Honoring the fact that this is Maine Restaurant Week (and not simply Portland Restaurant Week), Kate of The Blueberry Files and I decided to drag the men out of town and fill up at Fuel.

Adam's stellar Nicoise Salad at Fuel in Lewisto

Intrigued by the Lewiston restaurant’s reputation – not to mention its mouth-watering $30 special menu previewed on the MRW website – our hopes and expectations were high.

Were they met? Well, yes. . . and no. It was a night of highs and lows.

Adam loved his Nicoise Salad. Our shared Duck Rilettes appetizer was a revelation. My dessert a dream. But, Adam’s entree bitterly disappointed and M felt his side dish was – well – simply bitter.

Here’s the story.

The night veered a tad sideways early on when we discovered that instead of a “choose one from every course” structure, the chef had paired the promoted dishes into concrete threesomes. So, if you wanted the Pork Belly Cassoulet, you also got the Nicoise Salad and a silly “jellies and truffles” dessert. Faced with that restriction, Kate, M and I decided the only valid choice was to fully commit to the chocolate torte with Maine sea salted caramel, malt powder and Guinness ice cream. I mean, come on!

It proved wise.

Our first course was white asparagus cooked sous vide then grilled. French for “under vacuum,” sous vide basically means sealed in a baggy and slowly simmered in a water bath.  An accompanying egg also was prepared sous vide. Sprinkled on top – a lovely crumble of brown butter bread crumbs. While tasty and rich, the asparagus inevitably got old after three spears, and we three soon jealously eyed Adam’s stellar Nicoise. Crunchy little bread crumbs couldn’t make up for the juicy Ahi slabs being devoured to my right. Adam was in heaven and M accurately declared,”Adam won this round!”

Fuel's amazing chocolate torte.

Luckily, M also ordered extra appetizers, which included the afore-mentioned, super-fabulous Duck Rilettes (is braised duck ever really bad?) and a briny charcuterie plate. Both top notch.

For mains, the triad received generous lamb sirloins paired with grilled radicchio, endive and grapes in a red wine sauce. Tender, robust and not the least bit gamey, the lamb came with a nice red center. It pleased, but lit no spark. No overtones of rosemary or soft, smoky haze.  Perfectly cooked, yet also ordinary. Curious.

While I love bitter and bold, M just couldn’t abide the (admittedly) biting flavor of the grilled radicchio and endive. He choose instead to dive into the cheddar-laced polenta cake that served as cheesy lamb cushion. Underwhelmed, Kate and I left ours mostly untouched.

Meanwhile, Adam stewed over his bowl of ham and beans. Pork Belly Cassoulet it was not. Salty, thoroughly cooked through and lacking even a remote jiggle of fat, it was a stretch to label it “belly” and Adam wasn’t pleased. He brought most of it home to be re-heated with eggs and toast “where it belongs.”

Adam was equally underwhelmed with his mini plate of odd jellied cubes and truffles — abandoning them to a full-on campaign to snag bites of my marvelous torte.

I thwarted him. Save Bresca’s buttermilk pannacotta, it was the best dessert I’ve eaten east of the Mississippi and I finished every bite.

So, what was my impression of Fuel?  I saw enough brilliance to go back – and order off the regular menu.

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