Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Reviews: Cong Tu Bot, Chaval, Sonny’s, Sip of Europe, Portland Lobster, Noble BBQ

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

The Portland Phoenix has reviewed Cong Tu Bot,

Hủ Tiếu Xào was especially impressive, a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with scallions, “many chilis,” peanuts, daily vegetable and brown sauce. The dish is numbingly hot up-front, while sparing the back of the tongue to some extent and calling to mind the “Ma La” dichotomy characteristic of Sichuan cuisine. The caramelized noodles are unlike any I’ve had in Portland, with a depth of flavor highlighted by the aggressive usage of spicy chilis. Fresh raw cucumbers and cilantro add a cooling foil to the heat, which is tamed only by taking generous swigs of Tiger lager.

Map & Menu has reviewed Chaval,

On our first trip (of what is sure to be many), Meredith and I changed it up a little and shared the coq au vin dinner for two. The red wine braised chicken was absolutely outstanding, and will be hard to beat for any future meals. With a bar program headed up by renowned Portland bartender Patrick McDonald, we added a delicious Aperitif Dunhill and a Spanish G&T; and as is the case with any dinner where Ilma is in the kitchen, we saved room for dessert – the decadent churros with hot chocolate sauce and salted sugar. Yes and please.

As the Lobster Rolls has reviewed Portland Lobster Company,

Definitely, don’t let this review sway you from visiting Portland Lobster Co. It’s a great spot in Portland’s Old Port and since this lobster roll was voted Best of, I feel like maybe there were just having an off day. They could’ve been short-staffed, their bun toaster might have called in sick… I just find it hard to believe that this is the quality of lobster roll that everyone is getting.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Sonny’s,

…Swordfish el pastor is wrapped up with guajillo, pineapple puree, fresh pineapple, onion and chipotle mayo; then an eggplant taco masa-battered and wonderfully puffy and crisp encased the eggplant with chili de arbol, in a salsa of raisins, capers and cucumber. These were two of the best tacos I’ve had anywhere in Maine.

the Press Herald has reviewed Sip of Europe, and

From the moment fork met mouth, my taste buds felt as a symphony was being played just for them; it was glorious. It took every effort I could muster to not inhale this marvelous creation without stopping to savor every flash of succulent flavor, but I managed to slow myself down enough to truly appreciate every morsel of this incredible crepe. Could I have eaten two of them? Sure, but was the one enough? Also yes.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Noble Barbecue.

A first bite of my actual sandwich produced a more pleasant experience than the solo chicken. On top sat a big pile of curtido – a cabbage relish of sorts. That and the cojito cheese added nice flavors while the plantains gave some crunch. I enjoyed the sandwich overall and found the mole along the lines of what I generally expect of it.

Maine’s Best Barbecue

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Southern Living has declared Salvage to be Maine’s best barbecue.

You may be in northern New England, but from the moment you walk into this Portland gem, you’ll feel Southern-style hospitality in the air. Operating inside of a former salvage warehouse, there’s plenty of space to spread out. And after the Meat Coma (¼ ribs, ⅓ lb of both pulled pork and brisket, along with a bowl of chili and two sides), you’ll be particularly grateful. Don’t skip the sauces. They run the gamut from mild Carolina-style to four-alarm vinegar.

Reviews: Chaval, East Ender, Scales

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

The Golden Dish has posted a first look review of Chaval,

Rarely does a new restaurant get it so right at the gate. But then when you have two pros—a highly acclaimed chef and pastry chef, in this case husband and wife who are the owners of the new establishment, Chaval, then the level of success is nearly assured. With Chaval’s opening this week after a renovation of the former Caiola’s in which it’s housed, this duo has brought to Portland one of the most exciting restaurants in the city set to pamper those who cross its threshold.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed East Ender,

With the table soon full of empty plates, we called it quits. We were a happy brunch bunch and I was sure I’d be back to try the dinner menu at some point. The meal tab for my wife and I came to about 30 bucks before tip. I left smiling and Mrs. Portlandeater noted her approval, so all was well. If you’re looking for some Sunday morning or afternoon goodness, take a trip down to East Ender. There are no lines and the food is both interesting and sure to please.

The Blueberry Files has reviewed Scales,

Like I said, while dinner at Scales is not inexpensive, it is certainly worth it. Be sure to make a reservation, as like most restaurants in Portland now, it’s popular and difficult to get a table without planning ahead. And consider happy hour in the bar/lounge area, where the full menu is available and you can still enjoy the ambiance and great service.

Reviews: Baharat, Mami, The 5 Spot

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Baharat,

Today, vegetable, grain and dairy dishes dominate – from creative fried cauliflower specials (one sweet and refreshing, the other deeply savory); to a sweet and herbal stewed tomato on rich housemade labneh; to crisp, fragrant falafel balls and excellent hummus. It’s a step in the right direction, one that highlights Norris’s skills, while also creating a backdrop for bar manager Arvid Brown’s creative cocktail menu. If you want to see just how far Baharat has come since it got its start serving food in parking lots like the one across the street, grab a seat at the shiny zinc bar, sip a frothy, neon yellow Curcuma sour and work your way through the large-format All In platter – a mosaic of mostly vegetarian dishes for two or four people. And no matter what else you order, don’t skip the housemade pickles.

The Bollard has reviewed The 5 Spot and Mami.

The breakfast sandwiches are served on a soft, fresh hoagie roll, and include a fried egg and choice of cheese and meat. Foregoing the familiar bacon, ham or sausage, I opted for the Pennsylvania Dutch specialty known as scrapple. Described by Keith as “kind of like polenta with pork scraps,” this flavorful, slightly salty, low-brow delicacy was sliced thin and fried to a crisp on the griddle. It was, in a word, amazing.

CN Traveler: Portland Keeps Getting Cooler

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Conde Nast Traveler has published an article entitled How Portland, Maine Keeps Getting Cooler.

In the last few years, as the city’s various industrial no man’s lands have given way to breweries, speakeasies, concert venues, and upscale boutiques, Portland, Maine has become New England at its prime: innovation without the altered skyline, urban culture without the traffic jams, seaside charm with all the lobster and only some of the knick-knacks. Best part is: You can do it all on foot.

Bagels at Scratch

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Kitchn has posted an article about the bagels at Scratch Baking Co.

Growing up in Fairfield County — New York City just a quick train ride away — I was sure I was eating some of the best (if not the best) bagels in the world. Ess-a-Bagel, Russ & Daughters, Absolute Bagels, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee, Murray’s, Tompkins Square Bagels — these are the bagel shops that had my love and allegiance for most of my life.

But that all changed when I visited a small bakery in South Portland, Maine.

Reviews: Elsmere BBQ, Trattoria Fanny, Enio’s, Back Bay Grill, Baharat

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Elsmere BBQ,

Since it opened in 2013, South Portland’s Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill has tried, according to chef/co-owner Adam Powers, “to do a little something for everybody.” You’ll find some Tex-Mex dishes on the menu, as well as competent versions of barbecue classics, like a well-smoked half-rack of short ribs: partly cleaned, St. Louis-style; and a snappy, anise-flavored sausage appetizer reminiscent of a smoky kielbasa.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Trattoria Fanny,

Other dishes were simpler still, especially the appealing side dishes. The oyster mushrooms were tender and buttery, with just the right dash of salt. Bitter rapini added a bit of extra crunch with breadcrumbs. Celery root, its sharpness mellowed by a quick pan fry, were like especially succulent french-fries. Only the entrée of roast pork seemed too simple — the slab of meat needing more than its hint of sage to be interesting. But a similarly shaped slab of creamy and rich chocolate bonet could not be better.

The Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Baharat and Enio’s, and

A few minutes after our salads were done, our entrees made their way over. The initial smell made my mouth water. I dug in immediately and grabbed a gnocchi. The soft, cheesy pillow was awesome, but the creamy, seasoned sauce it was sitting in was sensational. A follow up bite of the braised, tender bird was pure heaven.

The Golden Dish has reviewed the Back Bay Grill.

Certain dishes remain on the menu always. The beautifully made soup purees, usually based on seasonal vegetables, are silky smooth. That wonderful turban of salmon is as high as a grande dame’s chapeaux. The elegantly wrought piece of beef tenderloin is dressed up in its Sunday best.

Down East: Best of Maine

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Down East has released the results of the Best of Maine readership survey.

Portland people and places on the list include: Mister Bagel, The Holy Donut, Novare Res, Allagash, Hunt and Alpine, Harbor Fish, Amato’s, Ilma Lopez.

New England Regional 38

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Eater’s roving food editor, Bill Addison, has issued his list of the 38 essential restaurants in New England.

Included on the list are 10 restaurants from Maine: Drifters Wife, Eventide, Long Grain, Maine Diner, Mcloons Lobster, Palace Diner, Primo, Tandem Bakery, The Lost Kitchen, Tao Yuan.

Even five years ago, this list would have looked very different — or certainly less geographically broad. (As it is, Boston nabs a whopping 10 spots, but hey, it’s a metro area of nearly 5 million people.) Thanks to game-changers like Eventide in Portland, Maine, and Oberlin in Providence, Rhode Island, there’s now a breadth to the selections that shows off an upsurge in creativity. With its mosaic of risk-taking chefs and guardians of traditional foods, New England has never been a more varied or exciting culinary destination.

I had the pleasure of working with Bill on the list and wrote a few of the entries for Southern Maine in the article.

Reviews: Top of the East, Tipo, Isa, BRGR Bar, El Corazon

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Top of the East,

It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy afoot to encourage patrons to look out the windows and ignore what’s inside Top of the East: décor, service and much of the menu. That stratagem works when it’s nice outside, but what happens when the weather does not cooperate? The solid cocktails are a good place to start, but it’s clear that stronger cooking is where the restaurant’s next evolution needs to be.

Down East has reviewed Tipo,

While many of the dishes listed on the menu sound like red-sauce-joint staples, their flavors are far more complex and intriguing than that. Gould’s meatballs, for instance, are a blend of pork and beef seasoned with North African spices and served in a harissa-spiked tomato sauce. They come with a creamy, cooling dollop of ricotta blended with lemon zest and chives. His version of cacio e pepe is a fresh black-pepper tagliatelle tossed with a rich brodo and a mountain of umami-laden Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Steffy Amondi has reviewed Isa,

ISA is a place of contrast. With an upscale ambiance, but very simple menu. The food felt like what you would find at your company CEO’s chef-enabled home for dinner. Sticking with the basics and authenticity of recipes, there is nothing pretentious about the food, yet worth the price tag. Service at Isa is just right as well. Making you feel comfortable while still maintaining the air of class. A quiet place that can get a bit loud later into the night as drinks take effect on larger groups. Recommended for a dinner party, date-night or even dinner with the kids when you can’t find a sitter.

Portland Press Herald has reviewed BRGR Bar, and

When said burger was delivered I shot my dining companions a look that said, “Don’t talk to me for the next 12 minutes, I’m about to enter the Devour Zone.” And, I must say, said look was warranted, as this burger was a righteous feast of multiple flavors cooked to perfection and good to the last morsel, because I, of course, ate the entire thing, which was no small feat. The fries were only so-so, but that hardly mattered, I wasn’t there for the fries.

The Golden Dish has reviewed El Corazon.

So far there’s a disconnect between food truck and restaurant at El Corazon. It didn’t happen with other successful trucks turning restaurant pro like Baharat, East Ender and Mami. Admittedly my meal at the restaurant was a one-shot deal–but judging a restaurant by its signature dish is meaningful. Yet, at this point I don’t feel like going back and leave it up to you to tell me if I should.

Reviews: Woodhull, Baharat, Tiqa

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Woodhull,

Instead, focus on the Mexican-inspired plates that husband-and-wife chef duo, Matt and Rachel Chaisson, prepare with considerable skill. Standouts are the roasted cauliflower taco on a fresh, housemade soft tortilla; the hearty, multidimensional Baja rice bowl; and the ambitiously named “fritter mountain,” a quick-fried patty of smoky roasted corn covered in red cabbage, corn salsa and cotija cheese. It’s good enough to merit a little voyage of your own to Yarmouth for a taste.

Press Herald has reviewed Baharat,

The Rad Mirage ($10) has already gained some renown in the short time Baharat has been open. It seems that, once you taste it, it becomes difficult not to recommend it to every person you see. Having had it myself now, I get it. Vodka, Lebanese yogurt, honey and mint, blended to perfection, it’s a unique cocktail that complements the food and the location perfectly. It’s nearly absolutely impossible not to have two, so I did.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Tiqa,

Tiqa was even better than I remembered. They were more than satisfactory in the past, but my meal this time might have been the best yet. The seafood, pork, and potato combo in cream was extraordinary with the app and dessert as excellent bookends. It left me feeling like I had eaten something very special. The restaurant is putting some high quality flavors out from their kitchen and a meal there is most definitely one you’ll enjoy.

Reviews: Trattoria Fanny, The Honey Paw, Bayside Bowl, Scales

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Trattoria Fanny,

Among its best dishes are executive chef Sid Rumma’s superb rigatoni with cocoa-spiked oxtail tomato sauce; cauliflower served with capers, anchovies and nutty brown butter; and a faithful version of the classic dessert, torta della nonna (grandmother cake), a lighter, citrusy relative of cheesecake. Be sure to order contorni (side dishes) to accompany most entrees, as they are often served without any extras. Better yet, make an entire meal of pasta, little side dishes and a glass of wine from the all-Italian list. It might sound simple, but that’s the whole point.

Map & Menu has reviewed brunch at The Honey Paw,

If you’ve yet to experience brunch (or any meal) at The Honey Paw, we recommend remedying that as soon as you possibly can.

The Blueberry Files and the Press Herald have reviewed the new rooftop bar at Bayside Bowl, and

Pretty soon after we settled in we hit up the taco truck. Its menu has 5 kinds of tacos: two vegetarian (cauliflower and cactus), fried fish, pulled pork, and carne asada. I tried the cauliflower with sweet potato, sliced peppers, tomatillo salsa, and cotija cheese. It was delicious, as you’d expect from roasted cauliflower, but the hit was the fried fish taco. It was perfectly battered and fried, topped with crunchy pickled cabbage and red onion.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Scales.

This trip to Scales made me a believer. I left feeling full and like I got my money’s worth. Not only that, but the food was really, really good. The app was excellent, the lobster roll delivered everything I expected, and the dessert was deadly delicious. I can’t wait to go back now, knowing that I can go very hungry and still leave happy. Definitely stop by this summer when their water views will create some of the best eating scenery available anywhere.

Reviews: Izakaya Minato, A&C Grocery, Mash Tun, Mekong Asian Bistro

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Izakaya Minato,

If they are in season, the ramps with squid is a tender, briny delight. After all that, if you still need something to fill you up, skip dessert and head right for a bowl of Cooke’s Japanese-Italian fusion udon vongole ($13), full of fresh clams and peppery fire from citrusy yuzu kosho paste. It might also put you in the mood for just one more drink, the way great izakaya food does.

the Press Herald has reviewed lunch at A&C Grocery,

The salami itself was too salty for me, but that’s a taste issue, not a matter of quality, and everything else about the sandwich made me happy. It tasted like summer and couldn’t have been fresher, even pre-made. I’ll definitely stop again and keep trying whatever Fournier’s making.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Portland Mash Tun,

Once the cheese plate was gone, my burger and fries were already waiting for me. The burger, automatically cooked to medium, had tomato, pickled onion, and cheese between the grilled bun and half of a small sour pickle affixed to the top. A bite – actually two, because on the first I only got bun – verified that their burger was as good as ever. Nicely seasoned, hefty, and with minimalist, but tasty toppings, it was a pleasure to eat.

and the Kennebec Journal has reviewed Mekong Asian Bistro.

There were many tempting appetizer choices, but we finally settled on Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls ($4.95). I was happy to try the fresh over the fried version, as they were fresh and light. These were a gluten-free choice. Lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrots, vermicelli, scallions and cilantro were rolled in rice paper. It made a beautiful plate. The clear sesame peanut sauce for dipping added lots of flavor.

Reviews: LB Kitchen, Union, Francine

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The Press Herald has reviewed LB Kitchen,

I ordered the Hell Yes Kale Caesar bowl ($11), filled with things I might usually pass on. It had chickpea croutons, kale and a mixture called “cashew obsession” on romaine lettuce. But it also had pieces of chicken poached in broth, so my whole lunch, which looked like a salad, smelled like chicken soup. And it tasted like a very rich chicken soup that had been poured onto a very fresh salad.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed a beer dinner at Union,

I really liked what UNION did with this meal. First of all, they put out some awesome food. Regardless of whether you order from the menu or eat a prix fixe meal, you’re sure to get something great. But the pairing with a top shelf local brewery is a long overdue endeavor. More restaurants should be doing this.

and while Camden is far beyond the bounds of Portland I can’t but include this review from the Maine Sunday Telegram of my favorite Midcoast restaurant, Francine Bistro.

It’s simple, but exceedingly good. Very much like his local, skillet-roasted chicken ($25), braised with in-season artichokes, leeks and Fiana wine, then basted with butter and thyme. Served with a crunchy slice of lemon ricotta-brushed toast, it’s classic French comfort food executed perfectly – the kind of plate that highlights Hill’s talents and reminds you how even a modest dish can manage to conjure a little springtime magic.

Reviews: Sichuan Kitchen, Woodford Lunch, Bayside Cafe, Crepe Cafe, Union

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Sichuan Kitchen,

 Ignore the décor; the restaurant’s space is a work in progress. Instead, focus on the menu’s extravagance of flavors – everything from pungent and sweet doubanjiang paste painted onto the double cooked pork, to shamelessly garlicky noodles with wok-fried minced pork loin. And yes, you will find spicy dishes, like bone broth-poached Swai fillets slicked with chili oil and showered in crispy, numbing Sichuan peppercorns. But it’s not all about heat. Perhaps the restaurant’s best dish is neither elaborate nor spicy: a simple plate of cabbage slices sautéed in a luxuriously savory sauce of soy, sugar and black vinegar.

The Blueberry Files has posted the first review of lunch at Woodford F&B,

I had to try the crabcake sandwich ($15), and while I always prefer a blue crab cake, this one had great flavor, with a crispy exterior on a buttery, soft bun. The jicama slaw with pungent red onion was a nice alternative to coleslaw. 

The Bollard has reviewed Bayside American Cafe,

Nostalgia aside, this was an excellent brunch, on par with many of the newer, “foodier” places in Portland. I’m sorry it took me a decade to return to this old standby. I won’t make that mistake again.

the Press Herald has reviewed Crepe Cafe, and

I chose the Billy Goat ($8), with herbed goat cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach and a balsamic glaze. It was terrific. Satisfying and substantial.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Union based on a preview of the upcoming MBC beer dinner.

My favorite dish–if not an unexpected pleasure–was the braised local rabbit, which was the second course. It was set within a delicate mash of of green curry sauce with a punch of kefir lime and beautifully roasted and caramelized local sweet potatoes. It was served with Maine Beer’s “Another One,” a complex brew that married well with the dish.