It’s not exactly convenient to go to Harpswell for a meal, but my wife had been years without going to The Dolphin, which is both a marina and restaurant. I’d never been, but she assured me it was worth the visit, boasting of its views, food, and an overall atmosphere that could be thoroughly enjoyed on a nice day such as it was.
Our trip there wasn’t quick, but when we arrived, I could quickly see the allure. Set directly on the water, overlooking ocean, boats, and islands in the distaance, I couldn’t imagine much better scenery. From the inside, once in the main dining area, there was a panoramic view of the sea, as the large windows spead the entire length of the restaurant at the water. We chose to sit outside which provided us with a slightly different, but equally amazing, sight.
Since I was on vacation and the weather was gorgeous, I was primed for a cocktail. I kept it simple, strong, and summery with a Pain Killer – Light and Dark Cruzan Rum, OJ, pineapple, Coco Lopez, Pussers rum float, a sprinkle of nutmeg. She went with just a seltzer and lime. We also threw in an app of Calamari – lightly fried, cilantro sweet chili sauce – to get us started.
My drink was delicious – pretty much what I expected, though the nutmeg was a nice addition. It was indeed strong, as pain killers are. Sipping the drink and soaking in the beautiful scenery produced a serenity rarely found in real life. I couldn’t get enough of it, and even though I was hungry, it didn’t matter much because I was so content. Still, I was happy when the rectangular plate of calimari arrived and we put in our requests for main courses.
The crisp squid was quite tasty and I loved the chili sauce which was pretty typical except for that relatively unusual hint of cilantro mixed into it. I thought the sauce as a whole worked well to flavor bites of delicious decapod. It was a good enough dish that my wife kept coming back for more long after she had said she was done. “You eat the rest” she would say, immediately followed by “just one more bite” as her fork made its way toward the plate.
I had ordered the Blackened Haddock Sandwich – lettuce, tomato, cucumber dill sauce – and a side of Homemade Mac n’ Cheese. She went with the Haddock Sandwich special – lightly breaded, deep fried, melted cheese, sourdough. She held the bacon that came on hers. Both sandwiches were served with house made potato chips and a pickle. I noticed the pieces of fish on each plate right away. Hers was thicker and fit well on the bread. Mine was thinner and hung over the bun.
This certainly wasn’t my first blackened haddock sandwich, but it looked like a fine example of one. The cucumber dill sauce came on the side, taking the place of ranch, which I am more used to seeing with blackened items. The sauce – in this case, cucumber dill – cools the heat of the cajun seasoning a bit and also adds some extra flavor. I put most of it on top of my fish.
A single bite of the haddock on its own was good, but a second full bite of the sandwich was excellent. This wasn’t rocket science. There was a tasty toasted bun, really fresh and heavily seasoned fish, fresh lettuce and tomato, and a great sauce. It was perfectly done and mostly status quo, but that’s exactly what made it great. She had the same reaction to her sandwich. The mac was outstanding with lots of creamy cheese, though much of it was in the bottom of my bowl.
One part of the meal I thought was a really great addition were the house chips. Those are almost always much better than store bought and they indeed were this time too. The thick, crispy slices were pure joy with a satisfying “crrrrunnncchhhh” in every bite. They even went quite well with the little bit of cucumber dill I had left over from the sandwich.
We finished and were relatively full. None of the desserts piqued our interest enough to order one. The final tab came to about $60 before tip. The Dolphin doesn’t get too crazy with their food or drinks, they just make them like they’re supposed to be made and it’s all quite good. But that alone might not be worth the trip from Portland. What is worth it though are the glorious views which take the meal from really good to spectacular and with prices you’d expect around Portland. Want a picturesque meal that will give you the happys? Check them out.
515 Basin Point Rd., Harpswell
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