Black Trumpet Bistro - Portsmouth
My husband and I recently visited Portsmouth for an afternoon. Since we only had time for one dinner we chose Black Trumpet Bistro, and we weren't disappointed. We really liked the atmosphere and the entire staff was friendly at every level. The feel of the place reminds me of jazz bars I have been to - brick walls, low ceilings, very cozy and warm. We arrived early so we went upstairs for a cocktail before we sat down to eat. I couldn't decide on a cocktail so I described what I like and don't like and the very sweet young lady waiting on us made a suggestion. She was undaunted when I said it sounded too sweet for me and went on to suggest the Raspberry Mule, which was exactly what I had in mind. A mix of Russian Standard Vodka, Raspberry Simple Syrup ( made in house), Fresh Lime, and topped off with Ginger Beer! It was served in an ice cold copper mug with ice and it was delicious.
We had our dinner in the dining room on the first floor, although you can eat on either floor. The complimentary focaccia and cornbread were awesome! The cornbread was kind of sweet and cake-like with corn kernels in the batter. Both breads are made in-house.
For dinner my husband had the Heirloom Tomato Salad to start and I had the Crab and Roasted Corn Chowder. The tomatoes were fresh and the dish was huge and lovely. The menu described the vinaigrette as brown butter lemon balm and my husband said it was fantastic. The tomatoes looked like a permanent part of the menu so it would be interesting to know what happens when fresh tomatoes are no longer available. The chowder couldn't have been improved upon. It had just the right smooth consistency and the ingredients tasted fresh - crab with bits of potato, corn, and red bell pepper. Not one morsel was left on our plates.
I had the Farmhouse Succotash for my main and my husband had the Dayboat Sea Scallops. The succotash was served in an individual cast iron skillet, with polenta fries, and julienned beets. If I had any complaint it would have been that the dish was very filling, but it was just what I wanted and all the flavors were just right. The scallops came with perfectly roasted broccoli and tea-steamed barley couscous, and pickled ginger buerre rose. I'm not sure how the pickled ginger was incorporated into the buerre rosa or how the tea affected the flavor of the couscous but my husband loved it. Next time I will have to ask for a bite.
We made a mistake by having lunch and then an early dinner so we weren't able to enjoy several courses as we normally would have, but what we had was really great.
Thanks for the detailed review and the splendid photos. Unfortunately I don't get to Portsmouth as much as I'd like, but BT has been on my list to try, and this solidifies its position at the top of the list.
junie, so glad to see you loved it. and your photos are so helpful! We have been big fans of Evan Mallett for years now, and we always have dinner there when we come up from Boston for a Music Hall event. We were there again last night, before the Rufus Wainwright show, and the standout knock-it-out-of-the-park dish was a Special medium plate- a pork belly with heirloom beans and clams. that title can't begin to reveal the depth of unctuosity of this dish; the sauce created between those elements and garlic and............was truly a beautiful thing. Rather than fight over it, we ordered a second and it disappeared verrry quickly!! I really hope he will make it a fixture on one of his winter menus. (My Love also scarfed his fried gnocchi ring filled w/ rabbit ragout.) Evan always does a tremendous paella, and had we had more time, I would have ordered the Hunter's Paella- a very authentic version of a paella that i've only seen in spain- w/ rabbit, meatballs, mushrooms and snails. Can't wait to get back for it!