In other cities—from, let’s say, Cleveland to Minneapolis, Birmingham to Chapel Hill or  to the four corners of the continental United States, including Portland, Maine—the progressive dining-out reawakening that has evolved over many decades, beyond American chop suey and veal- parm Italian American style—brings us to a present-day Disneyland of trendy dining. This has  gone beyond the locavorism of American bistro, small-plate kickshaws and fusion fare  so that a restaurant such as Bolster, Snow typifies the new breed of chefs and restauranteurs who create dishes that defy hyperbolic categorization.  That is, namely, it’s the delicious food prepared with an American touch of freshness and local ingredients defining the bold fare served at Bolster, Snow.

The streetside facade of The Francis; the bar and the reception rooms

Bolster, Snow is somewhat unique in our dining establishment because it’s housed in a boutique hotel, the newly opened The Francis on that part of Congress Street under serious gentrification.  Most of us know the history of 747 Congress Street before it became a chic inn and restaurant.  It was last a funeral parlor and before  a grand mansion. Until now it remained empty, abandoned until now. The name comes from the original owner of the mansion, Mellen Bolster, whose business partner was Mr. Snow and the hotel derives its moniker from the noted Portland  architect, Francis Fassett.

And now the Delois brothers and family  transformed this architectural gem into a fairly understated small hotel and equally understated restaurant. There are 15 rooms, a small restaurant dining room and private dining room, flanked by an open kitchen where you see and smell all the good things coming out of the kitchen. The chef’s bar in front of the kitchen fills up fast with diners.

The chef is Nicholas Verdisco, a well-trained chef who was with Jean-Georges Vongerichten  at his Inn at Pound Ridge and was lured to Portland to head up the Bolster, Snow kitchen.  He has developed a wondrous menu, artfully relying on the bounty of local food available to chefs in Maine.  His interpretations are masterful, but light and straightforward.

Verdisco’s sous chef at the stove, diners at the kitchen bar, the great dish side of carrot fries and the intimate dining room beyond.

Of course, there are a few other examples of the breed such as Tempo Dulu in the The Danforth or Union at the Press Hotel, both of whom serve food that is highly evocative.  More will follow suit as new luxury hotels pop up on our glittery peninsula.

I’ve been to Bolster, Snow on three occasions and duly impressed.  Their signature side dish of carrot fries was one reason to go and the much-vaunted prep of duck breast that has become a favorite of its growing dining cognoscenti.

On my most recent visit it was to have a preview of their winter menu.  A six-course tasting was presented to a group of us seated in the private dining room off the reception area.  These were merely tastes, portions that were succinct and special rather than regular  plate-size portions.

Scallop crudo and local-green salad

The dinner began with a salad course, a lively blend of field greens (aren’t we lucky to have hoop-house local greens in the winter) with endive, apple, mint, blue cheese and curry.

Perhaps the next course was my favorite: a silken soup of Jerusalem artichoke crowned with a pungent lemon foam and a scattering of toasted hazelnuts. I hope this becomes a regular item on the menu.

A silken soup of Jersalem artichoke with a brilliantly tangy lemon foam

The kitchen and chef’s dining bar; the main dining room, the market fish of local hake; seated in the small, private dining room

The lamb was an ambitious blending of potato puree, pearl onions, scallions and pickled mushrooms.  All of the elements put totgether would satisfy the most grizzled gastronome who likes his or her lamb, pink, pretty and gamey.

One of their signature cocktails

The market fish was local hake, such an underrated white-flesh fish that is sweet and  so flaky served over lentils, beets, carrots, fennel coconut and citrus.

An unusual preparation of lamb, noissettes with picjkled mushrooms; local salad greens potato puree

Truly in the dessert category I defy any pastry chef to come up with a better lemon eclair, sandwiching lemon curd, chiboust (pastry cream lightened with Italian meringue), blueberry preserves with a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream, which I wanted to take home by the quartful.

Lemon eclair

The restaurant also serves weekend brunch and a special prix fixe menu on Wednesday nights for $40 per person. Ultimately it’s the intimacy of the dining room that is special (albeit it can get noisy).  And it reminds me of an old New York favorite, which at the time was one of the most intimate, understated restaurants in New York called The Box Tree, a favorite lunchtime spot acress from the famed Lutece. I recall the moment when a lady friend  joined me for lunch and upon her arrival in her commanding British accent exclaimed, “Well if I didn’t know it was  chic I wouldn’t know!”

Bolster, Snow, 747 Congress St., Portland, ME 207-772-7496

Rating: Excellent, definitely 4 1/2 star material serving inventive, well prepared fare

Ambiance: Casual but elegant

Service: Attentive; ask for Ben, a veteran waiter in Portland

Tables: Well spaced but somewhat small; dine at the fun kitchen bar and watch the chefs at work

Parking: On the street but the Tandem parking lot across the street allows Bolster patrons to park there; hotel has its own lot behind the inn

$$$: Fairly expensive