Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Guardian on Portland

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

The Guardian has published a survey of Portland for their Best Towns and Small Cities in the US series.

Restaurants and bars featured in the article: Arcadia, Bayside Bowl, Blue, Bolster Snow, Eventide, Holy Donut, Local Sprouts, Oxbow, The Bearded Lady.

Reviews: Black Cow, Tuscan Table, The Snug

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Tuscan Table,

And while executive chef Lee Skawinski’s menu does not yet match the sophistication and polish of the space, it is moving in the right direction. Nearly four months in, you’ll find plenty of adequate options as well as a few truly great dishes, such as a remarkably light pork Milanese; a coffee-infused, three-layer chocolate cake; and a savory appetizer of roasted mushrooms on creamy soft polenta. When Tuscan Table offers a glimpse of its potential, as it does through its toasted-rye spaetzle with pickled onions, dill, chervil and roasted fennel cream – an accompaniment to its wood-grilled salmon fillet – it’s easy to imagine that this boxy restaurant next to the Maine Mall could one day become one of the area’s best.

the Portland Phoenix and Peter Peter Portland Eater have reviewed Black Cow, and

Having served its first burger just a few weeks ago on March 19, Black Cow is clearly still in its tinkering phase. The good news is that after three visits, improvements seem to be exponential rather than incremental. Fries that were initially soggy and pale are now crisp, golden-hued and impossible to stop devouring. Burgers — juicy, yet bordering on being overcooked — are framed by pleasantly chewy buns and an umami-laden caramelized tomato mayo. The chicken sandwich feels painstakingly recreated in its square-shaped patty embodiment, highlighted by an airy deep-fried texture that’s off the charts.

the Press Herald has reviewed The Snug.

Along with Michelle’s absence, the shift in vibe may also be a result of who is hanging out at The Snug these days. A look around the room yields glimpses of familiar faces from the era of Mama’s Crowbar, which was up the street and is now the Munjoy Hill Tavern with an entirely different crowd and scene. In many ways, the vibe at The Snug today feels not too dissimilar from what “Mama” and her staff curated at the Crowbar: quiet, respectful, welcoming. It’s an interesting function of what can happen when a neighboring establishment with such identity serves its final drink.

Reviews: Black Cow, 555, Green Elephant, Otto

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

The Golden Dish has reviewed Black Cow,

All said and done, the Black Cow and its menu are brilliantly located in the heartbeat of the Old Port vibe where you can have burgers, fries, soda, sandwiches and casual salads all washed down by a great menu of craft cocktails and bar drinks of all stripe.

the Press Herald has reviewed Otto Pizza,

Happy hour at Otto isn’t what it used to be, but the on-the-house slice means it’s still worth a look.

The Bollard has reviewed Green Elephant, and

We also had the local mushroom rice bowl ($15). Mushrooms are a fantastic way to bring a meaty flavor and texture to vegetarian dishes. This bowl had shiitakes, oyster mushrooms, and some oddly chewy, fried enoki mushrooms. Like the curry, it also had plenty of vegetables and a bed of brown jasmine rice. It was satisfying in a comfort-food sort of way, but hardly exciting. It tasted like an easy weeknight dinner at home, when you realize you have a bunch of mushrooms in the fridge that are on their way out, so you whip up an impromptu stir-fry.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Easter brunch at Five Fifty-Five.

We finished our food and paid the $44 tab. The meal was fine, but either the wait lowered my enthusiasm or I’m just too used to their dinner which I really love, because it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. However, the prices were relatively standard for the city, so to be fair, I did get what I paid for. The biggest issue was definitely the delay in receiving our food. That needs some work, especially considering the modest crowd when I was there. Maybe I’ll stick to dinner when I go back.

Reviews: Bite Into Maine, Evo, Highroller Lobster

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Bite into Maine and Highroller Lobster, and

Call Sutton’s approach cautious if you must, but it results in a roll that has been widely celebrated as one of the best in the nation. Bite’s classic Maine-style roll ($17.95) is almost architectural in its attention to balance among its few ingredients. First sweet lobster meat – claw and knuckle only, as long as supply from local lobstermen allows – which has to be mixed with cooling mayonnaise in precisely the right quantity and piled generously into the yielding center of a butter-toasted bun. With a million ways to get it wrong, Sarah Sutton and her husband, co-owner Karl Sutton, get it exactly right, every time.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Evo,

Evo’s menu separates proteins as “Fish” and “Meat” respectively, and this is where the bulk of the fun is to be had. A shallow monkfish stew with mussels, chickpeas and green garlic is as rich and satisfying in taste as it is beautiful to look at. Seared tuna with ginger, cilantro and avocado toum (an eggless Lebanese garlic emulsion) remains wholly faithful to the rest of the menu while clearly taking inspiration from Asian cooking. A dish of buttery cod, lobster and cauliflower—framed by tahini and celery root—steals the show in its barrage of opulent textures and flavors.

Reviews: Elda, Blyth and Burrows, Blue Fin, Miss Portland Diner

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Elda,

No mincing words: Elda is a fantastic addition to the southern Maine dining scene, and the Biddeford 50-seater might very well be the best new restaurant to open in the Portland metropolitan area in the past two years. Chef/owner Bowman Brown’s resume probably should have tipped all of us off to what was in store; as chef at Forage in Salt Lake City, he was widely celebrated for a cooking style that linked place to plates. At Elda, he’s up to many of the same tricks, but with a different palette of ingredients, most coastal, as well as a newfound interest in exploring ways to combine modern and traditional techniques into his small-plates menu. The results are stunning.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Blyth and Burrows,

Around 30 percent of the evening fare at Blyth & Burrows is comprised of Asian-focused dishes — mostly baos and dumplings—which carries over to the new brunch menu. Saigon tuna crudo is bright, texturally animated and subtle in flavor, carried by the presence of nuoc cham and crispy alliums.

the Press Herald has published a bar review of Blue Fin, and

Thanks in large part to a generous pour of bourbon, the resulting drink shows just enough sweetness, settling at the back of the tongue, while highlighting the boozy bite it requires for balance. With candied orange overtones and a beautiful appearance, the drink glistens in its glass and finishes with a velvety, almost creamy mouthfeel lasting well into the next sip. It is, in a word, divine.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Miss Portland Diner.

They don’t do fancy – typical diner stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (3 days), but it’s well prepared, flavorful, and they offer a few mildly inventive options. And they are housed in a historical diner car which gives them a really neat look and feel. Give Miss P. a shot and I think you’ll find your hunger happily satiated.

First Look at Black Cow

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

The Blueberry Files has published a first look report of Black Cow.

Everyone who mourned the closing of Sonny’s, Jay Villani’s Latin-themed restaurant on lower Exchange Street can breathe easy—Black Cow is now open, and the bar remains functionally the same. The food, however, is completely different with a focus on hamburgers, ice cream, and sodas. Those who enjoyed cozying up to Sonny’s large bar and ordering a creative cocktail will be pleased to see Black Cow has a list that rivals Sonny’s in its inventiveness.

Ten Best Soups

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

The Portland Phoenix has put together their list of the Ten Best Soups in Portland.

Suffice to say, Portlanders have it pretty good when it comes to floating nutrition. Soups (and their numerous variations) have long been used to coax comfort out of even the most arduous days. Whether it’s an oncoming cold, the end of a relationship that should’ve worked or anything in-between, few things bring pause to life’s anxieties more readily than a bowl of hot liquid and whatever may have ended up getting added in the process.

What are your favorites, what would you add to the list?

Review: Drifters Wife

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

The April edition of Portland Magazine includes a review of Drifters Wife,

The entire dinner is a testament to Jackson’s imagination and skill, with mostly locally grown and raised ingredients. We dab bread in the last of the sauce and leave nothing behind but the bones. 

2018 Beard Award Nominee: Alison Pray, Erin French

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

The final list of nominees for the 2018 James Beard Foundation awards were released today:

  • Outstanding Baker – Alison Pray, Standard Baking. The Outstanding Baker category recognizes “A chef or baker who prepares breads, pastries, or desserts in a retail bakery, and who serves as a national standard-bearer of excellence. Must have been a baker or pastry chef for at least five years.” Pray has been a semifinalist in 2015 and 2017.
  • Book Awards – Erin French from The Lost Kitchen is a nominee in the American Book category for her cookbook The Lost Kitchen published by Clarkson Potter.

11 Maine semifinalists were announced in February.

The awards ceremony will take place on May 7th in Chicago.

Related information:

Reviews: Chaval, Roma Cafe

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

The Bollard has reviewed brunch at Chaval, and

The brunch menu had so many appealing options that we struggled to decide. My wife ended up ordering two items. Her bowl of lightly sweetened, house-made granola ($7) featured a dollop of locally made Greek yogurt and chunks of pear and apple roasted to a perfect firmness. The Standard ($12) included two eggs, toast, potatoes, and meat — in this case, thin, savory patties of lean maple-and-sage sausage. The eggs were slow-poached at 63ºC, widely considered the ideal way to prepare a perfect soft egg. The onion-jam-topped potatoes were crisp, aggressively seasoned, and downright brilliant, right up there with the potatoes at Dutch’s and Palace Diner, which I rave about to anyone who’ll listen.

The Golden Dish has published a brief review of the Roma Cafe.

That goes for the meatballs and spaghetti, too, which my dinner mate thoroughly enjoyed. The meatballs are gossamer light and beautifully sauced with the kitchen’s rich marinara. Our mistake was to have too many filling first courses.

Reviews: Taj, Chaval, Central Provisions, LFK, Hardshore

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Taj,

Among her best dishes are an indulgent cholle batura – puffy fried bread served with mild, stewed chickpeas – and both gobi 65 and gobi Manchuria, two takes on deep-fried, fiery-hot cauliflower florets. Unfortunately, Taj has problems with consistent execution in service and food. Sometimes, shifts between competence and carelessness occur within a single meal, where you might eat a terrific, blistered garlic naan alongside a tough, overcooked half-chicken ($11.99), marinated in yogurt and powdered with tandoori masala as red as a country barn.

The Blueberry Files has reviewed Chaval,

We left feeling like we’d spend the evening hanging out with friends, sitting at the bar, and engaging in some witty banter (theirs, not mine 😉). With dishes that encouraging sharing, Chaval is the perfect place to catch up with friends over some snacks and drinks.

the Press Herald has reviewed Hardshore,

With excellent gin and an extremely fair price point, the tasting room at Hardshore Distilling is hands-down one of the best places on the peninsula to grab a G&T, before dinner or not.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed LFK, and

I love bar food. I love it when it sucks, and I love it when it’s surprisingly great. LFK somehow toes the line, offering bites that satisfy and those that simply do not. Pick your poison.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Central Provisions.

Here’s specifically why Central Provisions absolutely nails it. First, their food parings are spot on. But, the biggest reason is that they have seasoning down to an absolute science, possibly better than anywhere I’ve ever eaten. I can’t imagine fries more perfectly appointed or a crab salad that better combines its tastes. And those are just the start; everything else they serve follows suit. Go early, go often, go downstairs. Go give them your money. It’s well worth it.

Food Network Guide to Portland

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

The Food Network has published an eating guide to Portland,

Though a mention of Portland, Maine still brings to mind lobsters for many, the city offers so much more than seafood. Gone are the days when everyone flocked to the waterfront district of Old Port. Impressive pockets of eateries have sprouted up in places like Longfellow Square, the east side of Washington Avenue and the historic West End. This is your guide to making every single meal count, and in the process enjoying the most diverse array of foods that Forest City has to offer.

Highlighted in the article are: Back Bay Grill, Baharat, Boda, Central Provisions, Chaval, Cong Tu Bot, Drifters Wife, East Ender, Emiltsa, Empire, Eventide, Gorgeous Gelato, Highroller Lobster, Hot Suppa, Isa, Izakaya Minato, LB Kitchen, Miyake, Palace Diner, Tandem, Terlingua, The Honey Paw, The Purple House, Tipo, Woodford F&B

Reviews: Lena’s, Little Giant, Tuscan Table, Blue Spoon

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Lena’s,

As you might expect, the dining room is decorated with handcrafted platters and bowls, elements that make it feel welcoming and homey. Chef Brian Grossman’s menu adds to that sense with his selection of Italian-American red-sauce classics, like a tender, beautifully cooked meatball Parmesan, and al dente spaghetti with pomodoro sauce, served in quantities large enough to feed a rebel insurrection. Better still are his specials, like crispy pork belly served with handmade, pesto-ricotta-filled ravioli.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Little Giant,

Wyllie’s version of Johnny cake was bathed in a luscious blueberry syrup, with a big fat housemade sausage oozing with cheddar set over the cornmeal pancake and topped with a perfectly fried egg.

Portland Magazine has reviewed Tuscan Table, and

The location adjacent to the Maine Mall notwithstanding, you’ll never mistake this for a mall or chain restaurant. (It does have two popular sister-establishments, the Tuscan Bistro in Freeport and Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth.) Most diners appear to be on dates or enjoying multi-generational, multi-coursed family meals. Everyone appears to have caught the celebratory vibe.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Blue Spoon.

Here’s what I recommend when you go to Blue Spoon: sit at the bar, order the trio of scotch, keep your ears open, and enjoy what they offer, because every time I go, I like it more. They hit all the marks for excellence in a restaurant and because of that, they are becoming one of my favorites. Go there ready to eat and relax and maybe they will be one of yours too.

Reviews: Bolster Snow, Chaval, Emilitsa, Petite Jacqueline, Tipo

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Bolster Snow,

Everyone in the room laughed, then unsurprisingly went back to focusing on their meals, which are generally excellent and showcase Verdisco’s skill at building structured, balanced flavor profiles. Don’t miss the pork terrine, served with an egg yolk gnocchi that Verdisco unabashedly cribbed from Los Angeles chef Michael Voltaggio. Also, make sure you don’t skip bread or dessert, both of which are made by rising-star pastry chef Sarah Miller. In particular, if there’s an éclair on the menu, order it; Miller’s choux pastry is out of this world.

Down East has reviewed Chaval,

Similarly, Lopez, who scored a nod as a James Beard Award semifinalist last year for her pastry work at Piccolo, always thinks about how her desserts — even the incomparable Spanish sundae — square with the rest of a meal. Indeed, the sundae reflects flavors that show up across the menu. It’s a standout, but the whole dessert list (churros! chocolate mousse!) is a revelation. That’s the most remarkable thing about Chaval: any number of menu items could, at a lesser establishment, steal the show. Despite their individual brilliance, Lopez, Sansonetti, and McDonald have figured out how to create perfect harmony among every bite and sip, one exceptional taste after the next.

Portland Phoenix has reviewed Petite Jacqueline,

For many diners, a meal at Petite Jacqueline will serve as their first foray into bistro-style French cuisine. To that extent, one could argue that the restaurant is right on-track and poised for years of continued success, providing a strong introduction to staple dishes despite some minor flaws in execution. There are certainly more creative takes on French food being cooked and served throughout town at similar price points, but sometimes you’ve just got to stick with the classics.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Tipo, and

I took a bite of the toast first and it was marvelous. It was made from fresh bread and crispy through and through; I found a satisfying crunch in every bite. I ate all the toast first, making room to dig into the egg. The chicken seed was cooked to medium and a smidge spicy. As eggs go, it was quite good. I finished that before moving on to the taters.

the Press Herald has reviewed Emilitsa.

A shining beacon of honest of fine dining in Portland’s Arts District, Emilitsa is perfectly suitable for celebrating an anniversary or similar milestone with a loved one. Thanks to a new bar program, it’s also an excellent option for anyone looking to duck away for a quick solo bite and a well-crafted cocktail or thoughtfully chosen glass pour of Greek wine.

2018 Beard Award Semifinalists

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

The semi-final list of nominees for the 2018 James Beard Foundation awards were released today. There are 11 semifinalist nominees from Maine:

  • Best Chef: Northeast – Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House; Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot; Erin French, The Lost Kitchen; Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain; Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki’s Sushi Bar
  • Outstanding Restaurant – Chase’s Daily
  • Outstanding Baker – Alison Pray, Standard Baking
  • Outstanding Chef – Sam Hayward, Fore Street
  • Outstanding Service – Back Bay Grill
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef – Ilma Lopez, Piccolo
  • Rising Star of the Year – Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan

The final list of nominees will be released on March 14th, and the awards ceremony will take place on May 7th in Chicago.

Related information: