David’s 388 – South Portland Sustenance

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A recent trip to David’s 388 in South Portland was my third venture into the David’s series of establishments. The Cottage Rd. eatery definitely qualifies as a neighborhood restaurant and sits nestled on a cute little corner which leads to one of Maine’s great beaches. Since it’s a tad outside of downtown Portland, the vicinity is quieter than most locations I usually visit, but 388 itself often seems to be packed full of patrons who love the place. After occasional calls for a reservation over the past months, we finally were able to get in at a time that worked for us and headed there on a cool spring Saturday night.

We arrived at the restaurant five minutes early and were immediately seated. With waters and menus provided right away, we started looking for a perfect South Portland drink to order. I decided mine would be the Cape Elizabeth – a slightly less masculine version of a Cape Cod with pomegranate vodka, lime juice, and cranberry juice on the rocks. The lil miss settled on a Terra Noble Sauvignon Blanc from Chile which she felt would quench her thirst. With drink orders on the tip of our tongues, we hoped for someone to come by to take them as staff repeatedly passed us without stopping at our table.

While we continued to wait, we discussed food. Consisting of small plates, starters, salads, and entrees, the menu wasn’t huge, but still offered a reasonable selection for any taste. I needed to try at least a couple items and saw several that caused me to raise an eyebrow with interest. Mrs. Portlandeater made her final decision, skipping over entrees and going with two items I had considered. She first chose the Fresh Chips – truffle oil, kosher salt, fresh pepper – and then the Lobster Bisque – lobster meat, sherry cream. I went with the Bacon Mac and Cheese – torchio pasta, aged cheddar, smoked bacon – and Pistachio Crusted Scallops – risotto cake, roasted green beans and almonds, arugula pesto.

The wait for someone to visit us became quite long. We had completely figured out our meals and then some more time passed as my wife’s face changed slowly from happy to not at all happy and then to downright resentful. A full 15 minutes after we sat, a waitress finally came over, embarrassed and mentioning something about a miscommunication. We awkwardly placed our beverage order and looked forward to eventually adding the food we had already sorted out.

Fortunately, our server delivered drinks in record time and simultaneously asked if we had any questions about the menu. We responded with a “no, we’re completely ready to order”. We happily placed our food orders with my wife using her two items as a main course. We went back to waiting, but at least had some drinks in hand. I happily tried mine from the glowing glass in front of me. Though it wasn’t a pomegranate martini, it was along those lines with a similar fruity sweetness and a taste that would make a bachelorette party dance all night to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”. It was really good and the lime gave a bit of a sour touch to the sweet pom and cran combo.

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Before long, the mac and cheese made its debut on our table. The torchio pasta – shaped somewhat like a torch – was the perfect catcher’s mitt for the cheese and bacon bonanza I saw in front of me. I noted numerous bits of bacon and plenty of creamy cheese as I stuffed a forkful into my face. The dairy dressing and smokey sister of sausage segments gave me everything I hoped for, delivering a cheese coating to my mouth as the precious pig followed with a smoke seasoning that said “this dish was put here by a higher power”. I continued to dig in to the decadent deliciousness as my wife watched from her pork-free perch across the table.

After working my pasta for a bit, we were pleased to receive some bread sticks with garlic,  parmesan, and rosemary. Not only were they excellent on their own, but a dip into the cheese from my mac revealed a stellar combination. I stayed focused on my completely unreasonable carbohydrate consumption and finished my pasta and half of the bread. When the waitress came over to ask if we wanted more, I felt it was prudent to turn down the offer. After all, I didn’t want to be too full for the rest of my meal.

In keeping with the quick turnaround time of our food, I was hardly done with my starter before the rest came out.  The risotto cake, scallops, and beans all sat on top of a smattering of pesto. My wife’s food looked as you might expect with a standard bowl of bisque and a bowl of potato chips. I quickly dug in to try the scallops. Both scallops and pistachios are high on my list of favorite foods so this was a match made in heaven. A taste revealed that the buttery nut laid down additional flavor upon the already delicious sea meat. I tried the scallop with the pesto, but felt the ground green gravy actually distracted from it’s natural essence. I then took a piece of the cake and noted that the risotto was quite mild by comparison. Driving a second slice if it through the pesto I found that to be a great pairing, adding some power to the cake – something the scallops simply didn’t need. The green beans and almonds threw some light, fresh veggies and a crunch into the mix.

Next, I was ready to sample some of my wife’s food. With one chomp of the chips, I was sold. The fresh tater slices gave just a hint of the truffle for a well done standard with just a tiny swerve. A slurp of the bisque produced excellent flavor with solid chunks of lobster and a rich cream flavor that simply melted on the tongue. Once I tried those, I went back to my food and worked on that, loving the cake/pesto marriage and the scallop/nut formula. I ate and ate until it disappeared into the nether regions of my belly. My wife followed suit and offered me the last handful of chips she had. I gladly consumed them.

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After our food was finished, we considered a dessert. With options such as cheesecake with rum caramel sauce and crème brulee, I thought we might come to an agreement on something to share, but in the end, we tempered our gluttony and passed on a sweet something. While we got off to a really slow start to our meal, we were totally done inside of an hour. The rest of the service was exceptionally quick, presumably to make up for the error at the beginning. Of course, it wasn’t ideal to begin our experience that way, but it turned out okay.

Outside of the meal pacing, I really enjoyed David’s 388. I felt the menu itself was well thought out and the food was very solid from start to finish. My heavy starter paved the way for a more subtle, but exceptionally tasty entree that had some great flavor pairings wrapped up into a single dish. My wife’s food was also nice, and though she opted for lighter fare, it was a fanciful duo of snack and soup that saturated the palate with happiness. The meal ran up a tab of about $65 prior to tip. It obviously would have been a little more if she had ordered an entree, but still would have been very reasonable. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Portland for a night and don’t mind a quick hop over the bridge to Southie Po, take a ride to David’s 388 and I think you too will find an exceptionally pleasant experience awaiting you.

Stay hungry.

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