David’s – A True Portland O.G.

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David’s restaurant has been around Portland for what seems like forever and is one of the original entrants into what has become a nationally recognized food mecca. I previously reviewed David’s Opus Ten, but had been wanting for quite a while to try the restaurant that started the line of what are now four Maine eateries owned by Chef David Turin. When I saw their glorious Restaurant Week menu, I knew it was a done deal as they had the most interesting and inspired options I was able to find for the winter week when the state’s food lovers flock to restaurants en masse.

We arrived on time for our reservation and were promptly seated. On her initial visit, the waitress confirmed that we could order from either the restaurant week or the standard menu. Because I was so intrigued by what I had seen on the former, I was leaning toward that but quickly took a gander at the drink list on the latter while listening to The Beatles play in the background. I let it be known to my wife that I wasn’t particularly taken by any cocktails either on or off the menu and needed help with my selection. When the waitress returned, I asked about the rotating drafts and as I felt my thoughts come together, I ordered a Peak Organic IPA.

Prior to receiving my beer, we received a basket of parmesan and garlic bread/knots/swirls. I immediately threw one into my mouth. They were crusty on the outside with a soft center and plenty of garlic and cheese sprinkle. I ate them with the quickness and admired their full garlic scent. Shortly after a couple of those disappeared, my beer came out. It looked like an IPA, smelled like an IPA, and acted like a duck. It was what I would consider very middle-of-the-road – not excessively hoppy, heavy, or dark, but with enough hops, weight, and color to clearly provide a firm IPA presence and satisfy the typical IPA drinker. It wasn’t a fringe offering, just a solid piece of beer in an organic cloak of flavor. My wife stuck with her water which she indicated was a pretty strong play in the Portland water market.

After some browsing, it was time to make final decisions and I was clear about what I wanted. The restaurant week menu required all courses be ordered at the same time which was not a problem. I went with the Chicken-apple-maple Sausage – house-made patties with applejack cream and green apple salad – for the first course. My second course was Meatloaf – crispy cumin onions, porcini mushroom jus, garlic mashed potato with glazed carrots, and my grand finale landed on Brulée Banana Brownie – peanut butter, chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream, salt caramel sauce. My more attractive counterpart started with Butternut Squash-apple Bisque – blue cheese crostini, maple-bacon brulée – sans bacon, followed it with Herb Roasted Hake & Peeky Toe Crab – Herbed parmesan risotto, braised spinach and lobster sherry cream, and ordered the same dessert as me in the hopes that I would eat most of hers too.

It took only about a quarter of a beer for our preliminary courses to come out. My sausage was presented as two patties wading in the cream with a small salad of greens and a few apple sticks. The sausage itself had a soft texture and understated fruit touch. A swipe through the cream enhanced it, adding a stronger, sweet, creamy finish. The salad was a perfect accompaniment with just enough apple to add to the taste and a light vinaigrette throughout to add some acid. My wife and I finished our our starters and waited for more of the good stuff.

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The meatloaf arrived at an appropriate interval and I was shocked, but certainly pleased, at it’s heft. The pork and beef mixture was distributed in a significant hunk. It was wrapped in the bacon and had garlic mashed in the basement with mushroom gravy and crisp onions on top. Next to it were the carrots. My wife’s plate consisted of risotto, spinach, and the hake between cream on bottom and a crab covering. We marveled at the portion sizes of both meals and prepared our taste buds for flight.

My hand convinced my fork to dig into the loaf. I took a sizable bite and savored the flavor. The moderately dense chunk had just the right amount of filler with layers of salty, seasoned, and hearty meat. The bacon added that beautiful, smokey touch, and the mushroom jus was an extraordinary ending with a full, potent taste that added a lot in small amounts. I got some onions on my next try and they were crunchy and added a nice spice. I took a scoop of the potatoes next and they had the right amount of garlic and excellent texture. The side carrots were cooked and crunchy like some of my friends in college. A little errant jus slid onto some of the bright orange veggie coins and it was an excellent match as the mushroom and carrot mishmash was quite the delight. While I didn’t try my wife’s food, she finished her meal, so I assumed it was worthy of similar accolades to mine.

Once I took the last bite of my meaty concoction, I started to realize I was getting pretty full, but we still had dessert to consume and I’d be damned if I wouldn’t eat a dessert that had peanut butter as part of it. The finisher came out in due time and I laid my eyes upon it with a loving stare that said “have your way with me”. There were two chocolate brownies with peanut butter sandwiched between them. Banana slices were relaxing on top. In a little bowl on the side was the ice cream. Caramel adorned the bananas, ice cream, and also the bottom of the plate. A poof of powdered sugar finished the fun.

Before I ate my sweet sugared sunshine, I stared at it to prepare myself mentally and then dove in like a scuba diver looking for sunken treasure. Brownie and peanut butter made it into my face. It was good, but needed a chocolate chiller to reduce the intense sweetness. I nabbed just a bit of the ice cream and took another bite, this time adding the bananas into the mix. It was perfect. The caramel-hardened ‘naner added an easy, sweet crunch, the ice cream relaxed the chocolate, and the peanut butter…well, there isn’t much better than peanut butter. It was delicious enough to take to the finish line. My wife had a few bites of hers and saw that it was missing the peanut butter, but she didn’t care. We had a minor spat as I couldn’t believe she was willing to go without one of the greatest foods on the planet. “You’re eating it without peanut butter? I hardly even know you anymore!”, I yelled at her.

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Eventually, after I calmed down about my wife’s dessert apathy, we agreed that it was time to move on.  The special meals were $35 each and my beer was $7 for a total tab of $77 before tax and tip. It was certainly well worth the price of admission for the large portions of delicious food. I’ve had similar meatloaf dinners at other restaurants and the David’s version was the best I’ve eaten. For those not able to get there before Restaurant Week ends, their regular menu looked awesome too with plenty of seafood, beef, pizza, or whatever floats your kayak. I’ll be back before long to try some more and you should probably pay them a visit too, because in the Portland food scene, David’s is a goliath.

Stay hungry.

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