Saturday, October 9, 2010
If you go to Maine everyone will tell you that you have to eat a lobster roll. It’s just one of those things—like hot dogs at Coney Island, cheese steaks in Philadelphia, grits in the South, and cow meat in Texas. So on a gray and overcast Portland day, my lovely hostess, Susan, and I headed out to the Porthole for a lobster roll.
Well, the Porthole doesn’t exactly offer a classic lobster roll but rather they serve a Lobsta Sandwich. Their menu describes it as “our spin on a lobster roll. We start with fresh picked Maine lobster meat, aioli, lettuce and pile it on our own buttery brioche bread.” So if you are looking for the more common lobster meat on a hot dog roll then you need to go elsewhere (though you won’t have to go far in Maine). But if you want a delicious interpretation of the lobster roll then you’ve come to the right place.
First we ordered a cup of clam chowder, New England style of course, garnished with thick chunks of crispy bacon. The chowder was nice and creamy without being too heavy. I was actually able to eat the whole serving and still had room for more afterwards—this is a major feat for me! I often avoid creamy soups if I plan on eating a lot more at the meal because it usually fills me up too much. There were big pieces of potato and lots of luscious little clams, and all the flavors melded into the creamy broth. It was superb.
Next came the lobster sandwich. I’ve never had a huge affinity for lobster nor have I had a great dislike for it. Lobster to me is good, but it’s never high on the top of my list. Until now. When the sandwich arrived it was overflowing with chunks of lobster that were white and smooth and tinged with the most beautiful red coloring. It looked fantastic, and when I took a bite I realized that it's not that I'm not thrilled about lobster, I’d just never had it the way it was supposed to be—fresh. I have to believe that the lobster was literally picked out the ocean, thrown in a pot of water, and put on my sandwich. And then it went in my mouth and made my taste buds and me very happy.
My favorite thing about seafood is that no matter what incarnation you get of it, it always taste like the ocean. And yet each sea creature embodies the flavor of the ocean in a different way. Lobster has more of a meatiness to it—it’s tender and light and yet still hearty and it captured the brininess of the Atlantic ocean exquisitely. The Porthole respected the flavors of lobster in their preparation of it for the sandwich, allowing the fresh ocean taste to shine with the aioli and delicate, buttery brioche.
The fries that accompanied my sandwich were fantastic, but Susan's onion rings were on a whole different level. They were the way onion rings are supposed to me, sliced thin, lightly battered, and fried until crispy. There was none of that thick, overpowering batter that distracts from the onions and makes them heavy--these were absolutely amazing. Next time I'll be ordering the onion rings for myself.
With salt in the air and a cool ocean breeze coming in across the water, sitting outside at the Porthole and eating fresh, delicious clam chowder and lobster was the perfect introduction to Portland, Maine. I’ll definitely be back.