Perhaps the most in-demand tables in town are found at this buzzing New American wunderkind, a recent James Beard finalist for best new restaurant in the nation. The rustic-chic restaurant in the city's historic Old Port emphasizes cuisine-hopping small plates — from Mongolian braised beef to bone marrow toast with fontina and horseradish creme. There's a reason Central is entering its fourth year as the darling of Portland's dining scene, and those continued queues out the door (no reservations are accepted) are testament to unwavering popularity.
414 Fore St., Portland; 207-805-1085
Some small plate menus can make you nostalgic for the good old days before the world got so precious. Not this one. Central Provisions jump starts the trend with excitement.
But first, the drinks. Generally, we gravitate to the wine, and the list here has diversity and strength. Our server, however, persuades us to try a libation from a cocktail menu based on pre-Prohibition recipes.
What makes a restaurant the hottest destination in town?
Glowing Yelp reviews, Instagram-worthy presentation and high praise from critics and food bloggers go a long way. But among chefs and restaurateurs, nothing says you've made it like a James Beard Award.
Since 1990, the not-for-profit James Beard Foundation, named after "the father of American cuisine," has been honoring outstanding names in the food and beverage industry. There is no cash reward, but a win -- or even a nomination -- can substantially increase the buzz for business.
The 2015 competition for Best of Portland was fiercely competitive. We know Portlanders are passionate about their city; 650 nominees duked it out to win their share of more than 20,000 local votes. The average number of votes was 200 to 500 per category, so we can safely say that all the nominees are local favorites with hundreds of fans and that the winners are truly loved by Portlanders. For the statistically minded, the category with the most votes topped 1,000 for each of two discount liquor stores, and in one category, two cosmetic surgeons tied at exactly 161 votes each.
Five of Maine’s 11 James Beard Award semifinalists have moved on as nominees in the foundation’s 25th annual recognition of the nation’s best chefs and restaurants.
Finalists announced Tuesday morning at the James Beard Foundation in New York City are:
• Central Provisions, Portland: Best New Restaurant
• Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Company and Hugo’s, both in Portland: Best Chef: Northeast
• Masa Miyake, Miyake and Pai Men Miyake, both in Portland: Best Chef: Northeast
• Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick, and Bao Bao, Portland: Rising Star Chef of the Year
The venerable chef Chris Gould keeps the quality high one year later at his resoundingly successful restaurant, Central Provisions. And it sets the standard of excellence still for all of Portland’s aspiring fine-dining establishments.
You should also know Central Provisions doesn’t offer a conventional soup-to-nuts style of dining. Instead, it specializes in small plates — ranging from $5 to $26 and broken out into categories of raw, cold, hot, and hearty — that arrive at your table as they are prepared. You simply order menu items, a couple at a time, until you are satiated. Some diners, in fact, will insist on holding onto their menu throughout the entirety of the meal, just in case one more dish — a house-made sweet: salted caramel mousse with cocoa and coffee, local strawberry shortcake — can be squeezed in.
Read the article >
What is it about raw?
Two years ago, the now-ubiquitous kale salad beat the underdog-vegetable odds to earn BA’s Dish of the Year title. Then in 2013, it was steak tartare, which continues to inspire chefs (you should taste what this year’s No. 3 pick does with it). In 2014, another uncooked dish has appeared on menus across the country: crudo, a.k.a. carpaccio, a.k.a. ceviche, a.k.a. sashimi, or whatever chefs call it when they top exquisitely sliced raw fish with sweet, piquant, and acidic components. Nowhere did I see a more inspired embodiment of this trend than at Central Provisions.
With a designated sommelier on staff and a bar manager who can tell you the history of virtually any drink, Central Provisions in Portland’s Old Port is an education as much as it is a restaurant.
“There’s something great about not only the drink but the history of the drink,” says Patrick McDonald, bar manager and cocktail wizard at Central Provisions in Portland. He wears a crisp plaid shirt (standard uniform for the bartenders here) and sports a long beard and a short, slicked-back haircut. “I like having the ability to revive these old recipes and make them my own.”
With an impressive resume that includes stints under chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, chef Chris Gould has been hard at work for the past two years bringing Central Provisions to fruition. The effort has paid off, and nearly overnight it has become both the local hotspot and media darling that has given the Old Port a much-needed update in the culinary landscape.
In Portland’s ever-expanding restaurant scene, Central Provisions is this city’s newest and perhaps brightest star. Chef and co-proprietor Chris Gould has created some of the most inventive food in Portland right now. After multiple visits and some 30 dishes, the restaurant’s trendy small-plate concept has been superbly achieved on each occasion. The format further allows you to create your own tasting menu from a list of nearly 50 small plates ($5 to $26) that form a fusion of cooking styles inspired by the cuisines of Europe, Asia and the Americas.
If you haven’t heard, Central Provisions is up and running—and it’s the proverbial runaway success right out of the gate. I stopped in on Night One (Tuesday) on my way to dinner nearby, and the place was jammed with patrons looking as though they’d been going there all their lives, sporting happy-go-lucky grins with their rears firmly planted on seats at the bar and tables upstairs and down.
The road to opening was a winding one for the Goulds, but the restaurant, with a wide-ranging menu complimented by pre-Prohibition craft cocktails, local craft beer on tap and an approachable and interesting wine program led by Chris Peterman, appears to be well worth the wait.
With little advance fanfare, chef Chris Gould opened his destined for super-stardom Portland restaurant, Central Provisions, on Tuesday night, pulling in a packed house. The completely redone interior of the brick building, at 414 Fore Street, has a straightforward, rustic look, with a wide-open, gleaming stainless steel kitchen, exposed brick walls and chairs upholstered with burlap from grain sacks.
Chef Chris Gould is slated to open his eagerly awaited international small plates restaurant Central Provisions in Portland sometime in the middle of January as last reported by Eater Maine. Indeed, signage is up and sample menus point to dishes like oysters, boquerones, lobster stew, sweet breads, suckling pig, and more.
"The concept was always to do tapas-style small plates. But the feel and what we're putting in here in terms of the bars and the stools and the tables and the decor is totally driven by the 200-year-old building. ... Lots of exposed brick, burlap, black steel, exposed wood, and stainless steel. Those are the feels, colors and textures."
Since last August, we've known that former Boston chef Chris Gould (Uni Sashimi Bar at Clio) was planning to open a restaurant in Portland, but it wasn't until this week, when Richard Borelli of Harriman Architects appeared before Portland's Historic Preservation Board, that any more news was revealed.
"I’d completely fail you if I didn’t tell you about the second half of this tasty evening – the food. Chris Gould (of Boston’s Coppa and Uni) prepared an exceptional spread of small plates to accompany the cocktails. Chris, with his wife Paige, is planning on opening a “seasonally inspired small plates restaurant with international flavors” sometime later this year, and if the dishes we sampled tonight were a fair preview, this yet-to-be-named place will quickly rise to the top of any Portland must-eat list."