Scales is the new restaurant by Sam Hayward, the highly recognized owner of Fore Street. Located on Maine Wharf, its on-the-water location was reason enough for me to get there and check it out within two weeks of it’s opening. After working really hard to find their phone number, which seems to be wrong on most of the internet, we were finally able to make reservations and get there on a Friday night. The buzz around the restaurant alone had me ready to party before really even knowing anything about it.
When we walked in, I was struck by how large and open the place was. In addition to it’s sheer size, the massive floor to ceiling windows let in tons of light and provided amazing water views. An ice maker next to the host area was hanging from the ceiling and spit out ice into a large wheeled cart, dropping the little cubes like the frozen tears of the Norse god of frost. Other noteworthy features included an open kitchen, a very long, busy bar, and a huge number of staff circulating throughout. We stood and looked around for a minute or two and then, at the prompting of the hostess, we approached the host station. We were a little early, so they weren’t ready for us, but advised that we could go grab a drink.
We walked over to the bar area. There was a chalkboard sign hanging overhead with three different oyster choices. Below the sign was the center of the bar which appeared to be a raw bar prep station. As the minutes passed, I became more and more impressed at the volume of food they were putting out from there. We hung around, but the bar servers seemed to all be very busy and I didn’t feel like inserting myself between the seated patrons in order to get a drink. We instead decided to grab a couple of the chairs they had lined up on the far, back wall of the bar.
After just a couple minutes of sitting, we were approached by someone who brought us to a seat that was very close to where we were waiting. We started to look at the food and drink menus and before long, a waiter approached us. He let us know that they had team service, so it would be he and another staff member taking care of us and also informed us about a couple of specials they had available. He left and promised a return in short order to get our drink requests. My wife and I were uninterested in the specials he mentioned and let those fall out of our brain to make room for what was on the menus.
As I perused the drink list, I skipped past the beer and wine, stopping on the signature cocktails. After considering the handful on the menu and some standards that weren’t on the menu, I settled on a simple potion, The Loretta – Ice Pik Vodka, fresh grapefruit, salted rim, on the rocks. It was a bit of a stretch for me, considering that I don’t really like grapefruit aside from just a small amount in drinks with lots of other flavors, but I was throwing caution to the wind that night. In an episode of not throwing caution to the wind, Mrs. Portlandeater ordered a glass of the Matanzas Creek Sauvigon Blanc.
While we waited for drinks, my eyes continued to bounce around the room. The ceiling fans, with blades made of wooden paddles, caught my attention. Right when I was about to be fully hypnotized by the spinning oar ends, we got our drinks. Mine looked as expected with the requisite slice of lime on the glass. I was a little nervous about the grapefruit, but was excited to try something out of my comfort zone and see where I stood on the matter of grapefruit and vodka drinks. I took a sip out of my two little stirrer straws. Holy moly! I never could have guessed it would be so tasty. The citrus flavor lacked any grapefruit bitterness and gave a chill, refreshing flavor that wasn’t sweet, but was still exceptionally drinkable. I liked it a lot and tucked away my previous and admittedly repugnant thoughts about grapefruit.
We took in our libations and discussed the menu, considering a bunch of soups and sandwiches, raw items, and all manner of seafood entrees. I was having trouble narrowing down what I wanted but quickly consulted with my spiritual restaurant menu advisor and eventually came to some conclusions. I decided to go with the Chopped Salad – winter vegetables, creamy dressing – to start. She went with a cup of Lobster Bisque. For our entrees, I came to the realization that my survival required Fried Whole Belly Clams and my wife ordered the Fish and Chips. We put those in and awaited our Friday night feast.
Exactly six minutes and three seconds after the waiter left our table, we were greeted by salad and bisque. My bunny buffet looked fresh and full, with leaves, slices, and hunks of various greens, carrots, radishes, and other veggies. There were some pickled elements on top and a dressing throughout. I tried a bite. It was excellent. I liked the veg variety and the light dressing added a nice bit of acidic flavor and seasoning. I put a little pepper on it for good measure and consumed the cruciferous creation with abandon. As I worked on that, I snuck a little of my wife’s bisque. The dark, buttery liquid housed a significant amount of lobster and was served with a couple house made crackers. It was smooth and rich, giving a nice pop to the taste buds with every spoonful. We worked to finish our starters and it was no trouble as the delicious beginners warmed our hearts.
Our empty dishes were hastily removed from the table and I ordered another The Loretta. Then within the time it takes to be really satisfied by a Snickers, we hade our entrees. I first reacted to my wife’s which had a small pile of fries and two large pieces of fish. It was a sizable portion. Mine, on the other hand, was a bit short on the little sand sleepers. A quick count produced 12 on the $24 plate. Nonetheless, I hoped that they would add up to mouth merriness. In addition to the clams, I had house made tarter and hot pepper sauces. I popped one into my mouth. It was actually very good with awesome crunch and nice salty seasoning. I tried one with each of the sauces which were both excellent. The tarter gave a typical zing, but with the addition of some fresh dill. The hot pepper sauce was very interesting in that it had great flavor of hot peppers in a creamy sauce, but didn’t have any of the heat. I wouldn’t have minded a kick, but it was still tasty.
I worked on my clams which were done quickly. My wife shared the fish and a couple fries and I tried those. The fish was nice and flakey and well seasoned. It went great with both sauces and the fries actually did too, particularly with the hot pepper version. Soon both meals were finished and when I mentioned dessert, we looked at each other with a knowing glance. We were in deep that night and our discussion was a mere formality. We knew something sweet was very necessary.
The dessert decision was a simple choice for both of us as she picked the Butterscotch Pudding – maple whip, barley malt crumble – and a coffee. I followed it up with Butternut Squash Cheesecake – cranberries, pumpkin seeds. We didn’t know what to expect but we were anxious to find out what was about to come our way. Soon, a bowl and a plate full of sweet goodness sat before us. We readied our spoons and made our way to the dessert delight zone.
My first bite of the round cheesecake produced an “Oh, this is weird…this is delicious, oh wow.” As the flavors blended, I got the magnificently loud cheesey and subdued squash flavors and alongside it the toppings of seeds, frozen berries, and crumble. It was a little texture of heaven too with the soft, gooey cheese and crunchies on top – a fantastic way of presenting one of my faves. A taste of the pudding added another high note to the night. The creamy, intense pudding was given a turbo boost by the maple and malt. A little whipped cream sealed the deal. The pudding was clearly made by a witch as I knew no human could create such a stellar treat.
With faces full of finishing touches, we took our last bites, swiped our napkins past our mouths, and were ready to call it quits. It was quite a meal. From the magical waterfront placement, to the delicious food, it was an enjoyable and fun experience. The one soft spot were my clams. I think the addition of fries or even an increased price for more clams would have been better, but I felt they were light as they came. I’m interested to know your thoughts on the matter.
In the end, our total was $115 before tip – about the same as the other higher end restaurants in the area. I definitely recommend the new seafood eatery if you want a nice meal in a prime Portland spot. Go ahead and check it out for yourself and tell ’em Peterpeterportlandeater sent you. Oh, and if you need it, their phone number for reservations is (207) 805-0444. Just make sure that if you do go to Scales you save room for dessert, because their grand finale is really, really grand and it definitely won’t weigh you down.
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