We discovered the White Barn Inn several years ago. Located in Kennebunkport – known as the summer get-away spot for several US presidents – it’s not exactly the low-end option. In fact – the first time we went, they cautioned us that they had a dress code. My then 8-year-old granddaughter insisted that she’d definitely need a dress! For my husband, it meant borrowing one of their ‘loaner’ jackets.
There are only 2 price points – you can choose the standard menu, at over $100 per person, or the 12 course Tasting Menu at over $150. Either way – you are definitely in for the taste thrill of a life-time. Yes – it’s that good.
We’ve eaten at the White Barn once a year for the last 5 years. Generally we do the standard menu – but last night we did the tasting menu – just for the fun of it. And we were rewarded with some supremely yummy dishes and excellent service.
Let’s talk service first. Upscale restaurants like The White Barn have several standard extras that just make the service that much more special. For example – if you get up to go to the bathroom – a waiter will quickly replace your napkin with a freshly folded one. Or when the entrees are served – at say a table for 6 – 6 waiters will arrive, one with each dish, and then at a discrete signal from the lead waiter, all dishes will be placed in front of the diners in unison. Makes for a lovely feeling. Other special service touches – fresh silverware for each course – regardless of which spoon or fork you used, salt service with both black sea salt and white sea salt, perhaps a butter tasting, bread options ranging from white to carraway seed – brought to the table in a large basket and individually served. One seriously nice touch – when we arrived, the wait staff lined up to greet us as we walked into the restaurant.
My daughter, who has her chef’s papers from Culinary Institute of America, says that in a restaurant like this the staff is trained to say yes to any request. Then go back and make sure it was ok. But yes is the right answer at first. So refreshingly different from most restaurants where ‘no’ – or at best – ‘I’ll check’ seem the standard responses.
But it’s about the food – right? With 12 courses – none very large of course – there are multiple chances for losers as well as winners. At the White Barn Inn, there were 7 winners – and last night – only 2 losers. The winners were the Carpaccio of salmon – incredibly thin slices of fresh salmon lightly seasoned and served with a sweet mustard sauce. Words can not describe how totally delectable this combination tasted on the tongue. Another winner – the Morel dusted Beef Tenderloin. Perfectly seasoned, delightfully raw, super tender, melt-in-your mouth delicious. And my third favorite – the chocolate pre-dessert with its candied pistachios and tiny piece of chocolate cake and airy chocolate pudding. I also liked the duck dish, the pork belly, and the foie gras duo. The Sherry vinegar ice cream with fig roll was a savory/sweet surprise.
Less wonderful overall was the butter poached smoked lobster – in my case the smoke didn’t happen and my piece of lobster was slightly over-cooked. Neither of us was thrilled with our main desserts. The souffle was very ‘egg white’ heavy, not rich and dense like a proper souffle. And the doughnuts, which looked lovely, were heavy-handed and dense. I guess I was expecting ‘beignets’ – not clunkers. Oh well. Fortunately, the Friandise served with the bill made up for the ‘oops’ on dessert – I loved the dark chocolate ‘stick’ and the raspberry jellies.
Bottom line – if you’ve got the money to spend, and a special occasion to celebrate, or just really need an outrageous night out – the White Barn is perfect. Just call ahead for reservations and don’t be surprised if the only option is a 6:00 seating.