Five-O Shore Road
Five-O Shore Road in Ogunquit is the sort of place where everyone knows your name.
- By: Michaela Cavallaro
On fine summer nights, you can spot Five-0 Shore Road without a glance at the street numbers: Just look for the line of folks gathered on the sidewalk waiting to get in. Some are waiting for a spot on the patio, where they'll enjoy appetizers, drinks, and some of Ogunquit's best people watching. Others pine for a seat in Five-0's chic dining room, where the floor-to-ceiling windows are flung open when the weather permits and the buttery yellow walls make even the gloomiest day bright.
Donato Tramuto and Jeffrey Porter, a health-care executive and a human resources professional, respectively, have owned the restaurant near the head of Ogunquit's famous mile [see "Ogunquit's Miracle Mile"] since 2004. The duo put a priority on warm hospitality and often man the front of the house to see to the details in person; one takes a diner's coat while the other delivers a birthday cake, candles blazing, to a table of eight.
And they've trained their wait staff well, with even the busmen making friendly conversation with diners who seem interested. On a recent visit, a request to delay dessert so we could finish our lovely bottle of Steele Pinot Noir was honored with a smile. Things may not be quite so flexible in the height of summer; however, Porter says Five-0 is dedicated to accommodating diners in any way possible. "We inherited a fun atmosphere, and wanted to make it a little better," he says. "We also wanted to focus on getting a great team together so that from stepping foot on the property to the time you leave, you have a great experience."
Unfortunately, Five-0's ambitions sometimes exceed its reach when it comes to the food. Porter describes the menu as "New England with Mediterranean influences," but it's a bit more chaotic than that. While fine-dining stalwarts such as pan-seared salmon and char-grilled filet mignon dominate, executive chef Zach Crosby likes to tweak the old stand-bys with Asian, Italian, and Indian touches. His rack of spring lamb, for example, is marinated in curry and Eastern spices, while the day-boat haddock is served over saffron anise risotto. That makes the menu a bit of a mish-mash, and leaves diners uncertain of the kitchen's strengths.
Crosby's infatuation with Asian influences - Porter confesses that he vetoed a Portland marketing firm's suggestion that the phrase "Asian fusion" be used to describe Five-0's menu - does yield some interesting results. His crabcakes, for instance, arrive on a bed of Asian slaw with a light, lively dressing and are accompanied by a wasabi cream sauce. Still, the server's warning to a nearby couple that the sauce was spicy was akin to alerting a diner that the butter knife is sharp - a bit more drama than conditions warrant. Meanwhile, a perfectly cooked filet mignon, accompanied with a rich, salty roasted garlic demi glace and a perfectly rounded scoop of creme fraiche thyme mashed potatoes, proved that the kitchen knows its way around a cut of beef. Yet the beef tenderloin tips in Crosby's upscale take on surf-and-turf arrived cooked quite a bit longer than the requested medium rare - inexcusable at any time, but most especially when the dish sets you back forty-two dollars.
And yet spending a few hours at Five-O is a pleasurable experience. The chic d`cor - glowing sconces and pendant lights, cherry chairs, and stylish geometric-patterned banquettes - and the hum of locals chattering in the lounge inspires you to linger over coffee and dessert. Indeed, a delicate pear tartlet served with a scoop of cinnamon gelato - handmade next door at Caffe Prego, Tramuto and Porter's casual Italian spot - and a luxurious peanut butter mousse cake are constructed with equal precision.
Though the missteps at Five-0 are worth noting - especially when a three-course meal for two comes to nearly two hundred dollars including tip - the warmth exuded by Tramuto, Porter, and their staff inspires you to give them a bit of leeway. And the restaurant should benefit as the leadership continues to gain experience; Porter says he and Tramuto are determined to be hands-on owners. "We wanted to be here on the premises and partake in the experience with our guests," he explains. "It's not just an investment, it's part of our lives."
Five-0 Shore Road, in Ogunquit, serves dinner seven days a week from 5 p.m. Appetizers $4-$13, entrees $25-$42, desserts $8.50. Limited wheelchair accessibility. Reservations recommended. 207-646-5001. www.five-oshoreroad.com
"Looking for the best pizza in the midcoast? You'll find it on Route 1 in Camden at The Restaurant at Cedar Crest (115 Elm St., 207-236-7722). As the name suggests, the eatery is attached to the Cedar Crest Motel. The restaurant is a year-round locals' favorite for eight- to eighteen-inch pizzas with toppings ranging from sausage to prosciutto to barbecue sauce, as well as its hearty traditional breakfasts.
"What's even better than the prestigious honor recently bestowed upon Steve Corry, chef/owner of Five Fifty-Five (555 Congress St., Portland, 207-761-0555, www.fivefifty-five.com), by Food & Wine magazine is that Corry is keeping his focus on the loyal Maine diners who've supported his stylish restaurant from the start. Rather than letting summer tables be snatched up by the folks from away who swamped the phone lines after the magazine's announcement, Corry and his wife and business partner, Michelle, decided they'd only accept reservations a month in advance - a small price for Mainers to pay in return for some of the most creative, delicious cuisine around.
- By: Michaela Cavallaro