33 Elmwood – The games have just begun

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33 Elmwood opened it’s doors late last year with the promise of fabulous food and endless gaming fun. It’s a small hike from Portland, residing in Westbrook, but leaning toward Winthrop. Still, it’s within the reach of Portlanders who are looking for more than just a meal. I had heard a few bits and pieces about it and took a quick look at their Facebook page, but other than that was mostly in the dark about the space. From what I gathered, it was worth a visit and my wife’s insistence that we go for a special event sounded like a great opportunity to give it a try. We planned ahead and assembled a crew of five others to go with us.

It didn’t look like much from the outside, but upon entering the multi-purpose facility, I was stunned. The place was absolutely enormous and really exquisite. A large glass showcase/wine and liquor storage closet and the front desk were immediately in my line of sight. We walked to the desk to check in since we had called ahead. There were signs pointing in the direction of the bar, lounge, and dining and also toward the various games – bocce, cornhole, and shuffleboard. I noted the bowling lanes and was told those would be opened within the next month or so.

We were seated right away, though we only had six seats. That was fine as our entire party wasn’t there yet and they pulled up a table next to us so we’d have space for all seven. A waiter provided menus and water, taking drink orders right away. The drink menu had some good looking cocktails and a nice selection of wine and beer. Mrs. Portlandeater and I passed, opting instead to put our minds to work on the food menu. As I began to scan for order-worthy items, I reviewed the categories of food first. There were starters, salads, entrees, meatballs, sandwiches, and pizza.

There was little doubt in my mind the night was going to play out well, because any restaurant that has a category for meatballs holds a special place in my belly. I also felt the menu design was very pleasing to the eye and easy to read which made me even more hungry than I already was. I thought a starter, a meatball, and probably something else would be the minimum necessary to quell my cravings. Once I grasped what the menu was telling me, the rest of our friends showed up and quickly placed their drink orders. Then we started lots of table crosstalk about what everyone wanted to eat.

The first item I was certain I was going to order were Fried Deviled Eggs – dojon yolks, sriracha. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t the only one. As I gathered intelligence from the table, it appeared there would be four orders of those to go around. Next, the Korean BBQ Meatballs – crispy shallot, cilantro, scallions – spoke my name. They seemed a little pricy at $9, but I didn’t care because I was there to try a bunch of different foods regardless of cost. After some discussion, a friend and I decided to split the Steak and Cheese Pizza – cognac mustard sauce, mozzarella, caramelized onions, green pepper. My wife went with the Fish and Chips – haddock, fries, sauce remoulade.

Everyone placed their orders with lots of deviled eggs and many other items in the mix. Shortly thereafter, we were provided with complimentary Crudités consisting of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green beans, and various bell peppers in a dressing of some sort. A bite confirmed a mild vinaigrette coating that was pretty tasty. We all shared, but I snuck a couple more than my portion of the veggies since I was so enamored with them. Once those were gone, we sat and waited for our starters with some food related conversation.

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A mass of eggs came out first. There were only three plates with three eggs each, even though we had ordered four for the table, but the waiter promised more coming out soon. I took one right away. The egg was deep fried with a thin coating around it. The altered yolk was both above and below the fried portion and there were a few decorative sprouts on top. I cut it in half and scraped it up from the bottom trying to get as much yolk as I could. Opening my mouth wide, I inhaled it and concentrated on the flavors. Oh my egg! It was crunchy, spicy, cool – wasn’t that the name of a TCL album? Yep, the egg was stunning. The dijon gave it a traditional flavor and the sriracha and deep fried goodness made it absolutely special. I forced my wife to try one – she doesn’t normally like deviled eggs – and she said it changed her outlook on them. They were incredible.

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With my eggs nearly done, the last order of them came out to the table and so did some meatballs. My friends sitting across the table from me also had meatballs – the lamb version. I immediately changed my mind about the $9 marbles of meat. They were each of average meatball girth, but instead of the five or six I expected, there were nine of them. “Not so expensive if you get nine,” I thought to myself happily. As I grinned with meatball anticipation, I got a good look at them. They were caked in sauce and topped with scallion. I tried a half. The texture was soft perfection and the sauce interesting – sweet with lots of flavor. It was a little different than Korean BBQ sauces I had tried previously. The more bites I took, the more I liked them. I tried the lamb meatballs across from me too, but those didn’t have quite the same tang. I had chosen the right ones.

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Everyone finished their various apps and some doubled down on their beverages. My wife ordered a Diet Coke. Then the entrees made their way out. My pizza was topped with the steak and green pepper. My wife had a good chunk of fish with a cup of fries and small cups of the remoulade and ketchup. My grubby hands grabbed the pizza. It was nicely done with some golden brown spots on top. I shoved as much as could into my face. Overall it was good, with much credit given for the thick layer of cheese. This truly was a steak and cheese pie and there was no skimping on the mozzarella or steak, but I thought the meat needed some seasoning. Either that, or it need more of the cognac mustard sauce which I hardly got. It was hearty and not bad, it just lacked  something it needed to take it to the next level.

My wife enjoyed her fish and fries. I tried the fries, mostly so I could taste the remoulade which I found to be very good with the crispy spud sticks. Presumably it also went well with the haddock for which it was intended. Everyone finished their food with reviews ranging from good to outstanding. The Fried Chicken – which I sampled – could have used a more heavy seasoning, the Coconut Shrimp Steam Bun was well received, and the Scallops were dubbed “amazing”. We were all done and dessert seemed like a possibility, so we were receptive when offered the menus.

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After both a thorough look and listen, since there were some verbal updates to the dessert list, we made a decision to order something. She wanted the Fig Tart à la mode, of which I agreed only to eat a single bite. There was also an order of an Ice Cream Sandwich with chocolate cookies and mint ice cream. Those didn’t take long to come out. I ate my bite of tart, and though it was certainty good, for me it was too sweet, which is why I had only wanted to take one bite. I did have the opportunity to try the ice cream sandwich and that was really my style – the cookie outside had a little bit of a snap when bit into and the mint was an honest, real mint flavor. That was a double winner.

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All were done as we finished the desserts. I was ultimately very happy. After tax and tip, we got out for only $84 with great service and were quite full. 33 Elmwood is on the right path and has tons of potential. Through not every item was an unequivocal winner, they were all at least within a step or two and there were some that were most certainly perfection – notably the eggs. Though everything seemed a little expensive at first sight, in the end I completely changed my mind about that. The quality of the food and the portions were appropriate for the prices they were charging.

I think 33 Elmwood has the ability to become a destination for a lot of people, especially with the bowling coming soon and the games that are already there. The place is beautiful and the atmosphere enjoyable and enticing, and apparently there might be occasional shows to bring in even more people. We played a round of bocce for seven and it was fun and inexpensive, so I can see the value in a visit for food and games. The only question I have at this point is if are they going to be a fun place with games and pretty good food or a fun place with games and spectacular food. Right now, they’re right in between. I’ll be back, but if they make a few tweaks to some of the items and knock ’em dead every time, I think they’ll be making some serious noise in this area.

Stay hungry.

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