Ocean restaurant in Kennebunkport’s Cape Arundel Inn is a place to celebrate!
George

You’d have to be on a ship to dine any closer to the ocean than this. So of course, this restaurant in the Cape Arundel Inn is named “Ocean.”

While the waves roll toward us outside the huge picture windows at Ocean, my gaze is out a side window toward the nearby home of President George H.W. and Barbara Bush. They dine here too, but didn’t the night we were there. Linda suggests they probably walk to the restaurant. I doubt it!

Actually, the drive along Ocean Avenue, from the Grand Hotel where we are ensconced for the weekend, is stunning. And so is the food, served in a relatively small, intimate setting — a place of white linens, beautiful art and superb service.

It’s the first night here for our server, Piper, but she’s already mastered the menu and is very helpful as we make our choices. A cold glass of Champagne kicks off the evening in style, as we debate the list of 10 small-plate tapas ($4 to $8) featuring mostly seafood, and more substantial appetizers that include Lobster Thermidore ($15) and Beef tartare ($15).

I opt for Sea Scallops ($15), not just because they are a favorite, but because the preparation sounded so interesting: parsnip brown butter puree, shitake mushrooms, Banyuls vinegar and curry crisp. Piper said the curry crisp is a very thin sliver of baked parsnip.

The dish turned out just as interesting as described, different than any preparation of scallops I’ve ever had. The four small scallops came with a very tasty sauce, while the mushrooms swam in the nicely tart vinegar sauce. A nice mix of flavors and textures, and the crispy baked parsnip flakes were really good.

The choice of entrees was equally challenging, ranging from Monkfish “Osso Boca” ($29) to Mallard Duck Magret ($32). I was tempted by the duck, because I ate a lot of those during my duck-hunting days and would have liked to see how the chef prepared it. But the Beef Filet Mignon was calling my name — and I am so glad it did.

A charming New Hampshire couple at the next table, who visited with us throughout the evening, both had it and the “oohs” and “ahs” coming from them were all you need to know.

But for the record, the dish included seared duck Foie Gras, grain mustard sauce, pickled rhubarb and roasted spring vegetables ($34). I can’t begin to adequately describe this for you, but the beef was tender, the asparagus and veggies crisp, the fingerling potatoes delicious, and the dish was beautifully presented. Might be the best filet I have ever had, with a very rich peppery taste.

We each enjoyed a glass of a French Bordeaux with dinner. We also noted a lot of special cocktails going by to other tables, as well as Champagne. Clearly, this is a special place for celebrations. Three birthdays were celebrated there that night, and one group brought their own cake. We all joined in the singing. Everyone was happy and delighted to be there. Especially the Travelin’ Maine(rs).

Linda

Ocean provides an elegant dining experience. As we drove from Kennebunk’s Lower Village out to the oceanfront in Kennebunkport, I noticed the houses increase in size the farther out we got. Ocean is in quite a neighborhood!

The restaurant has taken full advantage of its breathtaking scenery. Its big, open dining room seems even larger because it has floor-to-ceiling windows enclosing the room. There is prime seating at the front windows facing the ocean, but you can see the water from every table. Though it might be trendy to have dinner later in the evening, it would be a shame to miss the spectacular view while the sun is still shining.

Canadian-born Chef Pierre Gignac worked in well-known Canadian restaurants before he opened 98 Provence in Ogunquit. It, too, was a popular restaurant for 18 years until it closed in 2012. So it is not only the view that draws diners here. Take a look on Ocean’s website to peek at some of their spectacularly plated dishes.

The Spring Menu was in full swing, with lots of spring vegetables and fresh seafood offerings. The Asparagus Salad ($12) quickly caught my attention as something truly unique and creative. A stunning presentation of chilled asparagus spears topped with escarole, small cubes of prosciutto and gruyere, all accompanied by a poached egg, was finished with an herbed-mustard vinaigrette. Perfectly toasted small croutons added a crunch. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. It was scrumptious and not a bit of it was left on my plate.

My entree of Roasted Chicken ($28) had been rosemary brined making it supremely moist. Lattice cut potatoes were not just a pretty side. They were super crispy, lending a nice contrast to chicken. Cumin and honey carrots rounded out this great dish. Mmmmm.

I had a bite of George’s Filet Mignon and it was extraordinary! The puree served with it highlighted the meat perfectly. The couple from New Hampshire next to us both ordered the filet. When their server checked in on them asking, “Still delicious?” The lady replied, “Still delicious, and I don’t want it to go away!” Now that’s good food. They, in fact, had come to stay at the inn because they had heard from a friend how incredible the food is at Ocean.

Our memorable meal ended with us sharing (to George’s dismay) the Chocolate Gateau. This was a warm, airy chocolate cake served with chocolate-ginger ice cream. I had to fight for my share of that ice cream, and got little of the cake.

The restaurant was busy on a May night, and though there was lots of conversation, it was not loud. We began the evening in sunlight, ended it in candlelight — a 2 1/2-hour leisurely and long-to-be-remembered dining experience.

Looking for a place to celebrate something? Head to the Ocean!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.