Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Kid In Town - Bar Harbor

I think some restaurant locations are just unlucky.  Sitting on the Post Road is a cute little waterfront building that has had some long-standing restaurants in it in the past, but lately can't keep anything open. 

It was the Jolly Trolley for a while. It was good in a mediocre kind of way.  It was one of those restaurants where you knew it was bad, but had some guilty-pleasure irresistible dishes. That closed because the chain that owned it started moving on to other projects and renaming all of its restaurants. 

Then it was The Barnacle.  Oh how I wished The Barnacle had worked out its kinks and been really good!  There is such a dearth of barbecue restaurants in this neighborhood.  It didn't.

Suddenly, with no announcements and no fanfare, a new place called Bar Harbor opened up in the space.  They opened without a peep.  They had no website for the longest time.  I knew nothing about their food or their price point or their level of formality.  They just had a cute knife and fork motif in their sign.

 Once they finally had a website up, I took a look at the menu and felt we really should try it.  The menu is very seafood-heavy, which doesn't make me happy, but it's something my husband can get behind. It's nice when we go to a restaurant and he has more than just one or two chicken or fish dishes to choose from. Besides, it's really close to home, which makes it convenient in bad weather.  Reviews online were mixed. I heard good reviews of the food, but rather inconsistent reviews of the service.

They toned down the decor quite a bit from the previous incarnations.  It's simple, soothing wood and lighting.  No kitsch needed.  I don't know why my flash wouldn't discharge properly in the restaurant.

There was no one to greet us when we arrived.  A man we assumed to be the owner had to come out from behind the bar and seat us - only after he saw us.

Our waitress was friendly and all smiles.  She came to our table quickly.  I had to ask her for the wine list as it wasn't provided with our menus.  The wines are only by the glass and they say that they change each week.  They don't tell you what the wines are.  I mean, they say it's a chardonnay, but they don't give a brand - or a price - on the wine and beer menu.

Once she took our orders we had to wait quite some time for the actual food.  I started with a pear and goat cheese salad with pine nuts, arugula, and dried cranberries.  Kevin had a shrimp cocktail.  The salad was good, but the chef clearly felt the need to make the plate look as full as possible and loaded it down with arugula.  Really it needed some arugula restraint.  It tended to overwhelm the other flavors.  What I liked was that the pears were poached with rosemary.  It was an interesting combination that I would love to try at home.

We waited another long wait for our main course.  Kevin had fish and chips.  I had chicken in lemon tarragon sauce.  We were pleased with our main courses.  He said the fish and chips weren't greasy at all.  I thought the chicken reminded me of some of the meals I had in Paris.  I liked the sauce so much I definitely want to imitate it.  Still, we had to wait a while before our server brought them.

The dining room was bustling with two families who had each brought a gaggle of kids with them.  Some were better behaved than others.  The presumed owner went over and chatted with those families.  He did not come by our table at all and ask how we were doing, which might have been nice.

The waitress was more than happy to bring more wine (I suppose they're encouraged to do so since it's more money for the restaurant), but I had to ask twice for water. After our leftovers were wrapped up, we were abandoned.  She just disappeared.  Finally someone else came so we could get the check.  We had considered ordering dessert, but we were tired of sitting around all night. Who knew when they would get to us? 

I guess I have to agree with other internet reviewers who say that the food is good, but the service, while friendly, is totally inept.  Kevin, normally a very generous tipper, left the lowest tip he could get away with and swore never to return.  I don't want to be too hard on the place.  Service is capable of improving.  I remember how bad the service was our first time at Ginban and yet we have gone back there since then and the service gets better every time.  Time will tell if Bar Harbor survives or goes the way of its predecessors.


Rosemary said...

What a great find, even serendipitous! Wish it would have been there when we visited Bar Harbor last September.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

This isn't the real Bar Harbor and you were better off not eating there at the real Bar Harbor even if it did exist there. You would have been waiting until now to finish your meal.