Popular locale continues legacy of precise flavors, quality ingredients

Some friends accompanied us (or did we accompany them?) to Back Bay Grill, one of Portland’s perennial favories and a legend of the Portland restaurant scene. Opened in the 1980’s and with the same owner since 2002, BBG is known for it’s typically excellent food, outstanding and knowledgeable service, and – to be honest – its relatively high prices (though its fans would argue that they’re not without merit).

We had an 8:30 reservation – well past our usual bed-time – and were seated immediately upon arrival. After our counterpart was assured that whatever she ordered would be prepared without the use of ingredients that would trigger her life-threatening allergies, she suggested we order a bottle of white Sancerre for the table and we did just that.

Sipping on the barely fruity, acidic wine which I found to be peculiarly smooth, we placed our orders and were treated to an orange goat cheese morsel compliments of the chef. The cheese was a typically mild goat with a little orange flavor; I suppose it was exactly what you’d expect of something called orange goat cheese.

The apps came out quickly enough. I had ordered the Roasted Red Pepper Soup – spiced hazelnut, fine herbs, chive oil. Mrs. Portlandeater went with the BBG Caesar – butter lettuce, thyme croutons, parmesan, garlic dressing. Our friends both ordered the Truffled Beef Tartare – farm fresh egg yolk, white anchovies, cornichon, olive oil crackers.

I’m a big fan of roasted red peppers (rrp) and was curious about how a soup that featured them might interact with my taste buds. A spoonful of the red liquid presented a powerful rrp flavor with just the right amount of herbs. There was also a nice bit of garlic in the mix. I really enjoyed the peppers maintaining the central focus of the soup while only being lightly altered with other flavors.

Everyone was clearly taken by their starters, and the phrase “this is the best tartare in town” was heard at least once in the process of consuming them. While I didn’t try the raw beef starter, it’s presentation was quite attractive with a yolk on top of the cylindrical pile of beef and surrounded in clockwise order by crackers, cornichons, and anchovies.

With the apps but a distant memory, we prepared for our main courses by getting refills on the wine (still the same bottle). I had ordered Chicken Breast – white bean, parmesan broth, sage, local roasted radish which was a menu change in place of sausage stuffed chicken leg. There were duos of Cast Iron Seared Local Scallops – local mushroom risotto, shaved radicchio and pickled orange pepper salad, lemon vinaigrette – for the ladies. He had Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Brined Hampshire Pork Chop – potato, honey bourbon carrots, charred scallion chimichurri.

My chicken was tender, perfectly seasoned, and very well concocted overall. I don’t remember ever having roasted radish, but the root veggie and bean with broth added a nice, mild addition with the chicken as the clear standout on the plate. Those other flavors hardly detracted from the bird, which they seem to have a particular skill in preparing based on multiple experiences eating it there.

Our table unanimously praised the food, enjoying it all and finishing most. From the presentation to flavors (and the company, of course), the meal was excellent. We finished with a compliment of chocolates and a macerated raspberry (allergen-free), passing on a dessert from the menu since we were quite full.

Back Bay Grill has maintained exactly what they are known for – high level service, quality food, and a great experience. They always use exceptional ingredients, but their dishes really hit the mark with each bite, focusing on exactly what they should, taking a main ingredient and making sure that all the other parts of the item add to it, while still maintaining the primary intent. You can taste each piece, and you’ll never forget what you ordered.

Our meal came to about $300 for four after tip. As I mentioned at the start, BBG meals don’t come cheap, but they do a great job of earning your money. They’ve got both the art and the science of culinary excellence down and are always there to impress. Take someone there if you want to make them happy, because that’s really what BBG does best.

65 Portland St.

Stay hungry.

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