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Present at Zeta's alpha night

My wife and I accidentally stumbled upon Zeta Cafe's first "soft opening" night last night - it's the new dinner spot in South Portland's Legion Square. While it's totally unfair to do anything like a review of a restaurant on opening night, here are a few observations:

Order the hummus plate. House-made, with what seemed like as much garlic as chickpeas, it was a wake-up call to the tastebuds, and a great prep for what was to come.

The shrimp scampi was the best I've ever eaten - and SUPER lemony. The flavors meshed really well.

Fabulous to see a restaurant using Micucci's three-cheese ravioli, and adding chicken for $3 got us what seemed like an entire grilled breast. A nice mix of textures.

The "Black Forest" cake isn't really - in a good way. It lacks the strange and sometimes gloppy middle layer, and if you order it without the cherries (I like my chocolate unadulterated), the ganache really comes to the fore, adding heft to the lighter cake.

They're still navigating wine-by-the-glass service, which I'll admit is a tricky thing. Most restaurants use smallish wine glasses, fill them to the brim (or nearabouts) and sell them for $6-8. That gives a good volume of wine for the price, but deprives the wine of space in the glass to develop a nose. Zeta used small glasses and filled them properly, boosting the wine's flavor considerably, and priced them for $6-9. But because the glasses were small, the volume of wine seemed low for the price. Easy solution that for all I know is in the works (or on order from some wine-glass distributor): get bigger glasses and continue to fill them properly.

The place was packed, with more people coming by as the evening went on. A really great spot with tons of promise, both culinarily and in terms of a community gathering spot. The aroma of delicious food wafted out onto the street, and should attract customers from near and far alike.

Service was friendly and energetic, if a bit surprised by the fact that the place was jammed and the staff were running. Best overheard of the night (from a staff member): "Someone asked for silverware and I gave them a glass of water! I was SO embarrassed!" My take: If that's your most embarrassing moment on an opening night, there's a lot of promise.

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