Reviews: Lio, Pizzarino, Po’ Boys

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Lio,

Most are inspired by modern European cooking, like a gorgeous lamb loin plated alongside a smoky, creamy Spanish eggplant escalivada; or buttery apple tarte tatin, knocked sideways into funkiness with an almost savory goat cheese ice cream. If the tarte is on the menu when you go, don’t miss it. Other dishes nearly hit their marks, if not for composition problems that make them difficult to eat (intact husk cherries on the otherwise fantastic duck breast) or were tricky to combine together on the fork so that all the flavors work as they should, as in the Melons and Cucumbers, a fragrant, umami-forward vegetable dish made with onions, papalo and garum. Despite the occasional wobble, Stadler and co-head chef Rachel Reynolds’ menu feels like a fresh, exciting take on small plates, one that might just need a little more time to find its perfect equilibrium.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Pizzarino, and

Simplicity reigns supreme at Pizzarino, where a Margherita pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, basil) stole the show during a recent visit. Bright and pleasantly acidic with a gentle sweetness, the sauce used as a base for each pizza on the menu is lively and inviting — a welcomed shift away from the deeply caramelized, almost ketchup-like product found on so many pies in southern Maine. The sauce provides much-needed contrast on the almost-too-salty Capricciosa pizza, which layers mushrooms, artichokes and prosciutto cotto ham on the same framework as the Margherita. It is divine and worth the price of admission on its own.

the Press Herald has reviewed Po’ Boys & Pickles.

I was expecting it to arrive on a pita, but instead “The Uptown” was on one of the hefty and delicious po’ boy rolls that the rest of the truly New Orleans-style menu items come on. There were a few thin slices of cucumber and tomato, as well as a red pepper mayonnaise and some shredded lettuce. My friendly server offered me a side of hot sauce, which I happily took.

Reviews: Locally Sauced, Lolita

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Locally Sauced, and

Locally Sauced’s chef/owner Charlie Ely loves to make sauce. He’s been doing it since he opened his business: first ladling the stuff onto burritos assembled in a tiny food cart, then beginning this May, on a range of Mexican and barbecue dishes he and his wife, general manager/owner Aimee Ely, serve in a high-ceilinged storefront on Thompson’s Point. His best sauces are a sweet-and-smoky blueberry-chipotle and a green chili sauce as fiery as fresh lava. Both work well with the restaurant’s top-notch burritos…

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Lolita.

Lolita works for me as a place to go when I can’t make a decision about what I want to eat or just when I’m feeling Munjoy Hill is the right area to grab some food. They never disappoint and always have an interesting variety of items like Blistered Shishito Peppers, Heirloom Tomato Casserole, and Grilled Half Game Hen. If you haven’t been yet, I suggest you make a visit there, because I’m sure you’ll be happy you did.

Reviews: Crown Jewel, Union

The Portland Phoenix has reviewed Crown Jewel, and

Consider a dish of “fried green things;” flash-fried seasonal green vegetables with apricot harissa and roasted almonds — pound for pound one of the tastiest things in recent memory. Vegetables also shine in chef Rocky Hunter’s carrot lox, a fun take on faux-food substituting ribbons of cured heirloom carrots for smoked salmon, garnished liberally with rye crumbs and everything bagel seasoning. It’s playful, imaginative and — most importantly — actually delicious, showing aptitude and purpose that speak to Hunter’s personal vegan leanings.

The Bollard has reviewed Union.

Though technically too young to be a millennial, my daughter’s friend has a thing for avocado toast, and Union’s version ($14) did not disappoint. The fluffy “shaved” hard-boiled egg, creamy ricotta salata and peppery radish provided a welcome variety of textures and flavors, but it was the tart, salty, preserved lemon emulsion that elevated this dish to a higher plane. Likewise, my wife’s smoked salmon ($17) started with a familiar mix of flavors and transformed into something new. Served on square slices of pumpernickel toast, the combination of shaved egg, pickled onions, briny capers, petite greens and “everything spice” was absolutely delicious, and anything but traditional.

Reviews: Bob’s, Forage, Rose, Crown Jewel

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Crown Jewel,

I would have shared my amazement that a kitchen helmed by a vegan was so deft at putting out seafood and meat dishes like savory hake with chorizo, hamburgers with sweet onion jam and – best of all – crisp, delicate oyster sliders. Hunter’s produce-forward dishes are frequently just as good, especially tomato concasse with corn pudding, blackberry gastrique and Parmesan. They, as well as the shaved ices that pastry chef Angela Cochran tops with homemade syrups and macerated fruit, taste like a distillation of summer. Exactly the right menu for a destination restaurant where every meal feels like a vacation.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Forage Market and Rose Foods,

An opportunity to examine just how far we have traveled down this path comes in the form of two bagel places opened in Portland in the last year — Rose Foods and Forage. These local bagels — fundamentally just plain doughy zeros (like us) — have managed to earn national acclaim. How have they done it? Substance? Taste? Style?

the Portland Press Herald has reviewed Bob’s Clam Hut.

Finally, at a time when restaurants in Portland are struggling to find good help, I have to give a big shout out to Bob’s for the great service. When I forgot to ask the tablet I signed for a receipt, one employee went out of his way to help me. He had not learned how to perform this task yet on the point-of-sale system, but he worked with it until he was able to print out my receipt. I saw another employee go out of her way to help customers coming in the door, and a third came around and picked up trays from customers who were done with their meals, even though throwing out trash and putting up trays is supposed to be self service. Hey Bob, there’s a big restaurant labor shortage in this town, and you are very lucky to have these people.

Reviews: Bob’s, Crown Jewel, Lio, Forage, Sagamore, Buxton Common

The Portland Phoenix and Peter Peter Portland Eater have reviewed Bob’s Clam Hut,

The litmus test exists in the form of “Clams 2-ways,” which loads an oval paper plate with equal heaping portions of their signature Bob’s and Lillian’s clams. The Lillian’s clams are distinctly lighter and almost creamy in texture, with the flour dredged Bob’s being on the crunchier, more traditional side. Tasted blindly, I found the latter to be the more satisfying of the two. It’s not exactly a steal at $25, but padded with fries and coleslaw, it’s more than enough for two people to share.

The Blueberry Files has reviewed Crown Jewel,

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.

Portland Magazine has reviewed Lio,

Turning to hot dishes, olive-oil poached Maine Halibut is a delicate revelation ($17). The tender fillet sits atop puréed potato and fennel laced with bits of crabmeat, forming an island in a glass bowl pooled with shellfish broth. The dish is subtle, yet the clean, fresh flavors are clear and concentrated.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Forage Market,

At Forage, the bagels are so good because they cure for several days before the boiling process and then the the ultimate burnishing in a wood-fired oven. The outer crust is particularly noteworthy with its blistered finish from the intense oven temperature fired from the embers of wood in the oven.

the Portland Press Herald has reviewed Sagamore, and

The results were mixed: the gimlet and the mint julep were fabulous, the Blue Dress was pretty good…the daiquiri was sour, the McKinley’s Delight was bitter, and the Manhattan arrived cloudy and tasting like the bitters had been added like one might add Tabasco sauce to scrambled eggs. We didn’t have to wait long for service, but the bartenders remained far more interested in chatting with each other than in engaging with their customers.

the Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Buxton Common.

Before last week, if you had told me that the best biscuits north of the Mason-Dixon Line were in Buxton, I might have laughed at you. But one very solid meal at The Buxton Common later, I’m fully on-board.

Reviews: Pizzarino

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Pizzarino.

I was really impressed with the salad and thought the pizza was good enough to add to my rotation, especially if I wasn’t looking for just a massive pie and nothing else. My only hope would be that service would speed up slightly, though it wasn’t that bad considering I was there on their sixth day. Head there soon and check out a pizza place that’s Italian through and through. Pizzarino adds another to Portland’s list of pizza eateries that have a style all their own.

Reviews: Lio, Solo Italiano, Drifters Wife

The Portland Phoenix has reviewed Lio,

Not to be missed at Lio, either, are the house-made pastas and thoughtfully constructed desserts. A dish of pappardelle with duck confit, artichoke, tarragon, Kalamata panko and lemon would make an excellent solo dinner. Follow it up with a dessert of Moscato Zabaglione — an Italian take on the French sabayon with poached peach, blueberry basil sorbet and elderflower — and you’ll be hard-pressed to find something to complain about.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Solo Italiano, and

I was quite impressed every step of the way. You can’t go wrong with the pesto, so I highly recommend that, but I enjoyed everything we ordered. Solo Italiano is definitely worthy of a visit and I recommend trying as many items as you can handle, or maybe even more.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Drifters Wife.

We snacked on a bowl of pickles, which was the best dish; but I like anything sweet, and these pickles would win first prize at a county fair. Another dish of mushrooms was splendid as was an entrée of scallops in a tomato broth and a half chicken with buttery braised cabbage and plums. The leg and breast were so big it might have come from a condor. But it was earthy and tasty, a bit dry perhaps and the plums should have added more sweetness.

Chef Paolo Laboa & Restaurant City of the Year

Today’s Press Herald includes a feature on Paolo Laboa, the chef at Solo Italiano,

Spend a little time with Paolo Laboa, the executive chef at Solo Italiano in Portland, and you’ll probably discover you’ve been doing pesto all wrong. You’ve been using the wrong basil, or too much basil. You’ve been heavy-handed with the garlic. Or you’re serving the pesto in the wrong way.

But that’s OK. Laboa, 55, considers himself a teacher and is happy to share his family’s pesto recipe and explain the right technique so your summer pesto doesn’t turn out too garlicky or bitter, or with a coarse texture. Since at this time of year, the basil is practically bursting out of the garden, we asked him for a lesson.

and a follow-up on yesterday’s news that BA has named Portland the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year.

Certainly, the number of restaurants in Portland has grown significantly over the past 20 years. In 1998, just 27 Class 1 restaurants were licensed in the city, defined in part as those that sell at least $50,000 worth of food annually – places such as Back Bay Grill, Fore Street, David’s, Sapporo and DiMillo’s. By July 2018, that number had grown to 113, with another seven licenses pending. The number of restaurants with Class XI licenses, the other major restaurant category for the city, also grew dramatically, from 14 in 1998 to 53 in July 2018.

“I’ve heard Portland people say there are too many restaurants, there are not enough people to go around,” Knowlton said. “Sometimes I think Portland people don’t realize how good they have it.”

BA Restaurant City of the Year

Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appétit has named Portland the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year,

For starters, it’s the sheer number of outstanding openings—from a tiny pastry shop that serves knockout Roman pizza to a Jewish-style deli that ranks up there with New York and L.A.’s best. And while you can still get an Instagram-worthy lobster roll and a dozen local oysters, you’re missing out if you skip the killer pho spot or the guy selling hand rolls out of a Yeti cooler.