Stove in Portsmouth - Huge disappointment
I have wnated to go to Stove for a long time. A close friend made reservations for brunch today and I proceeded there with my three favorite people. It was one of the worst restaurant disappointments I have had in a while, especially given the positive comments on this board. I know brunch is not always the best way to develop an opinion, but given this experience, there won't be dinner. As we entered the front door, there was a strong smell of dissinfectant which continued into the dining room ( strike 1). The bar area and entrance had dead animal heads hanging all over the wall. I am talking big stuff here. A ram, a long pronged sheep, a buffalo, and more. A stuffed coyote on a shelf over the bar glasses. Really? Sorry. No vegan here, but I found it offensive as did my companions. The dead stuff also looks generally skanky. I got images of fur in my wine glass (strike 2). We sat in the dining room which only has one dead animal head (overseeing the poor service would be my guess). I ordered iced tea. The only iced tea is bottled (Republic of Tea, but only green tea) and they were out. No iced tea at 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon when it is 100 degrees outside. In the South. Really? I didn't want anything alcoholic, so I was offered sodas (which I don't drink) and fruit juice. I ordered grapefruit juice. Know the metallic taste of grapefruit in a can? You got it. I did not ask if it was fresh, but canned? Really?(strike 3). The menu included a small but decent selection of cheeses available by the piece. I was looking forward trying a few. Don't know about you, but I think really good cheese deserves the right pairing. Doesn't have to be complicated. That Maytag Blue gets a slice of pear and a walnut or two, the Brie a few grapes and home made toast points - you get my point. Whatever cheese you order at Stove gets the same condiments and those are the house made hamburger relish (as described on the menu) and crackers. No joke. The craftspeople who labor over the cheeses served at Stove get no more respect than that. Picked cabbage beside a triple cream cheese? Really? That's all you've got in your creative arsenal? When I asked the wait person a question concerning this, her response was "don't eat it". I didn't (strike 4). "NO SUBSTITUTIONS" is clearly printed on the menu. Forewarned I asked for the ground rules. "Does that mean I can't have something left off?" My waitress was clearly annoyed by my question. Many of the dishes on the menu have pimento cheese listed as an ingredient. I am a southerner and while I get the appeal, I don't like the mayo component, so it's not my thing. I inquired if I could have the shrimp and grits without the pimento cheese in the grits. My waitress thought it wouldn't be advisible, so I went with the Ettouffe which was listed as spicy. I like spicy. I have eaten spicy chinese and tex-mex at the origin and have been on the hot sauce tour in Louisiana. This had enough cayenne pepper that I really couldn't taste anything else after I had a couple of bites. I picked out the bacon and the three shrimp (three shrimp for 15 bucks, really?), and left the rest. One of my companions tried a spoonful and described it as painful. So everything does not sound negative, it was a pretty dish. My companions liked their shrimp and grits and cornmeal pancakes. The scallops were judged as ok. Mine was not ok (strike 5). Dessert was next. Given that I really hadn't had much to eat at that point, I was looking forward to it. Cheese was listed again (with appropriate condiment) on the dessert menu. Because I really didn't want to see the waitress roll her eyes again, one of my group asked the obvious. "what comes with the cheese?" Once again the response was "hamburger relish and crackers". Pickled cabbage for dessert? Really? When I commented, my waitress informed me that many people actually eat cheese as dessert. She missed the entire point. Rather than commenting that I had ravaged the cheese courses in many fine establishments (but none with pickled caggage) for dessert, I just ordered coffee (strike 6). My eating companions had the truffle which was judged as average, but had nuts that were not included in the description, and the bread pudding which was liked. Frankly, even though I enjoyed the company, was glad to pay my check and exit the building. I haven't even started on the parts about being seated for 15 mins. without a drink order, no bread until we asked, no refills on drinks without flagging down the waitress, etc. To be fair, it was full. So, someone likes the place. That said, it aint me babe. Six strikes is all you get, no matter in which league you play.