It’s early May in Bar Harbor and the restaurants, bars, and shops are just starting to open for the season. As I explore the area and talk with the innkeepers, bartenders, and shop owners, they praise Mache Bistro for its food and service. With so many endorsements from the locals, I know I’m in for a treat. I work up a hearty appetite exploring Acadia National Park then a friend and I head to dinner.
We’re greeted by husband and wife owners, Marie and Kyle Yarborough. Kyle has to get back to the kitchen to prepare for service, but Marie stays to visit for a minute, before seating us at a corner table in front of a large window overlooking the street. The early evening light shines into the small restaurant, giving the room a warm glow. It’s decorated in red and black accents with metal wall decorations and stunning copper table tops with black napkins.
We start the meal with a glass of sparkling riesling and Kyle prepares a plate of whipped, truffled brie served with greens and smoky, crunchy grilled bread. These first few bites set the stage for what’s to come, and I’m giddy with excitement.
The menu is divided into sections: beginnings, salads, small plates, and tonight’s entrees. Our server Irina assures us Kyle’s duck is not to be missed. With three duck optionssweet potato and smoked duck brandade; seared duck breast with smoked duck and sweet potato hash; and a slow cooked duck leg confit with creamy polentawe have a difficult decision to make.
We order the cabernet poached pear and the seared pork belly from the beginnings section, and when the pear dish arrives, I’m stunned by its beauty. It’s served with baby arugula, smoked whipped blue cheese, cranberries, and candied pecans. The blue cheese is smoky and rich, but also light and airy. And while the pear is naturally sweet and complements the tartness of the cranberries, it’s also slightly tannic and plays off the candied pecans. These flavors and textures keep me guessing and I love the playfulness of the dish.
But dinner gets serious when the pork belly arrives. This dish is no joke. The skin is lacquered, cooked to a deep golden brown, and the juicy, fatty meat sits atop an apricot and pine nut brown butter sauce. The juices from the pork mingle with the sauce, adding an extra layer of richness. The skin is crunchy and sweet; it sticks to my teeth then melts away. The meat is tender and luscious, a truly decadent treat worth every bite.
For our duck dish, we select the seared breast with smoked duck and sweet potato hash, bacon jam, and an 18-year balsamic and cherry glaze. With so many wines to choose from, we ask Irina for help. She recommends a glass of the Chateaux St. Martin Bronzinelle, a light, smooth, and earthy grenache syrah blend from the Languedoc region of France. It’s bold enough to stand up to the duck, but smooth enough to pair with lighter poultry and seafood. The medium rare duck breast is juicy and flavorful, and the smoky layer of seared skin adds texture. The sweet potato hash and bacon jam is comforting, and the aged balsamic and cherry glaze serves to make this dish both balanced and refined. There’s a similar blend of comfort and sophistication in the quail confit. The small bird is placed on a bed of creamy polenta and served with an assortment of mushrooms: hen of the woods, beech, and enoki. But there’s much more to this dish. Kyle adds tasso ham, creole spices, and chunks of Andouille sausage, giving certain bites unexpected heat and bursts of flavor.
A few hours have passed and as the sun sets, I notice string lights twinkling in the window. I don’t remember when they were turned on, just as I don’t remember when my water was refilled or when the silverware was replaced. These subtle motions are a testament to amazing service. Throughout the meal Irina is helpful and professionala perfect fit for this restaurant.
For our final dish, we order the pumpkin crusted scallops. They are plump and moist and pair beautifully with white beans, fennel-onion confit, sun-dried tomatoes, and a broken olive tapenade. These bold, tart, bright flavors are spot on, and it’s a nice way to end a beautifully prepared meal.
Kyle and Marie run a lovely, quaint bistro that looks and feels like a neighborhood restaurant, but Mache is so much more. The food is superb and the service is extraordinary. It’s no wonder the locals are complimentary; this restaurant exceeds expectations and is an absolute gem in Bar Harbor.
135 Cottage Street | Bar Harbor | 207.288.0447 | machebistro.com