White Barn Inn 37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk Beach, ME 04043 was recommended to me by my friend Karen and my travel agent Erina, probably some others. It’s won many awards, like the AAA Five Diamond Award and Forbes Five Star Dining, the only one in Maine. It seemed like the obvious choice for dinner on our wedding anniversary.

The setting is beautiful and you can tell it was a barn. The structure was preserved while a wall of glass has replaced one section, so that you can see all the flowers right outside. Our table had a silver pelican on it. At closer inspection, you’ll see that it was made of silverware, as are the figures on other tables, like lobsters, roosters, or other birds, all made from knives, forks, and spoons.

candle and pelican

As soon as I opened the menu, I noticed that they had printed ours with “Happy Anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Binder”, which was really sweet, a genuine consideration that we felt through the night by the staff.

The table was pre-set with olive oil and butter, I wasn’t impressed with either, they were pretty standard. There was a nice array of breads to choose from although none were notable either.

olive oil and whipped butter

We started with a sparkling Taittinger, Prestige Rose. Later, we had planned a Gewurztraminer, but when we tasted it, felt it was too sweet and they allowed us to change to a more suitable Riesling, the “Schoenenbourg”, Pierre Sparr 2001. Both were quite expensive although very generous pours.

rose

We chose the tasting menu, which we love to do, but noticed some gorgeous plates others were getting. It was a Tuesday night and the restaurant was pretty empty. The Pineapple cured salmon, a large amuse, arrived. It’s a pretty layering of seaweed salad, chopped pineapple cured salmon, and pineapple salsa. Nice, but not memorable.

pineapple salmon tartare

We thought it was odd to serve the above as an amuse when the first course was salmon two ways, especially when the presentation of the Smoked Salmon Tartare was so similar. The flavors were different though, with a splash of creme fraiche topping with cucumber salad. The Poached Salmon is barely cooked, which I enjoyed, tasting more like raw salmon and just changing the texture to a more evenly tender piece.

poached salmon and smoked salmon

The Braised Lamb Neck presentation is genius. While braised meat is delicious, it often doesn’t look so beautiful, so here Chef Jonathon Cartwright forms it into a rough cube and breads it. It is nicely fried, piping hot, and when you break in, it’s tender little bits of flavor-rich lamb. The display of beans and peas like different colored pebbles, with the fried boulder, remind me of a landscape.

braised lamb neck

The Smoked Lobster was presented in a dish with a dome cover. When it was lifted, the aroma of smoked lobster filled our table. The corn puree is a perfect sweet match to the smoky flavor of the perfect lobster tail.

smoked lobster

The Foie Gras Torchon is covered in salted nuts and served with a balsamic strawberry. You might think I’m ridiculous for saying this but there is a PB & J effect here. It’s great!

foie gras torchon 2

The Spring Pea Ravioli is spiked with mint which brightens it nicely.

pea ravioli

The Pineapple Sage Sorbet is perfumy. It has a wonderful flavor but a tad too sweet for me.

pineapple sage sorbet

The Dry Aged Sirloin was lean, cooked perfectly, but not that tender. I love peas, but at that point I was a bit sick of seeing them so much. The potato gratin was rich and I imagine that I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t already stuffed at that point in the meal.

Dry Aged Sirloin Dry Aged Sirloin 4

The cheese cart came and as usual my eyes lit up, yet, it turned out not to be very impressive. I imagine they can’t keep a ton of cheeses during weekdays. We were one of only four tables that night. We enjoyed the accompanying chutney, but the breads/crackers were not worth the stomach space.

chese board 2

At the suggestion of a pre-dessert, I mustered some up some ability to eat more and really enjoyed the very fruity glass of crushed pineapple and Peach Cream.

pineapple and peach cream 2

The real dessert, Mango Souffle, was pretty egg-y, reminding me of a Chinese dessert. Lon loves White Chocolate Sauce and I don’t, but both of us agreed the Strawberry Sorbet was the best part.

Mango Souffle and Strawberry Sorbet 3

Towards the end of our meal, we met the couple next to us, also on their anniversary, their 41st! They were so sweet and sent us each a glass of aged port, a really delicious port. Sadly, we had to dash before eating our petit fours because we got a call that Ice was barking in our hotel room. =( Our wonderful waiter packed little treats and helped us expedite out.

My feeling is that the chef Jonathon Cartwright is quite talented, but the White Barn Inn suffers from their remote location. Without being able to maintain a good volume of patrons, maybe they can not keep as many ingredients. I don’t feel that tasting menus should have so many repeating ingredients. Count the peas, the salmon, the pineapple, and the strawberry. I’d be curious to eat there on a weekend, but my anniversary fell on a Tuesday–and high-end restaurants don’t get to make excuses by day of the week.

It’s hard to have one of these dinners without comparing it to other upscale tasting menus. Here it was a little less expensive at $140 per person. Daniel (our favorite) was $185. The French Laundry was $240 (+$30 to $60 more in supplements). Manresa was $160. Le Bernardin was $185. The price seems to fit the disparity in ingredient variety and quality, but adding wines can get pretty expensive, totaling out at $500.88 (with tax and tip) which feels like a little more than it was worth.

posted by jessica at 09:04 AM Filed under American and New American, Restaurants, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.