Lucky me – I’m invited to an eight-course Royal Thai dinner designed and prepared by Chef Goy Siwaporn, left, who hides a prodigious talent in her tiny frame. Best of all, the sparkling eight-course dinner is held at The Danforth Inn’s deeply romantic restaurant, Tempo Dulu. I put on my princess shoes and summon Uber.
Photos: Liz Caron / Video: Diane Hudson
The evening begins with dazzling cocktail reception under the auspices of master-mixologist Trevin Hutchins. We enjoy delicate but potent lychee cocktails, blushing pink and infused with with rhubarb. The inn’s welcome-signature of bubbly Prosecco is also served. Finger food is refined, with trays of sweet melon, salty dried fish flakes and mint. Rich and savory egg-nests with root vegetables are followed by cucumber cups of briny tuna tartare and Thai herbs. Small bites and big flavors rule at Tempo Dulu.We’re seated, family-style, in three dining rooms. The staff is attentive and smiling as each guest is greeted with warm towels and an evening menu. Amuse bouche arrive in contemporary glassware, beautiful, setting the mood. Details are dazzling and as always, the service is almost clairvoyant — magic.
The Danforth has been updated and modernized, its elegant rooms jazzed with modern furnishings and contemporary art, much of it with an Asian theme. The atmosphere is intimate and upscale with sophisticated lighting. Oversized chandeliers cast a warm glow. The green dome in the lounge is alive, made of moss that is occasionally misted. Always expect the unexpected at The Danforth.Our culinary journey continues with garlic chicken served in a lettuce cup, fresh and lively, topped with green pepper and lemon. A delicate spring roll holds curried pork and tomatoes, piquant and spicy. Salmon and seasonal vegetables with Thai garlic sauce gradually intensify the progression of flavors, which the sommelier tames with a crisp grenache blanc. Perfect.Full disclosure: I love Tempo Dulu. Here, my imagination is allowed free range. The restaurant’s legendary Indonesian rijsttafel, a medley of dishes from the islands, sends each diner on a world tour enhanced by exotic fragrances and flavors. A reverence for history plus international flair and sophisticated design combine for wonderful ambiance.Service at Tempo Dulu is reliably impeccable and attentive. Cutlery is changed with every course, and napkins are replaced when the diner, or even just his gaze, leaves the table. Service is formal but relaxed, somehow – I don’t know how they do it.An amuse of lettuce with Thai herbs and palm syrup awakens our palates with herbaceous sweetness. Small pieces of steamed flounder in Chinese ginger sauce, a bit disappointing in texture but not in flavor, are served with a Hillinger Secco that balances the dish nicely. The dining rooms hush as we’re served Thai coconut chicken mushroom soup, Tom Kar Gai — unctuous and velvety. I would keep eating it all night; it’s my favorite dish of the evening. Accompanied by surprising wine, Prisoner Blindfold, the combination reminds me that what’s in your glass at Tempo Dulu is often as impressive as what’s on the plate. Next up is another knockout — grilled Maine lobster in Thai seafood sauce, a feast for the senses. Chardonnay Copain Tous Ensembles is crisp and perfect with robust, sweet lobster. A last course of Thai Burmese ginger and fragrant jasmine rice, Gaeng Hang Lae, is smoky and savory, served on a green banana leaf — a perfect last bite. Sadly, I can only manage a few bites of my gorgeous dessert, smoked coconut milk with tapioca and sweet mango. I content myself to sip and savor Gaudet Loupiac, a sweet and warming conclusion to a wine-soaked and soul-satisfying evening.
Postscript: Not Quite Done…
A few days later, my friend Diane and I head back to Tempo Dulu to check a few details. Read: we’re heading back to the bar. If you want a stunning cocktail experience in Portland, Maine, this is it. We belly up and order two Jakarta cocktails, an creative infusion of genius, bourbon and smoke, with boozy alchemy supplied by a gifted mixologist — don’t miss it! •