Eating Portsmouth – Friday Dinner

“A mini-break is true love.” – Bridget Jones

I whisked my husband, Ted, away for a long weekend in Portsmouth (NH) this past weekend. In the next few posts I’ll share some of the places we ate, what impressed me, and what didn’t.

After arriving in Portsmouth we settled into our hotel room and played our favorite game, “no, what do you want for dinner?” After consulting the oracles of OpenTable, Google and Yelp we ended up at 106 Kitchen & Bar. Located in downtown Portsmouth the establishment features a large bar, an open kitchen and dining on two levels. We sat upstairs, one of two tables when we arrived a bit early for a 6:30 reservation. Water quickly arrived with no questions of sparkling or tap, a nice change from many places trying to appear fancier than they really are. The beverage selection was reasonable, a handful of beers on tap, a double handful in bottles, a mix of wines available by the glass or bottle plus a full bar.

We learned it was Portsmouth Restaurant Week while searching for a dinner destination. It was a happy coincidence for us. I chose to dine off the Restaurant Week menu while Ted went for the main menu.

I started with Tasso Ham & Blue Cornmeal Polenta Beignets while Ted enjoyed a couple of pieces of Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread. The beignets were served as four small balls in a pool of bright yellow chipotle bearnaise sauce. They were a wonderful surprise; soft and flavorful with a bit of heat and a smokey taste. Quite a departure from the expected crunch of a New Orleans-style beignet. I spent not a few moments wondering how the dish was prepared; it’s a joy to try to figure out a technique with only the result to work from. The corn bread was well made, moist with a gentle touch on the sweetness.

For the main course I chose Smoked Mussel & Lobster Gumbo and Ted went with the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The gumbo consisted of smoked P.E.I. mussels, lobster meat, chorizo, & okra in a well flavored sauce around a pile of perfect basmati rice with a few haricot vert for a touch of color. Each bite brought a bit of heat, not overwhelming just a reminder of the dish’s roots. It was good to the last drop, which was wiped up with a bit of baguette. The fried chicken had a crisp exterior and moist, well seasoned, meat. It was presented simply, served with a mound of mashed potatoes, house made slaw and a biscuit. Ted skipped the offered gravy; he didn’t miss it.

For the last round Ted picked the Blood Orange Creme Brulee and I consumed the Chocolate Heaven. The brulee came in a smallish cup and was, well, creme brulee. It tasted of orange, but not in an overpowering way. It was good, just not world shattering. The little piece of heaven was flourless chocolate cake served with chocolate ice cream & vanilla bean whipped cream. The cake was executed perfectly, dense, chocolately and filling. The ice cream suffered from a lack of chocolateness, a problem with many chocolate ice creams unless you allow them to soften a bit by which point they are a chocolate puddle. The whipped cream was not chocolate but it provided a nice counterpoint to the cake. There was more heaven than I could handle; it’s nice to know there is a bit left for the future.

Service was attentive without being cloying. Coffee was hot and fresh. Our meal came to $74 (which includes one beer and one soda, including tax but not the tip). We tipped generously, especially after watching the waitstaff climb the stairway carrying plates of food, drinks and empty dishes.

By the time we left every table was full. Definitely worth the visit if you are in the area.

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