Dining Review: The Veranda Restaurant – Bar Harbor, Maine
I wanted to find some unique places to eat while visiting Acadia National Park. Most places I found for my rough draft were seafood/pub style restaurants, which is great once but tavern fare can only go so far. It was Kevin’s birthday dinner so it had to be something special. After looking around, I found a well rated fine dining, locally sourced establishment, The Veranda Restaurant.
Since we visited during post-COVID, I wanted to touch on the precautions I observed (skip this paragraph to avoid COVID rant!). I have to be honest, dining here was the most uncomfortable I felt during our entire trip. It seemed like easy precautions were not being followed and while perhaps they were compliant in other ways, it was not visible to the guests – COVID precautions should not be a secret. First, we were seated inside. It kind of threw me off because up until then, only outdoor dining was permitted in Bar Harbor that we saw. While they had seating outside, it was not evident that it was permitted for dining guests and seemed to be only for bar / resort guests. Future diners were given the option to sit inside or outside and they all chose outside so I take some fault in not asking but a choice up front would have been welcomed. When we sat down, a door to the outside was left open to allow for ventilation of the small space but it was quickly closed. The amount of times people touched the door handle to open and close it was mind boggling – both servers, guests, everyone – touched those door handles. The servers were not hand washing between each run outside and inside with a new drink order after making contact with that door handle. The tables inside were not adequately socially distance and the ones closest to us had “reserved” tags on them – I was nervous if someone else was seated at these tables, there was certainly not six feet away from us.
The food menus were disposable but the massive wine menu was not – it was quite a length book that I doubt each page was being properly sanitized in between each use. Go digital with the menu! Table settings were already on the table (drinkware, silverware) and I would have preferred it was brought out fresh. When a couple sat at a table and decided to move to the bar instead (which I am not sure why they permitted people to sit at the bar without masks right on top of the bartender making drinks for other guests), the server wiped the chairs and removed the water glasses but did not wipe the table and remove the silverware. Finally, while our server was great about wearing masks, the others were not. One server never put it over her nose and continued to take it off once at the computer back inside (while touching that door handle countless times). As you can tell, I was uncomfortable but I did not want to ruin Kevin’s birthday dinner (but also did not want to get COVID). I am also uber sensitive to germ habits because it is my job to keep things sterile. No one else ended up dining in the room with us so that made me feel better, and the door that continued to open and close had a screen on the top so there was some ventilation. Anyway, off with the dining review.
Can’t complain about the view – The Veranda does indeed have a veranda overlooking the ocean and well manicured lawn and the ocean.
The menu was simple with three options in each category of appetizer, entree, and dessert. For once, an easy decision on what to eat!
For wine we chose a Riesling Kabinett from Germany which had to perfect balance of creaminess and minerality.
I started with the foie gras mousse with pear, fennel and toasted challah bread.
The foie gras was so delightful and I have to say, so amazing to be eating foie gras again! The pairing with challah bread was brilliant and I am not sure why we have not had this combination before. Loved it!
Kevin had the peas soup with cultured cream and grilled bread.
While it was an interesting presentation, he was not as satisfied as I was with the foie gras and wished he got the foie gras as well. Something was missing to pull it all together, it felt disjointed. It was not a bad dish but it did not seem to meet expectations.
And let’s talk about the bread. OMG this bread. It was amazing, buttery, warm, salty, light, flaky bread. And the butter was just delicious. The menu lists this bread as “the best bread we’ve made so far” and I have to agree this was outstanding bread. I will take a dozen to go!
For my main dish I ordered the sweet pea risotto with creme friache and pea fritter.
First off, this portion was enormous. I was quite confused because normally these dining experiences have smaller, more intense flavor dishes but this was several cups of risotto for one person. The risotto was well prepared and very creamy with the creme friache addition. The pea fritters were a fun concept and creative but I found them bland, left only with the fry taste and not much else. While it was an enormous portion, other than peas and risotto – was this really a $31 entree? Felt like it could have added something “else” like bacon or pancetta, something to salt it up a give another texture to the dish. Guess the pea dishes here were not home runs – again this was good risotto but felt very basic.
Kevin order the cured duck, sweet potato, blackberry, beet, and fruit by the foot.
Yes, fruit by the foot which was freshly prepared fruit leather draped onto of the duck. Now look at this dish! It was so colorful and artfully decorated the plate. Very cool dish and the flavors matched the creativity of the plating. The duck had a perfect char on the outside, perfect medium rare on the inside, and just the right amount of fat left under the skin. The fruit by the foot, blackberries, and beet puree complemented and refreshed the overall dish profile and made for exemplary presentation.
And for dessert, we wanted to try to the “tart tatin” but it was not ready to be served yet and we were not given a duration of time in which it would be available. The other options were a mint one (no thank you) and a “cremeux” which I did not know what it was. We asked the server and he explained it was chocolate base – we were in!
The cremeux also had blackberry and carbonated brittle accompaniments. The carbonated brittle was almost like caramel bark, it was so, so good. The cremeux had a gelatinous consistency but maintained a really nice chocolately flavor. Overall, we enjoyed this dessert.
Overall, the meal was good. Was it amazing? Some things were, some things were not. Would we eat here again? Maybe, I would have to think about it at this price point. Would I recommend it? Probably not based on this one experience and here is why (and I am taking the COVID precautions completely out of this). The dishes felt very uneven – you have the foie gras and the duck that were pieces of art, beautiful to look at and a wide array of flavors on the plate. And compare that to the soup and the risotto that were very flat. So the menu just had inconsistent offerings and for this price point, I do not think that is something to gamble. We paid almost double what we paid at CIAO and I think overall we would have rather had a second meal there. The value was better and it was a more creative menu. I understand the Veranda is a restaurant in a fancy hotel but elevate the dishes to justify the price point you are setting. We have no problem spending money on good food but we expect an experience in return. Some of the dishes were definitely a hit and if the menu can sustain that for all the dishes, perhaps then it would make sense. This could also be an impact from COVID changes to the menu – the reviews for this restaurant were very good so perhaps it was an off night. If we return to Bar Harbor and the menu looks great, maybe we would consider dining here again to give it another shot.