Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boda "very thai" kitchen + bar Review

When bloggers reviewed all 13 Thai restaurants last year, I missed out on what I heard was the best one of the bunch, Boda.  I waited until the last minute (like I do with all my homework assignments) and found myself staring down the 'Closed' sign on Boda's door.

But I've been to Boda several times since the Thai-o-rama, and just never written about it here.  So here's to me finishing what I started.

Boda is located at 671 Congress Street, which puts it at Longfellow Square in the ever expanding foodie corner there.  It's hip and modern inside, with an open front and seasonal sidewalk tables.   Their approach is street-vendor and tapas inspired skewer bar.  

And while I can't vouch for the authenticity of the place, I enjoy the small plates approach.  Boda's skewers, however, I've never been impressed with.  Especially the tofu skewers ($4) ; they just tasted like grill to me.

The Miang Kum Som-oh is not to be missed though.  The "bite-sized pummelo fruit salad [is served] on betel leaves w/ toasted coconut, peanut, lime, ginger, shrimp & shallots in a palm sugar dressing ($5)."  As you can see, these fruit salad bites include a lot of great Thai flavors, and it comes together nicely in a mix of bitter, crunchy, sweet, and herby.

The group required some convincing to order the quail eggs ($7), but once the little darlings arrived, my friends were quickly won over by the yolks' creamy taste and texture.  "Tastes like butter!" someone happily exclaimed.

The Wolf's Neck Beef Salad ($13) is great too; thinly shaved red onion and cucumbers accompany strips of beef with a lime-chili dressing, and plenty of mint and lemongrass to keep it interesting.

I never would have ordered the Kee Mao Noodles ($11 Vegetarian), but my friend K. did and I was impressed with the appeal of the dish.  She asked for extra vegetables, and our server offered to ask the kitchen to add different vegetables, rather than just more peppers and onions.  So it came with a nice assortment of perfectly stir fried veggies, and the noodles were cooked just right too.

While we didn't have dessert Friday night, but opted to finish our beers (great assortment of beers on tap),  I know the coconut cream black rice pudding is delicious.   I crave it.

So about Boda, someone said to me, you can get the same things at any Thai restaurant, but for a few dollars cheaper.  I'm inclined to disagree, since Boda has consistency that so many other places lack.  You can be happy with their curries, their unique appetizers, or a salad.  At so many other Thai places, you can only order one or two solid dishes and be disappointed with the rest of your food.  

Boda may not be your go-to for your Friday night take-out Pad Thai, but it is a nice place to spend an evening with friends, sharing small plates, catching up, and drinking amongst the hip downtown crowd.  So for that, I like it.

Boda on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer-O-Rama: Lobster Rolls

Ed. Note: The original Porthole closed in October of 2012 and has since reopened. This review is of the now closed Porthole.

This month, local bloggers team up to bring you reviews of lobster rolls around town (see the Portland Food Map for the round up).  As usual, I waited until the last minute, so my plans to check out the new food truck at Fort Williams, Bite Into Maine, were thwarted.

But that's OK, because in the end, the Porthole is a better place to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than Portland Head Light.  I was excited to go, as I've always had a good time and good food at the Porthole.  (I've raved about their brunch before.)  Plus, I had my good friend A. in tow yesterday, so all signs pointed to yes.

But 3pm is a weird time to go to a restaurant, so there were some service hiccups (no, it's cool, I love going to the bar for refills and extra napkins, thanks).

And when you're excited about a lobster roll- the cool lobster salad mixing with the buttery, salty, crunchy bun- getting a sandwich with two pieces of crumbling, dry brioche is disappointing. With a squeeze of lemon, the lobster salad was nice (nothing but chopped lobster and mayo).  But the sandwich bread didn't add anything and didn't even hold up for very long.

But as another friend pointed out later, a lobster roll needs to have a container to be successful.  Sandwich style doesn't cut it.  All the lobster ends up on your plate instead of in your mouth.  The split top bun is necessary, so a departure from it (and a poorly executed one at that) doesn't do anything to improve the classic roll.

I didn't find the best lobster roll in town, but I really enjoyed talking to people about their lobster roll preferences.  I've yet to met a person who doesn't have an opinion, and usually they suggest the best rolls are from places up and down the coast.  This makes me think that eating a good lobster roll is less about the lobster and the bun and more about the scenery.

While the Porthole is scenic, my longing for a buttered, toasted split top bun overcame the quality of the lobster salad and the view.  I'll let the Porthole stick to what it's good at: Sunday Funday and beers on the deck.  But my quest for the best (I'll even take good!) lobster roll in Southern Maine continues.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Best Cupcakes in Portland, Maine, Round II

Late last year, I met Dawn of Appetite Portland and Shannon of Edible Obsessions quickly to scarf down several samples of local cupcakes.  We went for the easy to procure ones, sold out of a retail shop.  After we published our reviews, other bakeries, most run by just one baker, asked to be included in the roundup.

Since our options of cupcakes expanded, we expanded the tasters as well, to include Vrylena, Jillian of From Away, and Rebecca of Maine Foodie Finds.

We tasted various flavors from seven different bakeries.  Some were dry, some chocolate bitter, others left a greasy, buttery film coating my tongue.  The worst tasted artificially fruity; Shannon hit the nail on the head when she said, Fruit Loops.

But despite the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, there were still reminders that it's a beautiful world out there in the Portland cupcake scene.

My favorite was the first one I tried (which I'm sure affected my palate. I couldn't even get excited about the admittedly great GF Peanut Butter Chocolate cupcake from Bam Bam Bakery that I had last).

This carrot cake with cream cheese frosting from the European Bakery in Falmouth was a revelation. I fell in love with the carrot cake/cream cheese combo all over again. The cake was very moist and the frosting wasn't too sweet, a common ailment for cream cheese frosting.

Another of my favorites was the chocolate with chocolate ganache from Sugar Hill Bakery. I'm not a huge chocolate dessert fan, and this one really wowed me. It was a light chocolate ganache, not a thick, heavy fondant-like layer.

I'd say it even beat out our reigning champion, Scratch Bakery in the chocolate cupcake match-up, although Scratch's did win over any other filled cupcake we had. We tried the chocolate pistachio, which was filled with their amazing vanilla pastry cream.

And sadly, YLime Gourmet's cupcakes were improperly handled before our tasting, leaving us with a poor representative. I carried them across town on a hot afternoon, watching sadly as the buttercream frosting melted and streamed off the cupcakes. 

However, I did sample one of YLime's chocolate, coconut with caramel icing from Coffee by Design.  It was amazing. I'm sure if we'd had a fresh sample at the tasting, it would have ranked very against the competitors. 

Cupcakes; tasted! Verdict: seek out Y-Lime's, Scratch Baking Co's, Sugar Hill's, and European Bakery.