7/18/10 BlackTrumpet, Portsmouth N.H.- Another Super Dinner
I continue to be impressed by this enthusiastic inventive Evan Mallett , chef/owner of Black Trumpet. I think this 18th c. warehouse building must have good karma in its old blackened beams. Black Trumpet , opened in 2007, follows Lindbergh's Crossing and the pioneering Blue Strawberry before it( back when 'gourmet' was a relatively new word in Portsmouth.)
Service was professional, friendly, food knowledgeable and efficient. All four of us enjoyed our many apps, small plates, medium plates, entrees, desserts, wine and drinks. Highlights were:
* Gazpacho, not your typical, pureed and smoky pimenton? tinged.
* Garlic shrimp w/ Carrot Harissa
* Adobo sauced creamer potatoes w/ Jamon Iberico
* Fried Calamari drizzled w/ Evan's special hot sauce, over tangy Asian Slaw
* Tuna special w/ Black Garlic Pasta and Asian Sesame Dressing
* Corn Crème Brulee
Portsmouth is such a charming and handsome historic port; great for strolling after dinner, window shopping, coffee cafes, lively outside seating scene.
Black Trumpet Bistro
29 Ceres Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801
I was there over this past weekend, too. I liked it, but I would need to try it again before I'd give an enthusiastic recommendation.
When we arrived for our reservation, we were told that our table wasn't ready yet, but we could eat in the upstairs bar area if we wanted, or we could wait. Hmph. The bar area has a nice view of the river, but it was stuffy up there and got worse as the evening went on.
The service was friendly and knowledgeable. We enjoyed the wine the waitress recommended, and when she made the customary smiles at our menu choices, I got the feeling that she meant it.
The three sizes of "plates," from a snack-size plate to a regular entree, was misleading and a bit of a shakedown. The "fried squash blossom" appetizer was just that - one fried squash blossom. The watermelon salad was a nice portion but a bit bland, as if the flavors needed to meld more. Luckily, the cream biscuits in the bread basket kept us occupied.
The veal chop entree was a huge cut and fabulous - perfectly cooked with a crazy tasty sauce. The accompanying quinoa salad had no flavor, but provided a good sop for the sauce. It also came with some slightly undercooked and sinus-clearing mustard greens that provided a good counterpoint for the rich veal.
My companions enjoyed a vegetarian stuffed tomato entree and a steak. But the fourth was disappointed all around with a skimpy scallop entree. There were 4 small scallops on a bed of what was billed as "fried spinach," It was really sauteed spinach.
Dessert included a fabulous, crispy and decadent fried pound cake with blueberries and lemon curd. I don't remember what the others were - I guess not memorable anyway.
My overall view is that this is a small place that would do better with a smaller menu. Four sizes of dishes seems overkill for a place that has so few tables. The menu also would benefit from better writing and more accurate descriptions of the dishes.
I have never been that impressed. Perhaps because it is so damn claustrophobic. I always felt that there was one discordant item or flavor on ever dish that simply did not meld, and the red wines are served way too warm.