Bangor has seen a rise in development in the past several years. The revitalization of West Market Square in 2015 has brought luxury apartments, renovated hotels and, of course, a thriving restaurant scene. Evenrood’s, an American and Mediterranean-influenced establishment housed in a former bank, opened in last July, and has since remained a bustling addition to downtown.
A lofty space adorned with wooden farmhouse beams and hanging barn lanterns, the decor is a nod to American agriculture. But neat black tables, olive green walls and exposed gray brick bring an Italian flair to the heart of Maine. A friend described it as, “midcoast chic.”
A note on the lighting: it was bright, warm and inviting, a far cry from the dark 1980’s-style Italian restaurants that, coupled with their heavy meals, often put patrons to sleep. In the back, a large, silver vault — a remnant of the restaurant’s past as a bank — houses an impressive private dining room. Even if not seated in “the vault,” it is still an intriguing feature. Music seemed to be a playlist of 2002’s greatest hits, a disruption of the motif and an uncomfortable addition to the meal.
Though not extensive, the menu is focused on quality ingredients — local whenever possible — and cohesive dishes. More extensive than the menu, however, is the impressive wine list — 23 bottles ranging from South African chenin blanc ($7 for a glass) to California Stag’s Leap cabernet sauvignon ($85 for a bottle). The restaurant also features a full bar with specialty cocktails, and 12 rotating tap lines featuring many local craft beers.
Appetizers range from American-influenced shareable dishes, including all-natural chicken wings and Buffalo chicken dip served with tortilla chips, to seafood chowder and classic French onion soup. Mussels ($14) can be prepared two ways: classic, with white wine, butter, shallots and garlic; or spicy, with coconut milk, jalapeno and red curry. Two crab cakes ($14), compact packages of fresh crab, bell peppers and shallots, and lightly kissed with thyme, arrive elegantly plated with a trio of sauces. The first, a roasted red pepper sauce, is sweet and tangy with a hint of smoke. The second, a green Poblano sauce more reminiscent of salsa, contrasts in style, with more noticeable heat and a piquant flavor. The third, a salty butter sauce with a vinegary bite, provides richness. And these crab cakes demand richness — with only a thin crumb coating, they are focused on crab, in stark contrast to most establishments where breadcrumbs dominate. They were decidedly not fried as crisp as is ideal, and lacked salt. Still, they were both light and pleasing, and worth the price.
Offering a varying spread of entrees with both American and Mediterranean influence — pan-seared sea scallops with fried polenta, spinach and sundried tomato cream ($28), herb-marinated rack of lamb with sage ($28) and a Boursin burger made with local Pineland Farms natural beef and topped with caramelized onions and avocado ($14) — there is something for everyone.
As refined as Evenrood’s is in both atmosphere and palate, emphasis is given on making food approachable. Pan-seared duck breast, served with parsnip puree, roasted asparagus and blueberry compote ($26), arrived at the table in what can be described as a humble presentation. Well-stacked as the plate was, more care could have been taken with styling. Blueberry sauce ran onto the sides of the dish, and the remaining components laid atop the parsnip puree in rows. Nevertheless, the presentation echoes the rustic theme of the restaurant, and, with the duck still sizzling from its flaming sear, still proved irresistible.
Smooth, blended parsnips served as a bed for perfectly crisp duck, sliced diagonally and topped in a cascade of sweet blueberries, which provide bursts of flavor in each bite. The parsnips, creamy and silky smooth, are surprisingly light and compliment the rich fattiness of the duck. Cooked to perfect medium, the duck was tender and its skin crunchy. It soaked up the blueberry sauce with ease. Each component of the dish offered something different on the palate — blueberries for freshness, rich and salty duck for heartiness, and delicately seasoned parsnips for roundness. The portion was generous, but not egregious. The flavors were bold and complex, the perfect accompaniment to a blustery, snowy night.
Blackened Atlantic salmon ($23) with mashed potatoes was simple, but well-prepared. Flaky flesh cooked medium-rare was unmasked by any coulis, aioli or reduction. Left to star in its own show, the salmon received a standing ovation for its charred crust, briny character and delicate texture. The potatoes were unnecessary.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the identity of Evenrood’s — burgers and chicken wings alongside pan-seared halibut with chile beurre blanc, for example — it is undeniable that the restaurant has shown it is capable of producing high-quality food, using fresh ingredients, with creativity and finesse. Moreover, Evenrood’s marks a change for restaurants in the Bangor area, offering not only delicious food, but also a marked history with a unique ambience. Evenrood’s is one of those establishments where one can enjoy a quiet date or a rowdy group meal, where one can imbibe in a signature Manhattan or a modest Shipyard. In a moment, one can transcend the streets of Maine to the piazzas of Florence, or the bistros of southern France. At Evenrood’s, anything goes, and that’s the fun of it.