11/10/09 Black Trumpet in Portsmouth: A Treasure Trove
We have dinner in Portsmouth a number of times a yr., mostly when seeing a performance at the beautifully restored Music Hall. We have enjoyed the food and friendly staff at The Green Monkey a number of times, and a few months ago we had a good but not memorable meal at Pesce Blue, before the Rufus Wainwright concert. But tonight, tonight was special. Before seeing a knock-out , leave no survivors, performance by Lyle Lovett and His Large Band , we partook of an amazing culinary performance by chef /owner Evan Mallett of The Black Trumpet( TBT). Our experience easily equaled the best bistro food that we have had in Boston, and is well worth the 1 hr. drive. Formerly having chefed at the previous owners' Ciento and Lindbergh's Crossing (same site as TBT) Evan puts out some terrific plates. His menu is very varied, from a lot of different culinary traditions.
I learned long ago that soups really reveal the chef, and Evan's app. of Clams and Porkbelly in a Spicy Tomato Fish Broth w/ Chickpeas and Kale- was just a tremendous bowl of flavor. Moroccan, French, Portuguese influences combined by a pitch perfect palate. I was very surprised by the largesse of the portions at TBT. This bowl had a dozen littlenecks! $14 and worth every penny. The Sweetbreads app. was another perfect dish; the best sweetbreads I have had in years. A great plate is all about the balance. Here, the creamy sweetbreads were very light and clean with a great counterpoint of textures in the poached cranberries, teeny brussel sprouts, and maple glazed pumpkin. The touch of fruit was balanced by a rich veal demi. The chicken entree with truffled squash and chef-foraged mushrooms- was beautifully cooked and autumnally satisfying . The selection of red wines by the glass was small but very well chosen. TBT's prix fixe Portsmouth Restnt Week menu is terrifically tempting and we may return shortly just for that.
Oh, and the BREAD!! Evan makes his own, and we came dangerously close to losing it over his pumpernickel rolls.
We sat at the front windows on the 2nd floor, overlooking the water. The handsome early 19th c. warehouse space was filled with the warm light of candles and , though well populated, it was not a loud space. Allowed to hear myself think, I couldn't help remembering my budding gourmet pilgrimages to the young Blue Strawberry (in the same location) those 30 yrs ago; its pioneering chef/owner, Jim Haller, must be mighty pleased to see the fine work being done by Chef Moffett . It looks like the original good karma has stayed on.
86 Pleasant St, Portsmouth, NH 03801