Seaside on the Foreside
I wonder if the Falmouth Sea Grill, recently and dazzlingly renovated, would draw such an eager crowd if it didn’t offer such stylish creature comforts on an opulently stunning piece of waterfront. Will diners flock to this new incarnation for the food, the setting or both?
The evening the three of us were there during the horrendous heat wave of last week, the place was packed to the rafters.
For those unaware, the Falmouth Sea Grill has been closed for a year to undergo a top to bottom transformation. In its old guise it was a lovable old culinary war horse, offering a middling menu heavy on fish and New England favorites.
Located at the Handy Boatyard in Falmouth Foreside, its new look is immediately comforting and inviting. The indoor dining room opens up to an outdoor deck with garage style doors that disappear, creating an indoor-outdoor space overlooking the anchorage and Casco Bay islands in the distance. If you’re looking for waterfront dining in Greater Portland, this is as good as it gets.
The chef is new too. He's David Connolly, who hails from The Wit in Chicago, an ultra trendy boutique hotel. He was brought in to revamp both the Falmouth Sea Grill and its companion dining establishment, The Old Port Sea Grill.
This is a tall order in a town swamped with creative chefs and award winning restaurants. But the Falmouth Sea Grill offers what very few of the others in town can--a stunning waterfront setting.
The Falmouth Sea Grill fits into this universe of fine dining nicely, though if it will ever become a culinary star in a revered galaxy of greater constellations remains to be seen.
The three of us shared a starter of local oysters, like Glidden Point, Pemaquid, and Winter Point. They were excellent. The next communal bite was the Point Judith fried calamari served with a smoked tomato aioli. This was another good dish but certainly easy to find elsewhere. Unless you’re served rubberized tendrils, what can be bad?
I had some trouble choosing a main course because none of them seemed that enticing. The lobster bake with mussels and clams is a big deal dish, which I didn’t want, though with all its components fresh and local I’m sure it would have been very good.
Why Idaho trout is on a Maine menu, as it is here, which adheres to using sustainably grown local meats and fish is an enigma. But there it was as exciting as a bowl of chips.
There was roast chicken with a fennel panzanella salad, which sounded intriguing, as well as grilled flank steak, fish and chips, and simply grilled tuna, sword fish, or salmon. Sandwiches and salads are also on the menu.
I don’t eat pasta often but the lobster gnocchi stood out for me. House made gnocchi, light and delicate, with big chunks of lobster, fava beans, and wild mushrooms. It turned out to be quite good, if not deeply satisfying.
One of my dinner companions had the baked Casco Bay cod coated in a potato crust. This is not a groundbreaking dish anymore; a decade ago it was all the rage with creative chefs but hardly a revelation now. Still this rendition was good. The third in our group ordered the grilled swordfish, which he deemed excellent.
For dessert we all shared a huge hunk of strawberry shortcake. This version was more cakelike than biscuit but we finished it off easily.
With its two dining areas and bar filled to capacity, the service remained good and the kitchen kept pace.
I will definitely go back to the Falmouth Sea Grill because altogether the food, the scenery, and the vibes added up to a very nice meal out indeed. I might even be tempted to reacquaint myself with the Old Port Sea Grill.
Connolly has definitely taken the menu to a higher culinary standard, a middle of the road goodness that’s easy to like.
Is it a menu or a dining experience meant to send you to the moon? No. And that’s OK. Not every meal needs to wow and dazzle. But in such a fun, convivial setting, you couldn’t ask for more.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com.