Monthly Archives: April 2014

Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room – The Most Recent Room

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I had to get to Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room eventually. Having reviewed all the other “Rooms” in Portland, the newest one just hadn’t come up on my list yet despite seeing a number of reviews of it. But this past Saturday I was finally ready to experience the waterfront restaurant for myself. Unfortunately, it was a little too cold to sit outside at a table or the bar, but those certainly would be great options in warmer temperatures. The scenery is great, and in my opinion, there’s no better place to eat than on/by the water.

When we walked inside, there wasn’t much in the way of outdoor views, but the interior was certainly very nice on it’s own. The look of the restaurant could be described as modern rustic with beautiful wooden beams overhead and a nice bar. The kitchen was open, though partially blocked from certain areas. The scent of wood-fire from the grill was quite prominent and pleasing. There were chalkboards hanging with the specials written on them.

We walked up to the hostess who then checked to see if our table was available and were promptly seated with menus. Water soon followed. The menu was a large, laminated and two-sided. On the front were food items and on the back were wine selections. There was also a menu with featured food items and beer, cocktails, and additional wines. The main menu was quite diverse. There were apps, salads, lobster, fried foods, burgers, pizza, dinner plates, and wok items. The feature menu had more of the same with a number of fish, sauces, and sides. We also got a paper and pencil on which we could choose from a variety of available oysters.

My initial view of the menu had me trying to figure out if it was too much or just offered great variety. I settled on the latter. Yes, it was a lot, but there really was something for everyone. I had been seriously contemplating some fried seafood before I got there and was little disappointed that there were limited options in that category, but I felt that what they did have were solid choices. We decided not to order drinks since we had some before arriving, so I got over my menu concerns and became focused on getting some grub in my belly.

Two ideas were solidified in my mind before even looking at the menus – I wanted an app and didn’t want any raw seafood. I laid my eyes upon the Oyster Room Meatballs with local pork, local oysters, and sweet soy. From there I went with a half pint of the fried Whole Belly Clams in crumbs. Since I only ordered a half-pint of the clams and wanted to try a few different foods, I decided to go with two sides. The Farm Vegetables and Caramelized Onion Hash Brown got my attention. My wife ordered Scallops with the Zippy Sauce and chose Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Farm Vegetables as sides. When the waitress came back for our orders she delivered some blueberry bread in lieu of biscuits which weren’t ready yet. We then piled our orders on her and anxiously awaited a bunch of food.

While waiting for our feast, my wife and I discussed the surprising allegorical correlation between mustachioed men from Mozambique and a melancholy cow with a certain curiosity. Before I could even get to my second point of comparison, a bowl of five meatballs arrived. My hunger convinced me it was time to dig in. I chopped the first one in half, noticing a light, fluffy consistency. I popped a half of the ball in my mouth. It was indeed light and fluffy, but not overly so. In my opinion, it was the perfect combination of meat and filler, but what really gave it life was the sauce. The sweet soy was…well…sweet and salty with just a little bit of heat. I didn’t expect the heat but it was a welcome surprise. When the waitress picked up my empty bowl a short time later, she asked how hot they were. I told her they weren’t that hot, but I would have loved even more fire.

After another short wait, our meals showed up. My half pint of clams looked generous and came with a sufficient amount of tarter sauce. A separate plate housed my hash brown and a bowl was full with the farm vegetables. My wife’s food was on one large plate. I dug into my veggies first. They were very good – crunchy, buttery, and well seasoned. Next I tried the hash brown. It was crispy on the outside which I liked, but it lacked seasoning. It wasn’t bad, but it needed something more; even a sauce of some sort would have worked. I moved on to Saturday night’s main event. I bodyslammed a plain clam into my mouth, and then suplexed one into tarter sauce before proceeding to consume that too. The clams were definitely fresh. The crumbs gave them some salt and crispness. They were excellent. The tarter sauce was interesting. It was definitely more lemony than I was used to, but I liked it, particularly since there was no lemon on the plate. I felt it worked very well with the clams. Shortly after starting our meal, we received some biscuits.

In the battle between my food and I, I won. I ate every last crumb, stopping at times only to steal some of my wife’s. Her sprouts and scallops were great. She couldn’t quite finish all of her meal, but it was good enough for her to try like hell. I was impressed with her performance. After a congratulatory salute, we quietly decided that dessert would not be an option, but I did finish the biscuits and called them dessert. When the waitress came by to check if we were interested in something sweet though, I still wanted to hear what was available. I don’t really remember much except that I heard the words “peanut” and “butter” consecutively. I shook my head hard to erase those words from my brain, knowing that dessert – even one with peanut butter – would ruin my night.

Our meals came to about $80 after all was said and done. We didn’t get drinks, but ordered a couple sides each in order to try different items. I was quite pleased overall. The location is awesome and the atmosphere is one I really enjoyed. Service was solid and except for a small bump in the road in the way of an under-seasoned hash brown, the food was really good. I hope that in the future they will add more fried seafood options by the pint or fisherman’s platter-type plates. I was really happy with the clams, but the only similar option was fried oysters. I would do cartwheels for good fried scallops or the like. Nonetheless, their diverse menu makes them quite unusual compared to other seafood restaurants and that’s an endearing quality. I’ll be back to Boone’s this summer to sit at the outside bar for sure.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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Paciarino – Old Port Old World Italian

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I don’t go to Paciarino that often. In fact, it seems like every time I do go, it’s been so long since I’ve been there that I actually don’t remember anything about my previous visit except that it was pretty good. It might be because I’m not the biggest Italian food fan. I tend to be very picky about my Italian, strongly preferring items with lots of meat, cheese, and vegetables. Pasta with just little meat sauce or even worse, no meat sauce at all, just doesn’t cut it. You want to warm my heart with Italian? Take your pasta, throw in pepperoni, sausage, chunks of mushrooms, tons of cheese, maybe a brownie, and a bunch of other delicious additions and then we can talk.

With all that in mind, it was time to head over to 470 Fore Street in the Old Port for another shot at Italian. I definitely remember thinking that Paciarino was a cut above what I generally was used to for Italian food. When we arrived, the pleasant memories came back. The warm quaint feel and somewhat rustic atmosphere was inviting and calming. The restaurant’s name means “cozy” and it fits well. With a service bar/station occupying the front center of the restaurant, the vast majority of the tables are situated beyond. We were immediately seated at a 4-top as there didn’t appear to be any tables for two available.

There wasn’t much of a time lapse between us sitting and a waitress approaching. We got some water and were given the specials which off the top of my head resembled mushroom ravioli and a lobster sauteé of some sort. They both sounded pretty good, but weren’t what I was looking for on that night. The waitress left and the search for the perfect meal was on. There were a few important notes on the menu that reminded me why I enjoyed Paciarino in the past – the pasta and sauces are made fresh every day, no preservatives are used, and the meat is all natural just like me.

Looking at the menu, I thought everything looked pretty good, but I was looking for the meal that would win me over – one I would not soon forget. The waitress had mentioned a couple items they were out of, but they weren’t anything we were considering. We discussed sharing the Caprese, but I decided against it on the basis that I’ve been eating a lot of tomatoes lately and was recently told that if I ate many more I’d turn into a tomato. While I hear women find high lycopene content attractive, that was something I didn’t want and left me considering a salad, crostini, or cheese selection. For my entree, I couldn’t get my eyes off the Lasagne Alla Bolognese with beef, pork, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic. It was noted that the lasagna did not use ricotta, but instead was made with besciamella sauce as required by an authentic Bolognese recipe. My wife was playing “eeny meeny miny moe” to decide which ravioli she wanted.

The waitress came with bread chunks drizzled in special house olive oil and we gave her our orders. My wife ended up choosing the Italian Salad and I went with the Crostini All’Italiana as my starter after getting more details on the tapenades with which they were served. I stuck with the lasagna and Mrs. Portlandeater requested the Ravioli Ricotta E Spinaci Alla Bolognese – ricotta, spinach, garlic parm, nutmeg – once she verified it could be ordered with a meatless sauce. She threw in a glass of white wine for good measure.

Appetizers arrived faster than a speeding bullet. My crostini plate was colorful with five crispy bread slices and five different tapenades – onion, red pepper, olive, pesto, and eggplant. I tried them one by one. The onion was definitely the best. The red pepper and olive were very good too. I saved the pesto and eggplant for last because I wasn’t sure I’d like them. I tried the pesto. I’m not sure if I’m starting to like pesto or everywhere I go just makes it really well, but I must say that theirs was pretty good. Even the eggplant was good and I tend to always dislike eggplant. I was quite pleased overall. Anytime I can retry foods I usually don’t like and enjoy them, I know they’ve been done right. I tried my wife’s salad and it was as it looked – simple, fresh, and delicious.

We finished our apps, our plates were taken, and like clockwork, our main courses arrived. Her plate was equipped with fifteen ravioli. My lasagna was about 4″x6″ and an inch or so thick. It looked pretty standard, but I remembered it tasting quite good from the last time I was there. I dug in. I immediately picked up the besciamella sauce. It gave a rich, creamy taste. With the addiction of the cheese, meat, and vegetables, it was excellent. Paciarino definitely serves up a unique plate of lasagna, but they know what they are doing. Mrs. Portlandeater loved the ravioli, but I didn’t try them since they were made with spinach and I don’t like cooked greens.

My meal was completed devoured and she finished most of hers. They were great. Without a moment to spare, our plates were taken and we were brought our bill. I was a bit surprised that we were not offered anything further – dessert in particular. It was pretty clear that they were trying to clear tables to get other customers seated, but there were a couple empty tables that hadn’t been cleaned yet. It wasn’t a big deal; we weren’t hungry anymore, but I would think other customers might find it odd. The total with tax and tip came to $80 which included one wine, two apps, and two entrees. We were full, happy, and just a little rushed.

Paciarino makes food that is top notch and serves it in portions fit for a hungry guy like me. They also sell some items to go if you want to bring it home and heat it up. If you like Italian, this is definite must-try restaurant in Portland. While I don’t have vivid memories of my previous visits, I don’t ever remember getting anything that I didn’t like there and I wouldn’t anticipate that happening in in the future either. There’s also no waiting around as we were in and out in 50 minutes. Plan an hour to go there soon and you’ll likely end up singing “Come On, Get Happy” in Italian on your way out.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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Peterpeterportlandeater’s Triple Threat Takeout Tally

In the past, I have not reviewed restaurants where I just ordered takeout because I like to be the people’s Portland Eater. And since I don’t always give to my people with the frequency I would like, I try to give you the Full Monty, the Big Lebowski, the whole enchilada each and every time out. When I order takeout, that’s impossible to do because there’s no significant service and atmosphere component to my meal. There’s little interaction. There just isn’t much to talk about other than the food. While the food is obviously of utmost importance, there is so much more to the dining experience.

Because it’s been a busy year for me, I haven’t had as much time to get out and eat as I usually do, so less expensive takeout joints have been a significant portion of my restaurant visits this year. Having tried some new places recently and having been to lots of them in the past, I have a pretty good collection of grab and go restaurants in my memory bank.  I decided it would be a good idea to point out some of my favorites so you can have those to chew on – both literally and figuratively. Today, I’m going to focus on my favorite ethnic places. Note that I tend to spend somewhere between $15-$25 on myself when I go to these places and that usually includes a lot of food. So here they are presented in no particular order.

Numero Uno – China Villa

Affectionately and exclusively referred to as “We Delivery” by my wife and I due to those words appearing on an old menu, the Westbrook Chinese food purveyor scores a touchdown every time. For traditional Americanized Chinese food, they are easily the best I’ve had in the entire state and were even voted in the top 100 nationwide in 2010. With a pretty nondescript dining area, the restaurant does the vast majority of it’s business with takeout and they appear to be quite busy on most of the occasions I visit.

I love Chinese food and can find something good at virtually all eateries, but China Villa doesn’t put out anything that’s not absolutely delicious. It also doesn’t hurt that their portions are huge and priced reasonably. When I get Chinese elsewhere, I order a variety of food and usually get one or two very good items while the rest will be just okay. I never have to worry about anything just being okay at We Delivery. And because they ask you if you want sauces when you place your order, I never forget to request my beloved hot mustard and soy sauce.

If you find yourself going to China Villa, I recommend their dumplings; they’re the best around. The Crab Rangoons are very good. The General Tso’s Chicken, Egg Rolls, Fried Rice, and pretty much everything else are awesome too. Go there when you’re so hungry you could eat a velociraptor and enjoy your food coma an hour later.

#B. Siam Square

You’re looking for some traditional Thai takeout and want a truly tasty treat, but where do you go? Might I suggest that Siam Square in Westbrook is an excellent choice? Another restaurant that appears to have significant takeout business, Siam Square creates excellent food and makes dishes that win every time. Like any good restaurant, their constant output of delicious food makes this a place I’m never afraid to be disappointed by. They do have a reasonably nice dining room and appear to get some dine-in guests, but they never seem to be slow on the takeout side. I have actually eaten inside this place a handful of times and the service is generally quite good, so that’s a solid option too.

When you stop by the Thai takeout standout, consider the Pad Kee-Mao or the Pad Se-Ewe which are both so good they would repair a leaky roof in a rainstorm. Don’t forget some apps either. The Chicken Satay is delish and so are the Crab Rangoons, but I’d be surprised if you found something that wasn’t. Just go now and bring some food home to stuff your pretty, little face. You won’t regret it…until you explode.

3. Taco Trio

This South Portland hole-in-the-wall is an exceptionally popular Mexican restaurant with regular lines out the door and hardly an available seat in the entire place whenever I visit. They appear to split their business between takeout and eat-in even though they don’t have table service. That’s good because if everyone who ordered there ate there, they’d have to significantly increase the size of the seating area.

The food at Taco Trio is awesome, but after you order, the cashier provides cups for salsa and that’s where the fun really begins. The salsa bar has several rotating options and regardless of what type you like, they’ve definitely got something that will suit your salsa needs. From mild to “pants on fire” hot, the many options will leave you somewhere between happy and full-on brain burn.  No matter which ones you choose though, they’re sure to provide a rocket propelled grenade directly to your taste buds.

Everything I’ve had at Taco Trio is good, but I am definitely partial to the Tacos and am particularly fond of the Pastor – pork with pineapple in adobo sauce. Its sweet, saucy love really gets my motor running. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it right now. So don’t hold back – try Taco Trio. It will make you feel like a caged animal who’s just been set free.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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