The best way to tell whether or not I really like a dish is by how much I talk between bites. I’m a person of many, many words, so it takes something really amazing to make me shut up and chew. As I attacked the sweet-and-savory, blueberry-and-maple ribs at 95 Ocean, conversation came to a sudden halt. Thats because this meaty meal was fall off the bone, lick the plate clean, bathe in the sauce good. And don’t even get me started on the cheesy jalapeno grits.
95 Ocean, housed inside the massive resort The Nonatum, is a white tablecloth type of place, complete with a grand piano and a banquet-sized dining room, but the food is anything but fussy. Every item I tasted was full of flavor, packed with butter, salt, animal fat, cheese, and all the other components that make food taste great. Before I met my match in the entrée round, I taste-tested a few appetizers, including the lobster cakes and the Topaz. Chef Steve True did an excellent job with the crustacean patties, but the decadent Topaz was the clear winner. Made with fresh dates stuffed with chorizo sausage and wrapped in apple-smoked bacon (and covered with a sweet balsamic glaze), these salty morsels reminded me a bit of the legendary Turducken. But instead of shoving birds within birds, this is pork-on-pork. Though it comes on a bed of fresh, tender greens that are lightly dressed and very good, it is hard to pay too much attention to the vegetation. My advice? Skip the salads and save room for ribs.
Trues signature dish, the Blueberry Chipotle Ribs, is the item to order at 95 Ocean. The sauce hits just the right notes of sweet, tangy, and spicy, and the ribs are cooked to melty, tender perfection. This is the kind of meat you barely need to chew. It’s also the kind of meal I don’t often find this far north. Not many restaurants serve grits, and far more should. Trues grits are a fantastic contradiction: they’re smooth and creamy, yet full of grainy texture. They’re cheesy and buttery, but shot through with a burst of spice. The entire plate was Texas by way of Maine, and the union was a great one.
While the menu changes with the seasons, the ribs and grits seem to be a staple at 95 Ocean. Vegetarian diners disappointed by this review can always order the Vegan Quinoa Cakes (the only entrée that doesn’t involve some sort of meat), but I would tell them to seek sustenance elsewhere. True’s food conveys a masterful command of the animal kingdom; he cooks everything from oysters to grouse, and it would be a shame to miss out on all this awesome protein. And unless you moonlight as a competitive eater, expect to go home with a doggie bag; the portions are generous enough that I was able to enjoy a midnight snack of ribs and grits. Sleep has never come more quickly.
95 Ocean Ave. | Kennebunkport | 207.967.8225 | nonantumresort.com