Rule of thumb in New England is that the daily weather never ceases to drastically change. No one wants to venture out in the bitter arctic blast lately, unless you’re finding yourself both out of food and unable to get through to a delivery team. Then, of course, it’s time to face the painful elements. Best to find a warm spot with good chow. Or how about spots?
First stop: The new Cure Restaurant, taking over the former Four space, at the corner of Penhallow and State Street.
What’s great: Winter Mushrooms Forrester for $7. Semi-soft grilled French baguettes smothered with local shrooms and a tangy tarragon white truffle oil, then topped with freshly shaved parmesan. Pair with a glass of Freakshow cab to fully soak it all in.
What to expect: Your standard mix of American and European cuisine. Large array of meat on the menu – as the name of the restaurant suggests, from duck to lamb shank. Fish and vegetarian options are also available. The atmosphere is comfortable, the bartender and patrons accommodating and cheerful. I felt very lucky to easily get a seat on a Saturday night. The bar is small, but new in the front of the building, with not much else changed from the original seating plan in the dining room when it was FOUR.
Improvement? Draft coming from the front door. Sit at the farther end of the bar or deeper into the dining room during the winter months. Might be good for them to try an additional inner door curtain like the one found at The District or Radici to keep the cold out.
Little known fact: The head chef and owner, Julie Cutting, is a former contestant on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” as well as a former chef at Brazo.
Second stop: Took the quick drive across town to Tavola in the Malt House Exchange to check out their menu.
What’s great: Everything from drinks to dessert. The Pistachio Martini is phenomenal. House made light Italian dressing along with fresh vegetables are some of the best here, so don’t miss out not ordering the house salad. The Steak & Potato Pizzaiola for $16 is supreme. Tangy cut sweet peppers, roasted potato wedges, and thick sauce are all juxtaposed under perfectly cooked and seasoned tender beef cuts.
What to expect: Authentic Italian fare to include antipasti, insalata, and pasta choices, along with real red “gravy,” low romantic table lighting, and great service, from hostess to waiter. Bright red and black walls, complete with faux skyscrapers and neon signs, place you somewhere between the North End and Little Italy. Sinatra playing on several TV’s, sans sound, is also reminiscent of the entertainment theme at Goodfella’s in New Haven, CT. It’s lively and fun around the bar area, but not overly loud.
Improvement? The rosemary bread is served with your choice of cracked pepper, olive oil, sea salt, and parmesan on the side – which is wonderful. Too wonderful in fact to be served cold. This was unexpected in January. Also, if I could recall what I had for dessert, I would tell you. But unfortunately, desserts are not listed on the regular menu, nor online. Perhaps they make desserts fresh nightly, but this should be announced after you place your entrée order. It was a delicious flan-looking dish with a gelato consistency…
Little known fact: Owner Aaron Jones, also owns Mojo’s next door.
189 State Street, downtown Portsmouth, NH
Call for hours/reservations: 603-427-8258
Website currently under construction at: www.curerestaurantportsmouth.com
95 Brewery Lane, Portsmouth, NH
Please see the website for hours, online reservations, coupons, and newsletters: www.tavolaitalian.com
WORD ON THE STREET
- New Law: According to thedailymeal.com, in 2014, NH drinkers have a little longer to celebrate their night out, as last call has now been extended from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. It’s not mandatory for every bar to stay open until 2 a.m., however, and many may not honor it downtown off-season. But the option is there.
- Places Opening Very Soon: Watch for BGBR downtown, and Roger’s Redliner Diner uptown.
- Discover New Hampshire Wine Week: For featured events, click here.