Are you often surprised by a restaurant’s food after reading what might look like a menu that’s trying too hard? With all the emphasis these days on local and fresh, menus are looking more and more like a guidebook to farms in _____and less and less like something you’d want to eat for dinner. This was the case with Shepherd’s Pie, one of my father’s favorite restaurants in Maine. Add to that, a no reservation policy, a husband who loathes waiting in line and an exceptionally good selection of alternative local restaurants, and it’s not hard to figure out why the Accidental Locavore hadn’t yet been to Shepherd’s Pie.
It’s in the town of Rockport, a beautiful, small, sea-side village, which until recently was lacking good places to eat. The restaurant is a big open room with windows on both ends, the back ones overlooking the harbor (giving the restroom one of the best views in the place). There’s a large bar and an open kitchen. And while the menu prose is a little overblown, what comes to your table are delicious takes on some classic dishes.
One of my favorite starters was the oysters in the style of escargots (and served that way), but “wood roasted” and topped with a chimi churri (their spelling) butter — definitely my favorite dish that evening and something that would go well with a good glass of wine, perched at the bar. Frank had a crab cocktail done in the Mexican style, with avocado, cilantro and hot sauce — really good, but not as good as my oysters.
For a main course, my mother opted for the duck PB&J (see, I told you it was a cutsie menu), which turned out to be several slices of perfectly medium-rare duck breast on a roll with spicy peanut butter and hot pepper jelly. It must have been good because it disappeared before any of us could get a taste! My dad had the fried chicken, which came with a big bowl and a cider vinaigrette. The only problem was that the chicken sitting in the vinaigrette became a little soggy (maybe ask for the vinaigrette on the side?). Otherwise it was a pretty good fried chicken, but no competition for my friend Zhu Zhu’s. Frank also had chicken, this time with a jerk rub, pineapple sauce and a scallion yogurt to reduce some of the burn. I had the kurobuta pork (the heritage pork version of Kobe beef) with salted caramel — inspired by a classic Vietnamese pork dish. It was more of a tangy sweetness, not at all cloying, and the pork was juicy and flavorful. I also loved the way the radishes were cut — leaving a little of their stems (as in the photo).
There were desserts, of course, and we may have even shared one, but they were hardly memorable and mostly beige. Which is fine by me as it gives you a good excuse to try some of the side dishes, or have another serving of oysters. And yes, there is Shepherd’s Pie on the menu.