

Food: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Service: 4
Dinner hours: 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday
Lunch hours: 11:30 am - 2:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday
Note: Dockside is closed November through April

All major credit cards
Price range: entrees $16.95 - $25.95 with some at "market"
Vegetarian dishes: yes
Reservations: encouraged
Bar: full
Wheelchair access: some but limited
Well prepared food in a comfortable, summery atmosphere

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