The restaurant scene in Portland, Maine is one of the hottest in the country, with an incredible number of eateries per capita and an economy that encourages young chefs to be entrepreneurs. While no one could say the cuisine in the seaside city is in any way lacking—and while dishes and menus have achieved the “New York standard"—a certain amount of sophistication has long been absent. With the recent opening of Tempo Dulu in the historic Danforth Inn, that’s no longer the case.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest (who also own the Relais & Châteaux-certified Camden Harbour Inn on Maine’s midcoast) recently purchased and renovated the Danforth, paving the way for the new restaurant. Found in the city’s West End, Tempo Dulu is headed up by award-winning Executive Chef Lawrence Klang and specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The menu includes dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, “artfully created and beautifully plated.”
Brunyanszki and Verest, who are both Dutch, preserved the beautiful 1820s interiors of the Danforth’s gracious public spaces and brought in a refined and elegant design scheme using Danish modern details. It took an expert touch to offset the carved moldings and fireplaces with contemporary furniture and lighting in a way that manages to highlight both perfectly. The majority of the art in the space was sourced from the Naka Contemporary and Vintage Art Gallery in Indonesia and is by Balinese artists. A large, fiberglass bar set in front of a fireplace in the lounge was created by a yacht outfitters. The result is well above the rest of the city’s venues in terms of style and panache.
Tempo Dulu offers three-course and tasting menus that showcase the talents of Klang, who studied in various locales in Asia in preparation for opening Tempo Dulu. Highlights of the three-course offering include smoked Thai sausage with Bibb lettuce, sour cucumber and black garlic; Balinese banana leaf steamed duck breast with coconut turmeric rice, bok choy and lemongrass sambal; and passion fruit and saffron panna cotta with apple ice and pandan leaf syrup. On the tasting menu you’ll find a quartet of innovative lobster dishes, including smoked lobster with green papaya, kewpie aioli, tomato and chili emulsion.
Equal importance is given to cocktails, and bar manager and master mixologist Trevin Hutchins has come up with concoctions that do justice to the setting. One libation made with jasmine-infused gin is served in an antique china tea cup and named after Jim Thompson, who founded the most successful silk company in the world; another is essentially a sake snow cone. We recommend tasting at least one before dinner.