Outliers finds the top margin

A cut above
By BRIAN DUFF  |  July 10, 2013

NICELY SMOKY Outliers' calamari appetizer.

To call something an outlier defines its achievement in relation to the average. This is often foolhardy, since the average is hard to beat in the long run. Average is not a statistic, or even really a concept. It is more like a force, something akin to gravity, whose constant presence and pull dominates our lives. The law of regression toward the mean dictates that nothing remarkable can endure. Some statisticians prefer to look at the median rather than the mean, because the average is too responsive to outliers. Yes, average responds to outliers: so that it can grab them and ensnare them in its relentless tug.

So if we are impressed by many aspects of Outliers, the new West End restaurant, its name reminds us that we should appreciate it now, before the inevitable decline. Will its striking décor become familiar and banal? Will its clever bathroom appointments lose their charm? Will its refreshingly terse menu begin to seem annoyingly laconic? Will its interesting and well-executed dishes become expected and well-executed? Certainly. It's unavoidable. It's nice of them to point it out.

For now the décor really is something — both inside and out, since a nice little patio looks over the Fore River, and some great design work has been done inside. Behind the bar is a lovely wall of rippling ceramic; over a long grey-leather bench is some sweeping wooden modernism. Between the walls the room exudes a warmed-up industrial minimalism, with textured mats and hand-made plates on metal tables.

And the menu really is minimalist, with entrees labeled only "duck," "chicken breast," and the like. Is a nice departure from the trend toward ingredient-genealogies on menus, but excluding details about sides, sauces, and preparation does require many questions to your server. Which is not bad, since they are nice chatters, but one imagines on a busy night it slows things down considerably.

The menu leans slightly toward seafood, which might be expected from a chef who cut his teeth at Street and Co. Malcolm Gladwell suggests becoming a true outlier in any field requires 10,000 hours of practice, and cranking out the fish at S&C is the best way to get it. The calamari appetizer had a nice smokiness from the grill, accentuated by the bitter of grilled radicchio. The flesh had the right texture — tender enough though with a good chew to it — but too much internal sliminess had been left behind in the cleaning. A thin bright-green sauce, made with garlic and tarragon it seemed, ringed the plate.

The calamari was also served with a pile of tender and vinegary diced beets. That same strong balsamic flavor animated an entrée of halibut — perfectly seared and moist. It was served with great summer tomatoes, a quinoa salad, and uncommonly light and tender collard greens, spotted with sea beans. Overall, it was a dish that had a summer lightness along with some interesting sour complexity.

The grilled duck breast entrée veered more in the direction of fall/winter comfort food. Cranberries were scattered over the duck, and spotted the terrific cauliflower mash beneath. Sautéed chard had a bacony richness, and an even more bacon-rich duck confit was mixed in among the fingerling potatoes.

1  |  2  |   next >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIMITS OF LANGUAGE  |  November 03, 2014
    Is it enlightened or provincial that we Mainers hear “ethnic” and don’t think, as many do, exclusively of non-Europeans?
  •   INFINITE BROOKLYNS  |  October 24, 2014
    Last year some national magazine said that Biddeford is to Portland as Brooklyn is to New York. No. Biddeford is a mash-up of Newburg and Poughkeepsie. It is East Bayside that is our Brooklyn.
  •   START DIGGING HERE  |  October 03, 2014
    Because music is now basically free (thanks to torrents, Pandoras, Spotifies, etc.), the only way for musicians to make money is through constant touring and related merchandise sales. Or they can appear as a judge on The Voice. Food, on the other hand, will still cost ya...
  •   PICK YOUR POISON  |  October 01, 2014
    The National Institutes of Health just published a randomized study that confirms the rumors: carbohydrates are poison and should be avoided. So how should we feel about Slab Sicilian Streetfood?
  •   A LITTLE WHINE  |  September 05, 2014
    The lessons of Lolita are that something simpler and less challenging can be lovely, and that some cheap wine could really loosen things up.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF