Monthly Archives: January 2018

Check out these pictures of the new bar menu at Emilitsa

I had a recent opportunity to try the new bar menu at Emilitsa. Though I recently re-reviewed Portland’s Greek restaurant, I was exceptionally happy to return for even more. They always amaze me with their exquisite food and drinks and first-rate service, so it’s safe to say that, for me, too much Emilitsa is never enough. Here’s what I tried.

Sazzy Goes to Greece – Bulleit Rye, cane sugar, Ouzo 12, lemon oil

An excellent cocktail, reminding me of a Manhattan because of it’s full whiskey flavor, but with a little more sweetness, and hints of herb and citrus. A stellar concoction if you enjoy bourbon.

Elies – spiced Mediterranean olives

Just your basic spiced olives here, but a very nice little bar food to go with a beer, wine, or their fabulous drinks.

Fava – dal lentil puree, slivered vidalia, garlic toast

One of my favorites at Emilitsa. This spread is good enough to eat by the pound. I know some people are offended by raw onion, but this is one of the best uses of it I’ve ever had, offering flavors that put the perfect touch on the on the little open-faced sandwich on top of crisp toast.

Sloppy Yanni – Greek sloppy joe

These saucy sweet and mustard-y sliders are a good choice for those looking for something beefy, but get your napkin ready. They are truly sloppy.

Plevra Choirinou Kreatos – smoked pork ribs, anise-citrus glaze

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of ribs, but the reduced orange glaze on these babies makes them more than worthy of a try. If you like ribs, you’ll love them.

Little Souvlaki – daily selection

The ones we had were swordfish, but they will change regularly between pork, beef, fish, and whatever else the chef comes up with. And it’s safe to say that no one – and I mean no one – does souvlaki like Emilitsa. I’ve never had swordfish like that.

Plevra Arnu – grilled lamb rib chop, pomegranate au jus

A great rare lamb lollipop with a nice flavor added by the pom. Lamb lovers will swoon at this winner of a dish.

Tiganito Kotopoulo – fried chicken wings, spicy oyster sauce, lime

An unusual take on wings with the oyster sauce, these carried more flavors than any wings I can remember. Salty, spicy, and a bit sweet all at the same time, the crispy guys were absolutely delicious. I was a little disappointed we ate them last because I had room for only a few.

Thanks to owners John and Demo Regas and very humble chef Niko Regas for their hospitality and the chance to bring their food – in pictures – to my hungry readers.

Emilitsa 547 Congress St.
207-221-0245

Stay hungry.

Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page after entering your email address directly above it. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow @portlandeater on Twitter. You can also find over 50 articles archived at pppe.bangordailynews.com.

Advertisements

It’s hard to stop eating at this spectacular Japanese restaurant

It had been too long since I’d eaten at Izakaya Minato on Washington Ave., but after just naming them restaurant of the year for 2017, I didn’t want to waste any more time before I went back. The masters of Japanese cuisine serve a variety of items, but what makes them particularly interesting to me is that they’re not totally focused on sushi, though they do have some of that available too.

We got there early on a Friday and I was thinking they might be busy even just after opening for the night. I was incorrect, and when we took our seats at the bar, we were actually the only customers in the front room of the place. The bartender quickly approached us and provided menus, at some point also firing off a few specials. We scoped out the available drinks.

Though I’m not a huge fan of gin, I decided to go with the Plum Vesper 2.0 – spicy plum sake, gin, vodka, ume boshi. Something about plums caught my attention and I figured the uniqueness of a plum drink might be fun. My wife went with a glass of the Scaia Rosato. Once the bartender started concocting those, we discussed what we might want to eat.

Our drinks came and we were ready to order the beginnings of our food. Having arrived so early, we decided to take it slowly, going with only a couple of items at a time. We started with Garlic Edamame – fried soybeans and garlic. I threw in one of the specials, Smelt Kara Age – deep fried smelts in potato starch and served with a spicy sauce and yuzu salt.

My drink looked relatively basic except that it had a toothpick bridge with the ume boshi (Japanese plum) impaled on it. I gave it a try and was immediately impressed. The drink was a little different than anything I remember having, but it was extraordinary. The botanicals of the gin were in play, but slightly muted, rather than the harsh full frontal assult on the senses that I often dislike. The drink was strong, slightly sweet, and pleasant in every way.

The first two food items came out one after the other, first edamame and then smelts. The soybeans were as good as I could imagine them ever being, which is to say they were incredible. The fried pods combined with the glut of garlic and salt tossed into them, transformed the traditional Japanese offering, making them something truly spectacular.

I had four smelts on my plate and they won me over similarly to the edemame. Fried until totally crisp, the fish was great as it was, but with a dip of the sauce, it became a spicy, flavorful app that I enjoyed immensely. Once my swimmers were gone, we ordered the Tuna Poke – sliced tuna mixed with avocado, garlic, tobiko and sesame oil – for her and the Mochi Bacon – grilled bacon-wrapped mochi, served with sweet soy – for me.

She insisted the tuna was great and ordered another glass of wine as I was preparing to try my mochi. I always find the rice paste to have great texture and brilliantly take on the flavors with which it’s paired. This one was much chewier than any other I’d had. However, the bacon and sauce added just the right amount of flavor and fat to make it a sucess despite leaving my jaw a little tired after each bite.

Next, we went with the JFC – Japanese fried chicken, boneless thigh meat and Kimchi Cha-han – kimchi fried rice as our last two pieces of the meal. The JFC was once again on another level as the super-crispy, sensationally seasoned chicken left few words able to exit my mouth. The fried rice wasn’t far behind with its own stellar flavors taking everyday fried rice to the next level. Slightly spicy and salty, it was close to perfection.

All our food was finished and we passed on dessert, though I thought twice about ordering some even though I was no longer hungry. Our meal came to $67 – close to half of which was alcohol – plus tax and tip. Izakaya Minato knocked it out of the park again. They create stunning dishes that always leave me in food-borne ecstasy, reinventing some basic Japanese to make it exponentially better, while also creating their own bold recipes that excite anyone looking for something uniquely delicious.

If you have any inclination at all to see what Izakaya Minato is all about, I highly recommend you head there without delay. They offer an incredible value, food that stands on its own merits, and an fun, enjoyable atmosphere. Their dishes are almost all made to share and everything they serve is very good, if not straight up great. While you’re there, you’ll keep asking “what’ll we have next?” When you leave, you’ll only be asking yourself how soon you can make it back.

Izakaya Minato 54 Washington Ave.
info@izakayaminato.com, 207-613-9939

Stay hungry.

Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page after entering your email address directly above it. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow @portlandeater on Twitter. You can also find over 50 articles archived at pppe.bangordailynews.com.

New Maine Mall eatery adds fine food option to the area

“Holy cow, this place is big.” I walked into the massive, new Tuscan Table at the Maine Mall (in its own building), amazed by its gargantuan size. With decorative lighting, a huge oval bar that encompassed much of the first floor, and a sizable upper level, it felt a little like walking into a casino or resort grand entrance. Wy wife – we drove there separately – texted me the directions “left upon entering and up the stairs.” I followed them and found her.

She had already ordered a drink when I sat, so I looked at the list of libations, hoping to try something new. The cocktails didn’t excite me, but I was pleased to find a beer from a local brewery I had yet to try, which rarely happens these days. I went with The Thirsty Botanist IPA from Boothbay Craft Brewery. The waitress said that was her favorite – don’t they all say that? My wife had ordered a rose; it’s her new thing.

The food menu consisted of a wide selection of mostly typical Italian restaurant fare with a hint of Maine flair. It started with raw and chilled seafood while meats, cheese, and antipasti followed. On the reverse were salads, pasta, pizza, and entrees. I was impressed with the selection. Each section had plenty of options and many appeared quite interesting and, I assumed, delicious.

Because I was having some difficulty picking an app, I went with what I considered a sure thing, deciding to order one meat ($3 each; seven options) and one cheese ($5 each; seven options). After a couple questions about ones with which I wasn’t familiar, I went with Prosciutto di Parma and Foglie di Noce. My wife ordered Cavolfiore – roasted cauliflower, romaine lettuce, anchovy lemon dressing, garlic croutons, grana padano.

For entrees, I decided on the Maine Haddock – oven roasted leek, Maine potato, artichoke, basil and shallot sauce, garlic croutons. Even though I’m not a huge fan of artichokes, I figured they probably weren’t a major player in the dish, though I didn’t bother asking. She chose the Chicken Parmigiano – crispy chicken marinated in basil buttermilk, cherry tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, spaghetti pomodoro.

My beer turned out to be a winner. A really excellent brew with plenty of hop and a fairly prevalent boquet of citrus, I highly recommend it. Our apps came quickly which was good; service had been a bit on the slow side until that point. Mine looked awesome and had a particularly large serving of cheese which was great because I occassionally feel somewhat shortchanged on cheese plates.

Upon inspection, I was a little perplexed by what I had in front of me. The meats and cheeses both came with crackers and crostini provided in a separate pail. However, the meat was supposed to be accompanied by giardiniera, house mustard, walnut grape jam, and the cheese with sultana mostarda, Maine honey, spiced nuts. I was missing walnut grape jam, sultant mostarda, and honey. I’m not sure it mattered much, but it was confusing since the menu indicated that’s what I was getting.

Despite my missing pieces, I forged ahead, not particularly concerned with what I didn’t have. The main parts were both excellent – the foglie de noce reminded me of manchego – and the house mustard was truly superb. It went perfectly on my little crostini sandwich and I couldn’t get enough except that it had a moderate heat which prevented it from being eaten in massive portions. The nuts and giardiniera were also both delicious.

As I ate my starter, I ran into two issues. One was that the house made crackers were long, slender, and somewhat brittle. They weren’t made to have toppings piled on. Other than a dip in the mustard, they couldn’t handle anything else added to them. A shorter, wider cracker would have been more conducive to my plight. Because of that, I ran out of crostini and crackers too soon and was left to pile the rest on top of the bread service we had remaining.

After I finished my food, I tried a bite of her cauliflower salad. It was fine, but I prefer my roasted veggies warm and was happy with what I ordered. She eradicated the rest of the veggies and we soon were in receipt of the entrees. Hers looked slightly larger than mine, though I surmised that after our apps, we would both have enough for us to leave without going hungry. We started to dig in.

On the bottom of my dish was the cream sauce, in which my fish swam. The artichoke, taters, and croutons were also paddling in it. I took a bite of the haddock. It was on the well done side which was totally fine with me, but I think others might have wanted it pulled from the oven a minute or two sooner. The cream sauce was tasty, though a tad weak. I pushed the few artichoke pieces aside, but enjoyed the potatoes and crunchy croutons and thought they added nicely to the plate.

Many bites into my food, I was sold on the haddock plate as quite good, though lacking the umph to be great. I did finish it and tried my wife’s chicken when I was done. I hadn’t noticed that it was on the bone which surprised me. Still, my two bites were very pleasant. It was definitely crispy – as the menu had promised – and nicely seasoned. Though I didn’t have enough to confirm, I might have liked that more than my own meal.

She couldn’t finish all her food and neither of us were able to eat dessert. We called it quits and left, our meal coming to just over $90 with tax and tip. Tuscan Table adds a solid option to dining near the mall. They have a few items they can work on, but they are minor. Our service started off a little on the slow side, and then picked up to the point that the waitress came by a bunch of times to make sure we were all set. Ideally, that could be smoothed out some.

In addition to the service, the meat and cheese plate – which I felt was both really delicious and a very fair value -needs a couple of – I’ll call them logistical – improvements. And my haddock was good, but not the great, flavorful piece of art I’d look for in a perfect world. Still, Tuscan Table is off to a good start in their first weeks. In fact, good enough that my wife went back with a friend the very next night. I think it’s reasonable that you check it out at least once and see what you think.

Tuscan Table, 390 Gorham Road, South Portland contact@tuscantablemaine.com, 207-536-0240

Stay hungry.

Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page after entering your email address directly above it. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow @portlandeater on Twitter. You can also find over 50 articles archived at pppe.bangordailynews.com.