By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,401)
“I’ve been around restaurants for years. I love to go out to restaurants, critique them and basically figure out what I’d do differently,” said Ken Macgowan, at his recently opened Porthole Restaurant on Custom House Wharf earlier today. Although he has never been a restaurant owner and never expected to, it was the natural thing for him to do following the closing of the original Porthole late last year.
Last September, the city’s health inspector closed it down for failue to pass inspection due to numerous serious health code violations. It was a move that many say should have happened years ago.However, the city overruled Sturgeon’s decision. It is widely believed the reopening was due to political pressure from city hall. The Porthole was reopened within several days. However, the then owner Oliver Keithley shut it down permanently late last fall because he believed he could not overcome the negative publicity that resulted. But that is history. The Porthole has been completely rennovated, and has retained its rustic, waterfront charm.
MHN.com ordered a veggie salad for $6.00 for lunch today. MHN.com was immediately impressed by the presentation; it was a colorful work of art the likes of which can’t be found anywhere around here for such a reasonable price. All the fresh produce came together to create a bouquet of tastes highly recommended. Neil Brochu, the chef-du-cuisine, explained that as the season progresses the chef will change the ingredients used in salads. But all the fresh produce comes from within a 400 mile radius of Portland. Brochu is responsible for making certain that everything in the kitchen runs smoothly.
Brochu and the chef Jesse Poirer, hired ten people for the kitchen. “Some we hired are students at MECA studying design and painting. I sought out artists, because I’m an artist and I know what artists can produce,” he said. It’s his job to slowly introduce customers to a new idea about food – it’s not the same old burger and fries that it used to be. “It was a greasy spoon. Now it’s polished,” the soft-spoken Brochu said. Brochu formerly was a sous-chef at the Black Point Inn and has worked in Boston as well.
Macgowan said one of his priorities is to serve healthy size meals. “There is so much waste in restaurants these days.” he said. “Opening this landmark restaurant wasn’t on my bucket list, but I made the decision very quickly after Keithley closed last year.”
The Porthole is open seven days a week, three meals a day. It has received its liquor license as well.