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Primo Restaurant


woodburner
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Chef, Melissa Kelly a once chef at Chatham Sheepherding Inn, located in Old Chatham New York has moved on to her own location.

Operating with her husband Price Kushner, (bakery/pastry chef) are now running Primo Restaurant in Rockland, ME.

Primo Restaurant

I would be sure that this would be a great stop for anyone looking for the freshest ingredients, and fine dining in the Portland area.

Let us know if you stop.

woodburner

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Primo's been open for 3-4 years now. Probably more - time flies. I keep meaning to go there as it's only around 30 minutes from my house, but I don't eat out much. I've heard only good things about it. Guess I ought to get off my ass and get over there.

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Primo's been open for 3-4 years now. Probably more - time flies. I keep meaning to go there as it's only around 30 minutes from my house, but I don't eat out much. I've heard only good things about it. Guess I ought to get off my ass and get over there.

Nick,

Knowing how chef Kelly operated here in Old Chatham, I would wait until late spring. There was an acre or so of fresh lettuce's and vegetables right off the kitchen, when she cooked here. The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, (the largest sheep farm in the country) was elegant dining, here in the Hudson Valley, for which she deserves all credit. When she left, the restaurant closed, and for the past four years, the void has never been filled.

Melissa's bio

woodburner

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Woodburner -

Her garden out in back of the restaurant here is well known. They also have a greenhouse where some things are grown over the winter using Eliot Coleman's techniques. We've had a lot of below zero(F) weather here over the last few weeks so I'm not sure if anything survived. I also see at her website that you gave above that she seems to have opened a place in Orlando, FL so she may be down there cooking over the winter. Also at her website you can click "Garden" (second line down) to find out more.

Pat Manley built the wood-fired oven there and I did the steelwork for it. One of these days I''ve got to get over and sample some of the food.

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  • 2 months later...

Primo is truly excellent- well worth the drive from any location in New England. I would agree that late spring and all through the summer are the best times to visit the restaurant, as their organic garden will be providing fresh produce at that point... The menu changes depending on what's in season, but I would highly recommend the Pork Saltimbocca, which, being a local favorite, is offered year-round. Also, for dessert- the zeppole (sp?)- delecious doughnut-hole-like pastry confections served with, if I remember correctly, espresso gelato...

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Primo is no doubt good, but it is really not "in the Portland area" -- its 80 miles away and good hour and a half by car, more if the traffic is bad on Route 1 in the summer.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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You're looking at about 1 1/2 hours from Portland. Longer in the summer when things get tied up in Wiscasset going through town and over the bridge. But if you get past that it's pretty clear sailing and there's a lot more to see than just Primo, as good as it seems to be. The further downeast you go the better it gets.

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Primo is hands-down one of the best restaurants in New England. Melissa Kelly is obsessed with doing things authentically...she's almost puritanical in her work ethic, except that the food is so sensual! How many other restaurants make their own vinegar? My last visit was in late October, long past growing season, and yet everything was so fresh and so seasonal. The enclosed front porch was stocked so with crates of apples that the entry was perfumed with fruit. The service was fantastic, the food was thoughtful and perfectly executed.

You get the sense that they're making every decision very carefully, holding it up against their ideal of what a restaurant should be and then acting accordingly. Definitely worth the trip.

Amy Traverso

californiaeating.blogspot.com

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You get the sense that they're making every decision very carefully, holding it up against their ideal of what a restaurant should be and then acting accordingly. Definitely worth the trip.

I'm very happy to hear that Melissa is doing so well. The Hudson Valley region still has that void from when she left a few years back.

woodburner

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Ate there 3 years ago while staying in Rockland with friends. It was one of my top 5 dining experiences of all time. Oddly enough, another top 5 was just south down the road in Tenants Harbor. Totally different dining category, but the Cod End Cookhouse is my favorite local dining experience ever! Can't wait to go back. Don't get to eat lobster off the boat in Kansas.

RM

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  • 1 year later...

just discovered this thread on Primo. we ate there this past Memorial Day weekend - it was wonderful. I had eaten at their Orlando location while on business last year & just fell in love with their cooking. the Rockland location is just great - wonderful atmosphere, attentive service, & of course, the food. i can't wait to go back to Maine to go to Primo again.

www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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  • 10 months later...

I just learned of Primo from reading a chapter on Melissa in Michael Ruhlman's new book--and given that I've been going to Boothbay Harbor every August for the last 15 years, I'm so delighted to finally hear about this place! I'm going to attempt to book a reservation tomorrow. I'll be in a party of 6 with a few older folks--any recommendations on particularly good tables? Is the restaurant noisy? So looking forward to this!

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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I just learned of Primo from reading a chapter on Melissa in Michael Ruhlman's new book--and given that I've been going to Boothbay Harbor every August for the last 15 years, I'm so delighted to finally hear about this place!  I'm going to attempt to book a reservation tomorrow. I'll be in a party of 6 with a few older folks--any recommendations on particularly good tables? Is the restaurant noisy? So looking forward to this!

Hi, there.

If you can get a table in the front room that would be nice. It's not an overly noisy restaurant, however, we ate last yr at the bar because we couldn't get a reservation & the upstairs was a little noisy. Downstairs is much nicer. Melissa's husband (& pastry chef), Price Kushner, is usually doing front of house duties & he is very charming.

Try the Zeppole for dessert - they are fabulous!

I hope you enjoy it. We have been there twice now & love it each time. We have a house near Belfast & try to go to Primo at least once a year. Please let me know how you like it!

www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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Their website seems dysfunctional at the moment. Bummer, I really wanted to check out their menu. Maybe they're retooling. In the meantime, here's some last-century info:

Primo Restaurant Ltd 2 S Main St , Rockland, ME Phone - (207) 596-0770

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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  • 4 weeks later...

Primo sounds really great, so I'm hoping to get there when we're in Maine in the next few weeks. Just a few questions:

- What is the general price range?

- Is it suitable for children (5 and 6 years old)?

- Is there a difference in the lunch and dinner menus?

- Do we need to book much in advance?

Thanks for your help.

Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)
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-Primo is relatively expensive, though you can get out of there without spending a ton of dough. It is relatively easy, though, to spend a decent chunk for a full bore meal of starters, entrees, wine, dessert.

-It's not geared at children or family dining, but we've gone several times with our children, starting when Primo opened and our first son was a baby. Never a problem, but we're pretty careful to keep the kids quiet and happy when we're there.

-They don't do lunch. Lots of other good options in the area for lunch, though.

-They get booked up far in advance. Call now if you want to go.

I have to say that our last Primo experience in August '05 was not up to snuff. We've gone many times since they opened and there was a definite decline from the early days. They now have two other restaurants and it's clearly taken some of their attention away from the mothership in Rockland. We're currently debating whether to make a rez for our vacation in August. There are other options, though nothing has yet been at the level of Primo when they started.

In their first year, we made trips during each season from Boston just to eat at Primo. I wouldn't do that anymore.

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............ They now have two other restaurants and it's clearly taken some of their attention away from the mothership in Rockland. ............

Where and what are the other two places. Thanks

Orlando and Tucson.

Robert R

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  • 2 weeks later...
-Primo is relatively expensive, though you can get out of there without spending a ton of dough.  It is relatively easy, though, to spend a decent chunk for a full bore meal of starters, entrees, wine, dessert.

-It's not geared at children or family dining, but we've gone several times with our children, starting when Primo opened and our first son was a baby.  Never a problem, but we're pretty careful to keep the kids quiet and happy when we're there. 

-They don't do lunch.  Lots of other good options in the area for lunch, though.

-They get booked up far in advance.  Call now if you want to go.

I have to say that our last Primo experience in August '05 was not up to snuff.  We've gone many times since they opened and there was a definite decline from the early days.  They now have two other restaurants and it's clearly taken some of their attention away from the mothership in Rockland.  We're currently debating whether to make a rez for our vacation in August.  There are other options, though nothing has yet been at the level of Primo when they started.

In their first year, we made trips during each season from Boston just to eat at Primo.  I wouldn't do that anymore.

Hmmm. Sorry that the one less than terrific meal at Primo has had you criticize them so. We have been eating there regularly since they opened... regular meaning two or three times a month... and although I can usually tell when Mellissa is out of town and the food is still very good... I find Mellissa still very creative and artful in her work. The menu changes regularly. She uses either her own home grown organic produce or finds it locally and Price can usually find a way to fit us in, either at the bar or at a table upstairs which can at times be noisy... other times not. I miss Tom the bartender, who had been there, for his conversation but Jarrad, Price's brother is coming up to speed and makes a great Martini, Negroni, or what have you.

We travel often and find it difficult for most restaurants to come up to Primo's level of service, great food and good cheer.

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Hmmm.  Sorry that the one less than terrific meal at Primo has had you criticize them so.  We have been eating there regularly since they opened... regular meaning two or three times a month... and although I can usually tell when Mellissa is out of town and the food is still very good... I find Mellissa still very creative and artful in her work.  The menu changes regularly.  She uses either her own home grown organic produce or finds it locally and Price can usually find a way to fit us in, either at the bar or at a table upstairs which can at times be noisy... other times not.  I miss Tom the bartender, who had been there, for his conversation but Jarrad, Price's brother is coming up to speed and makes a great Martini, Negroni, or what have you.

We travel often and find it difficult for most restaurants to come up to Primo's level of service, great food and good cheer.

I think my criticism was quite light, really. I didn't say it sucked or no one should ever eat there. In fact, I said we're still thinking about going back!

One underwhelming dining experience is enough to say it's not as great as it once was; especially if we've had plenty of experiences with the restaurant over the years.

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  • 1 month later...

On our trip from Portland to Bar Harbor, we stayed in Rockland and were very excited about our Sunday night reservation at Primo based on all of the reviews we had seen -- even though some here had some recent dissapointments. We went in anticipating a great night. Unfortunately, not everything turns out as you anticipate.

We arrived a few minutes late for our 8:00 PM reservation, and were told, "Your table isn't ready yet". No worries, as it was a beautiful night, and we sat out on the porch, as both the bar area and waiting area were filled. 20 minutes later, we were finally seated (would have been nice to have been offered a drink, or at least a glass of water while we waited, but no such luck -- still, nothing to dampen the atmosphere). Looking out at the huge garden, we figured we were in for a treat.

When seated I ordered a cocktail, my wife a glass of wine while we perused the menu. In hearing about the specials, I was particularly interested in the double-cut, molasses brined organic pork chop. And was told if that's what I wanted, we should order quickly as there were only a few left. I was surprised when the waitress had to read the specials off of her notepad -- I would expect at the restaurant of this caliber, the staff would know the specials. But onward...

We order the Fluke special appetizer, my wife orders the Duck and I order the Pork Chop. The waitress quickly runs to the kitchen to make sure they have it -- and lets me know I got the last one. Yea! I order it medium-rare.

Our amuse comes out, and it's fresh garden cucumber with tuna tar-tar. Fresh, clean and delicious. The cucumber is absolutely beautiful, and you can tell it was just picked. Wonderful.

The fluke appetizer come out, which is very good as well -- prepared almost as sashimi over watermelon salad and fresh herbs and micro greens. The fluke was a little tough, but the flavors were delicious, and it came with a shot glass of watermelon soup which was very fun.

A server brought dinner, and before we were able to sample our food, the waitress showed up asking if everything was to our liking. Looking down at our food, everything looked good until I noticed a bug crawling in the garden greens on my plate. I pointed it out, and handed her the offending leaf (with bug on it). She takes it, apologizes and walks away. Doesn't offer to take the plate back and re-garnish the dish. Just leaves and we don't see her for a solid 15 minutes. In the meantime, we start eating. My wifes duck is wonderful and a perfect Med Rare as recommended by the chef. In sticking my fork into the pork chop, it's clear it's WAAAAY over cooked. Rock hard, not tender at all. Biting into it, it's bone dry, not a hint of pink or juicinness. Considering this was a brined pork chop, this is definitely cooked well done. Ugh. And it's the last one. While waiting for the waitress to come back, I nibble some bites around the bone, sample the side dish and my wife's duck. By the time the waitress finally gets back to us, my wife is pretty much finished with her meal. I explain that the pork is overcooked and realize it's the last one. She offers to bring me something else, but at this point my wife has already eaten and I don't want to wait another 15 minutes for my meal. She takes the porkchop back into the kitchen and comes back, saying that she showed it to the chef, the they agreed that it was overcooked so they are removing it from the bill. Gee, thanks -- my say so apparently wasn't enough, they had to confirm the mistake with the chef. Very nice :wacko:

Dessert was outstanding, a peach and cherry combination plate with a peach/cherry tart, cherry creme brule, and some kind of cherry cocktail. Absolutely delicious -- the highlight of the meal.

Overall, when the food was right (which it was besides the pork chop), it was delicious. The service we had was awful (late to be seated, plate with a bug not removed, non-attentive service, and overcooked meal). Nothing was done to apologize, make up for the poor service outside of complemented the entree that was sent back when it was "confirmed" by the chef. Not what I would expect of a restaurant of that caliber.

It could have been a great meal, and the pork chop mistake could have easily been remedied by attentive service. I would imagine most people would have a very nice meal there, and odds are that if we ate there again, it would be a very good meal. However, although we had some very good things, we left very dissapointed.

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