Delicious and well-executed cuisine at Clementine in Brunswick.
One of the most appealing elements of the town of Brunswick is that one can park their car on Maine Street and find a multitude of diverse eateries, all easily reachable on foot. Those who go the distance from one end to the other will be rewarded when they stumble upon the inviting storefront of Clementine Restaurant, regarded for some time as one of the best dining experiences the town has to offer.
The intimate dining room accommodates about 45 guests, with a small bar flanked by four stools for additional seating. Though it is quite busy on a Tuesday night, the atmosphere is calm and quiet, aided by subtly installed panels on the walls to inhibit excess noise. The muted colors and borderline shabby-chic decor provide the perfect setting to enjoy what chef Dana Robicheaw, who co-owns Clementine with his wife Nancy, has in store for my companion and me.
The wine list does a fine job covering a lot of ground without overwhelming diners with too many decisions. Powerhouse reds from big name producers such as Napa’s Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cesari Amarone from the Veneto are represented, as well as more finesse-driven wines from boutique wineries. These include Givry 1er Cru from Domaine Parize in Burgundy, as well as one of the list’s best values, the Vouvray “Les Aumones” from the Loire Valley. This is a very concise collection, in most cases offering at least one option to satisfy any particular stylistic request.
Though the cocktail selection is enticing, especially the “Clementine Iced Tea,” prepared with Fernet Branca, Clémente Creole Shrubb, and lemon, I am feeling a bit more basic on this particular evening. I decide that the Bull Jagger Brewing Co. Portland Lager is best suited to fulfill my thirst-quenching needs. The nose reveals a touch of citrus and yeast, which gives way to refreshing and well-balanced flavors of brioche and just a touch of honey.
As a starter we share of bowl of this evening’s soup, a silky cauliflower puree. It arrives split into two bowls, always a nice touch for service, and is garnished with a quenelle of crème fraiche and a light sprinkling of truffle essence. Minced chives as garnish add a slight and pleasant snap to the texture. The final traces of the soup are best cleaned up with the soft, chewy sourdough bread provided for the table.
My companion has chosen Clementine’s three-course prix-fixe menu, which allows the diner to choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $27. Options encompass almost every offering on the regular a la carte menu, at a slightly reduced portion size, though as they arrive each plate looks more than ample in quantity to me.
For my next course I am presented with five neatly arranged lobster tortellini, resting in a pool of buerre blanc and crowned with a dollop of wasabi-infused tobiko. The pasta itself is tender and delicate in flavor so as not to overwhelm the sweet chunks of lobster inside. The wasabi tobiko does a superb job bringing this dish together, with the briny, pungent pop of the fish eggs providing a necessary contrast to the rich butter sauce.
My companion’s Caesar Salad is also quite delicious, though it breaks from tradition with the appearance of meaty bacon and boiled egg. Naturally, both of these elements serve to raise the bar, creating a manner of salad Voltron that I like to refer to as “Caesar Cobb.”
Service is professional, but maintains a personality suited to each individual table, which I always find refreshing in any level of restaurant setting. It is also fortunate for all of the other patrons that I have been seated directly beside one of the “noise panels,” sparing them the subject matter of a majority of my conversations. Or at least I think I did. Let’s just say I did not receive any dirty looks, and leave it at that.
A liberal portion of Sautéed Sea Scallops, cooked to the appropriate temperature and complemented wonderfully by a velvety corn velouté with tarragon, makes up the nucleus of my entree. Green beans and fingerling potatoes work in harmony with the sauce as well, and being a self-proclaimed “tarragon addict” I am quite content. Crisp, peppery arugula contributes yet another textural element, as well as a slightly bitter flavor to temper the sweetness of the sauce.
At the other side of the table, my companion also fares well with her Salmon in Bric Pastry. Crispy, flaky pastry dough is wrapped around the meaty fish, and then paired up with a piquant tapenade and a crunchy and aromatic fennel slaw. A small mound of earthy, sweet artichoke puree mingles with basil oil to form a satisfying base for the dish as well.
To finish, we share the Lavender Panna Cotta, encircled by a sweet ring of both fresh strawberry and coulis, and scattered with sweet crunchy almonds. It is creamy and delicate, with very subtle flavors of lavender that show themselves primarily in the finish. I am unsuccessful in utilizing the spoon-shaped cookie dusted with powdered sugar as any kind of utensil, and settle for eating it after it breaks into multiple shards. A diverse range of dessert libations is offered, including two of my recent favorites: Clément V.S.O.P. Rum from Martinique, as well as the Eden Ice Cider from Vermont.
It would be difficult to categorize either the menu or the overall experience at Clementine into a specific genre. It would be more reasonable to say that there is simply something for everyone. Though there is a slightly higher-end element, it is by no means a formal or intimidating dining experience. And the prix-fixe menu is one of the best values in town.
44 Maine St. | Brunswick | 207.721.9800 | clementinemaine.com