The Treehouse on Stevens Ave. is off the typical trail of restaurants I usually visit in Portland. Last time I was there, I had overeaten during the day and couldn’t fully enjoy my meal, even though I was quite pleased with what I did eat. Going back presented the perfect opportunity to really take in everything the eatery had to offer and provide a review from the depths of a hungry restaurant-goers brain. Since I didn’t prepare properly for my last visit, I went there with some extra enthusiasm this time, having not eaten in at least two hours and ready to take on whatever I could consume.
We went to the restaurant early thinking it wouldn’t be too busy, but that turned out to be poor planning on our part. We walked up the stairs and approached the hostess who told us they were booked for the night, but fortunately, a reservation had just been cancelled and they had a seat for us at a table at the far end of the room. We sat and quickly started viewing the menus. There were three – wine, beer and cocktails, and food. We both skipped the beverages and went straight to the sustenance which had prices marked in pencil on the otherwise machine printed menu. I couldn’t remember if the menu was exactly the same as last time, but it seemed to be pretty close.
When the waitress came to visit, we accepted some water and bread. As she left, we discussed what we wanted to order. The menu wasn’t huge, but included several apps, and a few each of flatbreads, salads, and entrees. As we were delving into that, we overheard our server giving the specials to a table near us. Though I didn’t listen to them all, they went on for a while, so there seemed to be a lot. Some of the items on the menu sounded pretty good to me, but I was definitely in the mood to hear of whatever else was available.
Upon the waitresses return, we had pretty much decided what we wanted to eat if none of the specials suited us, but I was also ready to change my order if something did strike up my interest. As the many other options were recited to us without any assistance from written notes, we both decided to go with some of those. My wife ordered a special app and salad and I started with a menu item of Crispy Baked Chicken Wings – buffalo Thai Chili sauce, bok choy, romano garlic lemon dressing. Then I ordered the Dayboat Scallop special wrapped in phyllo dough with wild mushroom, caramelized onion, garlic, herb, gruyere cheese with garlic romano mashed potatoes. After I ordered those, Mrs. Portlandeater cancelled both of hers and went with two items from the menu instead, starting with Pesto Mozzarella Flatbread – fresh mozzarella, vine tomato, basil walnut pesto – and then going with Grilled Vegetable Romano Salad – seasonal grilled local vegetables, mixed field greens, toasted bread with tamari basil dressing.
Our waitress put in the orders and we had a chance to see her work the somewhat dark room as it filled with customers. It was clear that she was highly experienced. From the memorized specials, to expertly handling allergy concerns, and extensive knowledge of the menu, she offered a little something extra in the way of service. When I heard the table next to us ask about her length of time there, her response was “since the early 2000’s” and it was apparent. I could tell she had every last detail down to a science in a way that is rare for a server and nearly impossible for the uninitiated restaurant newbie.
My wings and her flatbread came out first. It was as we requested. I sat inspecting the wings momentarily. There were five of them, heavily sauced and accompanied by a small cup of dressing and flanked by a bok choy stick design. It was going to be a messy appetizer, but I had made peace with that when I ordered. I grabbed a wing with two hands like a corn on the cob and bit into it without additional sauce. It was a compelling combination as both the buffalo and Thai sauces shined cleanly and popped with each bite. With the next wing, I added the dressing. It turned out to be well balanced with the creamy flavors of romano, garlic, and lemon all present. The addition of it to the wings provided a significant numbers of flavors that had the rare quality of each standing out among the crowd quite well.
She was pleased with her flatbread. I ate a couple pieces to make sure she was right about it, agreeing that it was good. The pesto was better than most I have had. I gobbled a couple slices of that and figured I should stop there to make sure I had plenty of room left in me for my own meal. My wife had the rest of the flatbread boxed up to take home and we waited for the remainder of our food. When the waitress came to take our empty plates away, I asked for a new napkin since mine was covered in wing sauce. She knowingly stated “yeah, those are messy, huh?” and proceeded to replace my no-longer-white metacarpal cleaning cloth.
Scallops and salad soon came to the table. My scallops – “dayboat” because they were fished from boats that only go out to sea for a day and therefore don’t need a solution to keep them moist – were enclosed in the dough next to the potatoes. I also had a grilled zucchini slice on there. My wife’s salad was as described with a slice of lemon and a couple slices of what I believe were blood orange. I realized that my meal was the same one I had ordered last time. I initially thought it might be a different preparation; it wasn’t, but that was okay because this time I would be able to really enjoy it.
At first try, I grabbed just a scallop. It was enormous, so I cut in half and that was still a big bite. It was a little plain, but I realized I was supposed to eat it with all the other goodies in the dough basket. My next taste was inclusive of all those other parts and included a sizable piece of the thin, flakey crust. Now we were talking! Mushroom, onion, garlic, and cheese is an unbelievable combination and it went perfectly with scallops. In a weird but positive way, it reminded me of the flavor profile of a steak bomb. That might sound odd, but the protein and bread/dough with the flavorful veg and cheese mix just filled my senses with that same type of quality. No doubt the scallop meal blew away any cheesesteak, but it had a similar feeling about it.
I absolutely loved my food and the potatoes were a perfect addition to the plate. The zucchini was quite good too. My wife worked hard on her salad and eventually we both finished our food. I was admittedly pretty full, but exceptionally happy. When the waitress came to our table to verify that we were done, we reluctantly accepted dessert menus after being doubly reassured that we were under no obligation to purchase any. Of course, we knew that, but did explicitly note that it was unlikely we would since we were so stuffed.
Dessert was off the table, and it was going to stay that way, we decided. There were many choices like Lavender Creme Brulee and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta w/ Mixed Berry Sauce, but nothing swayed us. Our tab came to about $72 after tip. It was worth it. The meal was exceptional. The Treehouse delivered magnificent food once again and I got to truly enjoy every morsel. The waitress was superb and the atmosphere is one of the better scenes in Portland. Check them out this winter as their warm, cozy room will keep you comfy despite the cold Maine weather. And be sure to listen carefully to their specials. There are some hidden gems on that list. I can vouch for that.
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