Saturday, August 25, 2018

Crown Jewel, Great Diamond Island

There's a new dining experience on Casco Bay's islands: Crown Jewel on Great Diamond Island. Our visit two weeks ago was a great, casual island experience with some fantastic food. I love escaping to the islands, and Crown Jewel adds an exciting facet to Portland's already dynamic food scene. 

I paid my first visit to Crown Jewel with my aunt, uncle, and husband on a beautiful night—under a sunny sky filled with clouds that created a beautiful sunset on our way back. We took the early-ish ferry (at 4:15pm), which gave us plenty of time to enjoy dinner without getting back too late. We walked around Diamond Cove a bit and saw the former military barracks turned summer residences. 

Crown Jewel is in a space that was formerly a small general store and has been rennovated to be a hip restaurant space, still with a little market in the back. I love the on-trend decor: lots of brass, palm leaves, rattan, and neon pink flamingos. I'm sure it will look dated soon, but hey, we're here for a good time, not a long time, right? 

We started our meal off with Hemingway daiquiris ($12), a rum daiquiri with a bit of grapefruit juice. I was also tempted by the strawberry mezcal smash ($12) and the Crown Jewel rum punch ($13). My friend A., the owner of East End Cupcakes, is the manager at Crown Jewel and I was so thrilled to have her whipping up these delicious drinks for us. After our round of cocktails, we ordered a bottle of the Lambrusco ($36), a chilled, slightly sparkling red, to enjoy with our meal. 

The menu, like most these days, has a large selection of starters/small plates and salads and only a few entrees. There wasn't much on the menu I didn't want to order, and we knocked out a fair amount during this meal (I'll hit the rest on my next visit!). 

We started with a half dozen of both raw ($18) and grilled ($19) oysters—the grilled ones topped with butter, yuzu pearls, and pickled mustard seeds. The oysters were lightly grilled and the toppings unobtrusive, so the oyster flavor still took center stage. 


Next up was the Fried Green Things ($8) a heaping bowl of fried Brussels sprouts, kale, and maybe also zucchini? The selection of vegetables may change, but it's always served with apricot harissa and slivered almonds. I've yet to meet fried Brussels sprouts I didn't enjoy. 

The summer lettuces salad ($12) might have been my favorite—a take on a Caesar, with fried white anchovies, fried lemon wheels, and crispy pieces of fried Parm. With a lemon-y dressing and lots of black pepper, this salad had tons of flavor. 

After salads, we each had a larger plate—I went with the gnocchi verde ($18). I am generally suspicious of gnocchi in restaurants (so much of it is bad), but I trusted the chef at Crown Jewel to make delicious ones. 

The soft, potato dumplings were covered in a pea puree, with asparagus, jicama, and Pecorino. A decidedly spring-y dish, but the perfect balance of comforting and light, even enjoyed in late August. 

A. had a fantastic hamburger ($14) with a soft Brioche bun and an impeccably flavored burger patty. 


We opted to skip an earlier ferry back to the mainland, giving us an additional hour to enjoy dessert and another slow walk back to the ferry. We were all pretty full by this point, but Alysia insisted we had to try the brown bread ($10), so we happily acquiesced. And it was incredible—warm and gooey, with crispy, bruleed edges. 

I knew Crown Jewel was right up my alley, so it's no surprise that I absolutely loved everything about it. Its island location makes it feel like a special escape, even one that can happen on a weeknight. 

Don't let the location or the weather stop you from enjoying one of Portland's most unique dining experiences. Crown Jewel is open daily, except Tuesdays, for lunch and dinner until Columbus Day.