PORTLAND, Maine – The man at the end of the bar eyed the plate of deep red yellowfin tuna crudo right in front of us in the sort of twitchy, captivated way that meant only one thing. Five, four, three, two...
"What is that?"
Mouths still in ecstasy from the aftertaste of ginger and succulent raw fish, we laughed because we, too, nearly missed out on this divine discovery. Had it not been for the bartender, Ryan — who turned out to be the owner’s sister and veteran staffer — we would not have known to order it.
"I'll have what they're having," said the man at the end of the bar, eyes steadied on our plate.
That’s just how it goes at Eventide, a Portland restaurant with an oyster "bed" of ice nearly half the size of the bar. The bartender deftly planned our order: first, a flight of local oysters paired with crisp bubbly. My bivalve-loving travel companion took copious notes on each light, briny, or sweet morsel, garnished according to our respective palates with a horseradish ice. Our culinary guide lead us onward to the aforementioned crudo, fried oyster bun, and signature lobster roll in a brown butter vinaigrette.
As it turned out, the neighbor on our side of the bar was a longtime Eventide regular, trauma nurse, and adventure guide to some of the world’s most exotic locales. We swapped stories of Florida beaches and Mexican cities, showed off travel snaps, traded foodie tips, and heard tales of abandoned islands off the Maine coast whose quarries once supplied Europe with marble. Another glass of wine? Sure, why not.
Before we knew it, we were exchanging email addresses and Ryan was cleaning up — this was Portland, after all, not New York. I doubt we’ll ever see our new friends again, but, in that moment, the fresh New England seafood and goodwill of friendly locals filled us with a warmth that crystalized the memory of Eventide.
Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle St.
Portland, Maine 04101