George

Bintliff’s in Ogunquit surprised us. From the outside, the white-sided building looks fairly modest. Inside, it is stunning with several rooms all beautifully decorated. I felt underdressed in my shorts, but thankfully the table cloth covered my legs. And actually, although this place is elegant, it doesn’t feel “fancy.” You can come as you are.

Owner/Chef Norm Hebert is a friendly guy, and he came out of the kitchen to greet us and give us a brief tour. We met Norm at the annual awards dinner of the Maine Restaurant Association at the pre-dinner reception where he was preparing and offering a tasty appetizer. It convinced us that we needed to dine at his restaurant. And sure enough, it turned out to be a memorable meal.

That part was no surprise, because Norm taught at the Stonewall Kitchen cooking school and worked here just one year for Mr. Bintliff before purchasing the restaurant 12 years ago. The restaurant has won many awards.

Our server, Jess, was very friendly and helpful and had a great sense of humor. The menu is lengthy, featuring lots of seafood choices and a range of items from Eggplant Napoleon to filet mignon. Apps go from $9 to $21 and entrees from $19 to $39. Lighter fare is also offered from $10 to $17, and you can even get a burger for just $8.

We started our evening feast with a selection from their extensive wine list, a bottle of Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva from Tuscany ($33). My New England crab cakes appetizer ($13), served on a field of greens with a roasted peach and strawberry salsa, was delicious. But the star of my evening was my scallop entree ($34). I’ve never had scallops like this, blackened on top with a hot Cajun spicy sauce (and I do mean hot!). On top of the scallops was a delicious bacon aioli. This was the most unique scallop dish I’ve ever had and I loved it. I also loved the beets, which Linda called “pickled beets on steroids.”

Alas, the portions are large here, so Linda forbade dessert — even after I started mooning over an awesome one that went by. And I have to admit I lingered long over the menu’s Filet of Beef Oscar — beef tenderloin topped with asparagus, crab meat and bearnaise sauce. Next time! Or perhaps we’ll return for Norm’s famous brunch. On Mother’s Day, an astonishing 411 customers enjoyed Sunday brunch here.

Linda

The unique decor of Bintliff’s is sure to catch your eye. High ceilings, columns and an abundance of windows make this seem like a huge space. There is a variety of seating and I loved the small, curved leather booths situated in the middle of the restaurant. But the most unique accent is the hanging antique paned windows which add interest and also help divide the room. There is a nice bar area on the left as you enter.

The housemade bread is made daily. Jess said it was Tuscan bread, but one bite told me it was way tastier because it had salt in it. Oh, that bread is dangerously good. The starters showcased a nice choice of seafood and vegetarian options. From baked brie to escargot, there are many tempting choices.

I knew what I wanted once I spotted the Prosciutto and Asparagus appetizer ($10). The spears of asparagus were wrapped in prosciutto, dipped in an egg batter, then sauteed in olive oil. It came with greens and a dollop of hollandaise. It was unlike anything that I’ve ever eaten. This is one of the “staple dishes” here, according to Jess. There was a smokey flavor coming through and the prosciutto added just the right amount of saltiness. It was beyond great, and George pronounced it fantastic.

Tornados of Beef Diane is another staple here and just reading the description had me salivating. Two petite filets are served on a grilled portabella mushroom with an amazing tarragon cognac cream sauce. The tender beef paired well with the grilled portabella, and garlic mashed potatoes with crunchy broccolini finished out this terrific entree.

The restaurant has a charming atmosphere with music from long ago quietly playing in the background. It is a place where one feels comfortable, not intimidated. Meals are nicely paced, allowing you to relax and experience really fine food.

Chef Norm came out to chat with us again before we left. He is a creative, confident chef who clearly enjoys what he does and steps in wherever he is needed, be it behind the bar or out in the kitchen.

I was surprised to learn that they also serve breakfast and lunch. That’s good news because you can catch any meal you want if you are in the area. Now, I wonder if they will serve that prosciutto and asparagus for breakfast and lunch. Just a thought.

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