Thoughtfully prepared cuisine, great wine, and the secrets of eternal life at Bandaloop.
As I hobble, due to an ill-advised and exercise-related knee injury, through the streets of Kennebunkport toward Bandaloop, the sky opens up and a steady downpour of cold rain begins. I proceed to treat any lucky witnesses to the image of me performing an expedited, kind of herky-jerky walking pattern in a futile effort to stay dry.
Needless to say, my spirits are in need of lifting upon arrival, and the warm, inviting former carriage house that hosts Bandaloop immediately puts me at ease. My dining companion and I opt to be seated at the bar, where we find ourselves in the capable hands of veteran bar manager David Allen, but I take note of the small dining room that revolves around a busy, fully open kitchen.
Both the dim lighting and eclectic array of mostly tribal wall fixtures serve to enhance the mood on a cold, rainy May evening. As I peruse the wine list for something to enhance my mood, I am told that it is made up entirely of organic, biodynamic, or sustainably farmed selections. Chef W. Scott Lee, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Bridget, strives to maintain this standard whenever possible and believes that “life can be lengthened and enriched by a diet free of pesticides and hormones.”
I begin with a bottle of Domaine de la Fruitiere Sur Lie “Cuvee Petit M,” from Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine. Bright, fresh wines that lend themselves brilliantly to raw seafood characterize this region, and this one is no exceptionits pleasant briny quality pairs nicely with my appetizer of Yellowfin Tuna ceviche on a crispy wonton. The dish is satisfying on many levels, starting with the perfectly golden and crispy wonton that holds chunks of raw tuna mixed with lime and cilantro, buttery avocado, and silky yet slightly pungent wasabi aioli. A refreshing slice of cucumber with pickled ginger acts as a garnish, with a drizzling of tamari caramel to add a touch of sweetness.
A basket of warm bread arrives, accompanied by Portuguese olive oil with strong nuances of black pepper and a slightly bitter nature. The oil is so good that it prompts me to ask about its producer. Allen informs me that Lee has tried several producers, but always finds that he keeps coming back to this one. With good reason, I might add.
Because my companion has opted for beer instead of wine, Allen reminds me that each white wine is available by the glass, if I’d care to swap out my Muscadet for something else at this point. He pours me a taste of Thierry Cardon Touraine “Les Chardons,” a Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley that displays gorgeous minerality and a nice level of acidity to balance out pronounced notes of citrus.
This is ideal with my entree, a beautiful piece of oven-roasted Pacific Halibut served with crispy udon noodles and a slaw of grilled asparagus, shitake mushroom, and carrot. A caramelized chili glaze adds interest to the clean, meaty fish, and the crunchy, smoky grilled vegetables add texture and depth. My companion happily tears through a half portion of Bandaloop’s interpretation of traditional macaroni and cheese, with sharp Maine cheddar and cavatappi pasta. I rather enjoy the use of fresh basil and chili flakes to add another dimension of flavor here. This version is not as overwhelmingly decadent as most I’ve tried, which is a nice change. Plus, the addition of broccoli florets and sundried tomato imparts a somewhat healthy element to the mix as well.
The Touraine is going down much easier than I expected, and soon I find myself on glass number three. I take note of the band Rusted Root playing over the stereo, and complain to my friend that it reminds me of when I went to the H.O.R.D.E. Music Festival in 1996, to which she reveals that she was also in attendance, prompting festival stories that are mostly unfit for print.
For dessert we share the mango-ginger carrot cake, topped with fresh whipped cream and resting atop a chai cremé fraiche. The mango and ginger flavors are quite subtle here, but the cake is appropriately moist and slightly savory. Though I enjoy that the whipped cream adds a light and airy nature to the dish, I generally prefer my carrot cake with a cream cheese based frostingif anything for the sake of nostalgia.
Bandaloop is actually the name of a fictional tribe that was privy to the secret of eternal life in Tom Robbins’s novel, Jitterbug Perfume. I’m not sure I would prefer to live forever, as my lifestyle can be quite exhausting and I don’t imagine that it will change anytime soon, but I will certainly never grow tired of drinking wine and eating the kind of food that you’ll find here in Dock Square.
2 Dock Sq. | Kennebunkport | 207.967.4994 | bandaloop.biz