Dine: Where to Eat Now
Ebb and Flow | 100 Commercial St. | 207.780.0227 | ebbandflowme.com
Unusual species of seafood incorporate seamlessly into a menu inspired by the cuisine of Greece, Italy, and Spain, producing a result that is different from anything the city has yet to see.
Ebb and Flow co-owners Angelo Ciocca and William D’Auvray balance each other out quite well. Ciocca has owned wholesaler Nova Seafood in Portland for over 20 years, giving him access to many hard-to-find species that make the menu at Ebb and Flow unique. Executive chef D’Auvray grew up in the Philippines, getting his start in the kitchen at age 16 and training under Japanese chefs before moving to Los Angeles, where he cut his teeth with the likes of Michel Richard and Wolfgang Puck.
“We thought about several different concepts for the space, but once we did the demo work and saw how light and clean the space was, it made perfect sense for it to house a simple Mediterranean restaurant,” says Ciocca. The pair has installed a custom wood-fired Beech oven, which the kitchen design and the bulk of the menu revolve around. The dining room interior makes use of warm colors and brushed metal against exposed brick, with an impressive array of lighting fixtures and a wall adorned with a black-and- white photographic montage of wild stallions locked in aggressive combat.
The dining experience at Ebb and Flow begins with house-baked pita bread, which arrives directly from the Beech oven, fully puffed, lightly dusted with za’atar. To pair with this, the menu offers an array of mezze ranging from htipiti, a tangy combination of whipped goat feta, roasted tomato, and chilies, to more mellow spreads like melitzanosalata, composed of fire-roasted eggplant and parsley. “We like to add our own unique touches,” D’Auvray says, “as in our revithia spread, which is basically hummus, except we substitute organic green chickpeas to make it our own.”
One of the first things you notice about the service is the manner in which the servers work as a team, taking turns throughout a meal, pouring cold bottles of filtered water, reciting the specials, and answering questions about the wine list. This is beneficial, as it makes the entire team aware of a table’s dining progression, rather than one sole waiter or waitress.
Although the meat dishes, be it a simply grilled dry-aged New York strip or tender lamb shank braised in Greek red wine and served atop pappardelle pasta, are superlative, Ebb and Flow is, as the name would suggest, a seafood restaurant. This is not to say it joins the myriad steamed lobster and fried clam joints prevalent in this part of town, but rather has specialties that include one of the most memorable preparations of octopus you will ever taste: simply charred, garnished with olive oil, and insanely tender. Also garnering a large amount of repeat business are the seared scallops with roasted cauliflower, hazelnut, and a “lemon caramel” that is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart. The aforementioned hard-to-find species include fresh Scottish langoustines, a small, sweet species of lobster that is slowly finding its way to the culinary forefront, as well as carabineros, a vibrant red shrimp from the Mediterranean Sea that is simply dusted with semolina before being fried and consumed whole, shell and all.
In addition, there is a constantly changing selection of whole fish such as scorfano, or scorpion fish. “The scorfano is a great example of a fish that very few people are familiar with, yet it sells out every night,” D’Auvray says. “Now people call to find out if we are offering it that evening. Offering something different is one of our primary customer service goals, and we have been quite pleased with the overwhelmingly positive reaction.”
The desserts, also prepared by D’Auvray, continue the streamlined characteristics
of the savory menu. They include one of the most silky, perfect vanilla bean cheesecakes in existence, served with fruit compote.
One of the most popular confections is galaktoboureko, an anise-flavored confection made with semolina custard and phyllo, bearing a slight resemblance to baklava in texture but not nearly as sweet.
The large, circular bar has become one of the city’s most popular happy hour spots, featuring a sampling of mezze-style dishes as snacks to complement a wide array of cocktails. Ciocca sums up their mission in a very simple fashion: “We want what every restaurant wants, and that is to provide guests with a wonderful experience.
William D’Auvray isn’t here to show off his skills or try to stump people with foreign ingredients.” It’s refreshing to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Ebb and Flow thus far as it moves into its first busy Maine summer, and I have little doubt that it will take its place among the top destination restaurants in the city.