Munjoy Hill’s Lolita is on my semi-regular rotation for dinners. Unfortunately, that rotation doesn’t get me there often because we go to a lot of different restaurants. Their allure is that they have historically provided solid Mediterranean-inspired food, often utilizing their wood-fired grill, and the interior is warm and inviting with a retro-elegant feel and wine and liquor lined walls. Only getting there every year or so, it’s like visiting a new restaurant every time.
We had early reservations, so the restaurant was mostly empty. Mrs. Portlandeater initially ordered a glass of La Fraghe Bardolino Rose and we followed up with food requests. We skipped meats and cheeses, instead starting with three items from the Toasts, Pots, Snacks portion of the menu. We went with Smoked Prosciutto Toast – almonds, garlic, on wood-grilled sourdough; Burrata Toast – lemon confit, aleppo oil; and Almonds – sage, sea salt. We decided to work on those as starters and then determine where to head with the food from there.
The first courses were adorned on a single plate in minimalist fashion. I jumped on the prosciutto. It was folded onto the toast atop a garlic and almond spread. I wouldn’t say it was fancy, but it was a bit of tiny, more inspired charcuterie. It’s flavors were great in that you could clearly taste all of them. The salty eat, crunchy nuts, and properly potent garlic left a smile on my face.
I went for the bowl of almonds as my wife ate the burrata. They were fine almonds, but I didn’t find the sage to be significant and I was really looking forward to it. That left me in a space where I got to enjoy the nuts at face value, but was slightly disappointed they didn’t have that extra herb flavor, save for a couple of bites where I got an actual visible piece of the leaves. I finished them wanting for a little more pizzazz.
For our second courses, we focused on the Small, Medium, and Large sections of the menu. She started with a small plate of the Creamed Corn and Black Trumpet Mushrooms which was actually from the specials board and also selected a small plate of Local Mussels – fennel and ouzo broth, fresh lemon. I chose a medium Torchio – ‘Nduja, peas – and also a cheese – Cobb Hill Golden Aged Smoked Gouda from Hartland, VT with wood-grilled sourdough and honey.
Her items seemed a bit small for the price even though they were small plates. Mine were more appropriately sized, I felt. The torch shaped pasta was well appointed with little bits of the ‘nduja (spicy pork salami) and peas. I’m not sure that peas and salami would have been my first choice to insert into a pasta creation, but the spice coated the pasta and filled my palate with focused, mildly spicy flavor. It had almost enough peas to make me feel like I was eating an actual vegetable.
My cheese was a significant hunk and came with what seemed like an entire loaf of bread. It was great, and I had an extra couple slices of sourdough, one of which I used to try the broth from my wife’s mussels. Even though I’m not a huge fan of ouzo or fennel, I found it pleasant, maybe because I was focused on the light citrus or maybe because the totality of ingredients in the broth took it up a level.
We finished our food, mine talking longer than hers, and got out for $70 pre-tip. Both of us found our meals pleasurable, though she left a bit hungry. Two small plates and a toast wasn’t quite enough. That’s the thing about Lolita – the food is consistently well-prepared, but if you don’t order the medium or large plates, you are likely to need at least a few, so order a bunch and be adventurous.
Lolita works for me as a place to go when I can’t make a decision about what I want to eat or just when I’m feeling Munjoy Hill is the right area to grab some food. They never disappoint and always have an interesting variety of items like Blistered Shishito Peppers, Heirloom Tomato Casserole, and Grilled Half Game Hen. If you haven’t been yet, I suggest you make a visit there, because I’m sure you’ll be happy you did.
90 Congress St.
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