The White Barn Inn is the place you always hear about – “It so expensive. It’s so good. It’s so everything.” I admit all the hoopla made me want to try it. I decided to create a special occasion in order to do so and made reservations in the fine dining area, but there is also a bistro area which isn’t quite as fancy or pricey. I chose the second seating of the night; there are only two per table.
It used to be that WBI required jackets, but the dress code has loosened up a bit. Though most of the male customers are still wearing jackets during their visit, I was pleased it wasn’t mandatory as I prefer to be a little looser on my nights out regardless of the food and atmosphere. Dress pants and shirt, sans necktie, fit the bill for me that night. I was comfortable and ready to get there so I could see for myself if the hype was real.
We arrived by limo – of course – and made our way up the stairs into the restaurant. We were greeted and then seated right away. The hostess took us past the bar and plopped us down just on the other side of the service area wall where she handed us both food menus and also an extensive wine menu. As we began to peruse them, a waiter approached to ask what kind of water we wanted. “Tap, please.” We weren’t ready to order anything else quite yet.
For just a moment, I paused to take in the scenery before I really got into the specifics of the food and drink. The restaurant was beautiful – rustic barn atmosphere with giant picture windows and a view of colorful potted plants outdoors. Once I put that all in my brain, I got down to business on the drink situation. I decided to go with an Absolute cranberry to keep it simple and because they didn’t seem to have any specialty cocktails. Mrs. Portlandeater went with a Riesling. Now it was time to focus on the food.
There are two choices on the menu. Diners can either choose a four or nine course tasting menu. I immediately went with the four course since that involved picking from several options for each course while the nine course was already predetermined. My wife went with the same for the same reason. We got our drinks, a choice of bread, and ordered our food. My drink was quite strong which I liked. She enjoyed her wine. We took in the scenery and our drinks while waiting for the beginning of our meal.
Before our starters came, we received a shot glass of Mushroom Mousse with some toppers. I tried it. I must admit that it was strange. It did taste very much like mushrooms and I can best describe it as a very strong pureed mushroom soup that was whipped into the consistency of pub cheese. My wife and I didn’t love it but we didn’t hate it either. It seemed to me like it should have been a spread for bread or something along those lines, but by that time, our breads were gone. I think overall the mushroom flavor was too strong by itself. Still though, I found it interesting and ate it all.
Soon after our shot glasses were cleared, our starters came out. I had the Lobster Spring Roll with carrot, daikon radish, and snow pea in a Thai inspired spicy sweet sauce. Wifette had the Kennebunkport Lobster Bisque – crispy wonton, pernod creme, sauteed lobster mushroom. I tried mine and I absolutely loved it. It actually had quite a bit of lobster and the sauce was superb. That was pretty much everything I was looking for in the roll, so it would be tough to fail with success in those particular areas. My wife’s was also outstanding. Based on those results, I was convinced that WBI had a clear picture of lobster preparation. They really knew what they were doing in the creepy crimson crustacean category.
Next up was intermission which in food terms is apparently the course between the appetizer and the entree. I was torn during the picking phase because so many of the intermissions looked appealing. I asked the waiter for a suggestion and he seemed to like all of them, so I just ordered the first one he mentioned – Parmesan Reggiano Mousse, summer pea salad, and aged balsamic. It was delivered on a plate and in an edible cheese crisp bowl. I took a bite of the mousse by itself. It was super strong like eating a big bite of softened parmesan. It needed something to dampen the flavor, so I took a piece of the cheese crisp and scooped the mousse like dipping a chip. Boomshakalaka! It was like magic. Adding the soft cheese to the hard cheese crisp made a great double cheese combo. Whoever came up with adding cheese to more cheese for the perfect taste is a genius. My wife ate her intermission of Honeydew Melon and spearmint sorbet which I avoided due to my aversion to honeydew. We both finished our plates and waited anxiously for the main course.
My entree of Steamed Maine Lobster nestled on a bed of fettuccine with carrot, ginger, snow peas, and cognac coral butter sauce brought a pleasant surprise. With the lobster’s head and tail fan at either end of the plate, the meat of the lobster was in between them creating what essentially looked to be an entire lobster without the shell. I would learn quickly that the lobster was also cut into bite-size pieces for the easiest-eating lobster ever. The sauce was both on top of the lobster and pooled in the plate. It was utterly spectacular – another perfect lobster dish. I mixed my fett and veg in the pooled sauce, which was, in retrospect, the perfect way to consume them. While I was obsessed with my lob, my first and only wife was digging into Seared Local Halibut with peanut and mushroom tortellini, pickled daikon radish, miso broth, and crispy ginger rice paper. She loved it and I tried it to verify that it was indeed delish.
After we were finished with our entrees, we were both pretty full, but dessert was on it’s way. As with the rest of the night, the food came out pretty quickly. Before we got our ordered sweets though, the waiter brought out what I believe was a chocolate buttercreme log and a thin mint and, at the same time, my wife ordered some coffee. We dug into the chocolate and found that they were both delicious and very sweet. I suppose that was a primer for what was to come and it was a good one. Without further adieu, we got our true desserts.
I had ordered the Peanut Butter Mousse with salted brittle, vanilla doughnut, whipped honey, and banana ice cream. The peanut butter mousse was my third mousse of the night and I was excited to try it – it had peanut butter in it after all. Who can resist the deliciously gooey, nutty, flavor of peanut butter in a dessert? Mmmmmmmmm…Oh wait, where was I? Oh right…so I dipped into the mousse which had brittle on top, which had a tiny donut on top, which had ice cream on top, which might have had something on top of that. I carefully placed the mousse in my mouth. By the fire of hell that roasts all of the peanuts on the planet! It was extraordinarily extraordinary. The peanut butter mousse was exceptionally strong like all the mousse at WBI that night, but this one I could handle all by itself. The peanut butter punch just grazed my chin and I was ready for more. The donut, honey, and ice cream only added to the legend of the peanut butter mousse. My wife had the “Smores”; brownie and godiva souffle with toasted marshmallow, smoked graham cracker sorbet. She insisted that it was like a satin sheet on the bed of Zeus. A bite of her treat confirmed that.
While we thought we were done at this point, we were delivered some mini blueberry muffins which we quickly consumed. A few minutes later, we got some sort of tiered serving stand with arms that held more sweet treats. There were 5 for each of us. They consisted of concoctions including pecan pie, marshmallow, strawberry jam, chocolate, and wrapped candies. We each had a couple – they were all top notch – and then we realized another bite would be too much, even if the treats were only wafer thin.
That was it for us. We were full and very pleased with both the quality and quantity of the food. I had a pretty good idea of how much the bill was going to be. While that WBI stays pretty full, their prices certainly aren’t for the feint of heart. It’s safe to say without actually researching further that they are one of the most expensive restaurants in the state if not the single most expensive. We got the “inexpensive” meals at $109 each. The nine course will run you $165 each, and the various optional wine pairings cost between $58-$99. My drink was an additional $10.50 and my wife’s wine was $19 – no charge for the coffee. After tax and tip, our meal came to $320, but you could easily spend over $600 with the nine course and wine pairings for two.
Despite the exorbitant cost, I’ve got no complaints about my experience at the White Barn Inn. The food was absolutely great, the atmosphere is stunningly beautiful, and the service/staff was perfect and kept the meal flowing very well. We were overloaded on desserts – who could complain about that? – but only after a spectacular meal. I’m really set on trying everything once and I think everyone should try White Barn Inn. The menu changes weekly and features lots of great local ingredients. I’ll be going back eventually, but it will probably be about a grand larceny prison sentence before I do. I’ve got to save my duckets again or win the lottery because eating like a king can get pricey. I think I might be relegated to eating fast food for a few months after that meal…or maybe not.
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