Name game

The Frog and Turtle evokes Uffa!'s strengths
By BRIAN DUFF  |  November 7, 2007
inside_food_frogturtle_1109
NEW SPOT, NEW SIGN: Outside the Frog and Turtle.

Frog and Turtle | 3 Bridge St, Westbrook | Tues-Thurs 5-9:30 pm; Fri-Sat 5-10 pm; Sun 5-9:30 pm | Visa/MC | 207.491.4185
The Portland restaurant scene is crowded and confusing. Like all humans confronting overwhelming choices in a crucial aspect of life, we cannot resist the urge to create taxonomies — the most comprehensive of which is on display online at the Portland Food Map. Though divisions and categorizations do violence to the quirks and particularities that define our experience at any particular restaurant, they give the mind a place to begin — a foothold from which to start the difficult journey toward a decision about where to eat.

The Frog and Turtle, a new venture from James Tranchemontagne (formerly of Uffa!), confronts this dynamic in two ways. First, it's in Westbrook, which is a sort of escape from the struggle for attention among restaurants on the peninsula. Second, he has laid claim to his own taxonomic designation as a “gastro pub.” Gastro pubs took hold in England in the last decade when chefs who cared about great food began serving it in casual drinks-first settings. In embracing the moniker Tranchemontagne promises a departure from Uffa!, which always seemed to take itself seriously, despite the playful name.

The Frog and Turtle does have a very different feel. The room pulls off casual elegance, with lots of wood under red-tinged light, with cozy booths by the windows and a comfy-looking lounge area. At Uffa! you planned to stay a while because serious dining takes time. At Frog and Turtle you linger longer than planned because things are so pleasant.

Fortunately the Frog and Turtle also features many of Uffa!’s old strengths. Among these are skill in the kitchen and the thoughtful staff out front. Apparently the entire staff from Uffa! has moved to the new spot, meaning that for a new place everyone seems very settled in — knowledgeable about the food and the little touches that make for a great meal — like when the bartender slipped me some of the pate (sweet, creamy, and perfect on crispy toast points with a sharp Dijon) that sounded good on the charcuterie plate.

The menu has taken its own taxonomy a bit too far. Dishes are divided into nine categories — familiar ones like entrees and more novel ones like crepes and flatbreads. Having gone to Westbrook to avoid difficult choices you confront them once again. But amid the categories it is easy to sniff out strengths familiar from Uffa!. Tranchemontagne is great at sauces, so I tried an unfamiliar nage over a seafood crepe. The brown-edged pancake was exploding with small Maine shrimp, halved scallops, and haddock — which combined inside without forming a stewish muddle. The watercress within had wilted enough to lose the bitterness that might have overwhelmed the fish, and the light creamy sauce complimented the seafood’s flavor without overwhelming it.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY BRIAN DUFF
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   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.
  •   TACOS ON THE TOWN  |  August 31, 2014
    While there’s no class mobility in this town, we do have taco mobility—even taco-class mobility.
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF