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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sur-Lie Restaurant Review ~ Portland, Maine

OK, tell me this, How I have gone exactly 35 years (that's right Thursday was my Birthday) without ever having tapas? I always knew I would love them and I was so right! Last Thursday, a friend and I headed to Sur-Lie to celebrate my Birthday by stuffing ourselves with some delicious tapas. We went armed with my voucher for $40 (I purchased it for $20) from Localvore Today (think a site like Groupon).

Aperitif ~ Basil and Honey Soda

I was impressed with Sur-Lie before we had even arrived. They took the time to call me the day before to confirm the reservation. They were so gracious when I asked to change the time (and even more gracious when I called the night of to ask to change the reservation to a half hour later). I will say that on a Thursday night we probably didn't need the reservation though I am sure on the weekend you would definitely want one or maybe even during the summer time.

I will tell you right now. We loved our waitress! I think I mentioned about 5 million times during the dinner how impressed I was with her and how knowledgeable she was with the menu. Because we were chatty Cathys we started with just a drink order. This part was easy for me since I had decided what I was ordering a couple of weeks before our actual reservation. They had a quick bar tender and we quickly had our drinks to enjoy while we learned all about the menu.

I started with the Little Bit of Lima ($10) What can I say, I am missing Peru and Chile pretty bad right now. Once I got over the fact that it wasn't my Pisco Sour from my favorite Peruvian Restaurant in Santiago, it was really delicious. It was definitely a great spin to the original cocktail. I didn't even know that Peach Bitters was a thing but I definitely need more of that in my life (along with some delicious Pisco...I need to get back to Chile so bad).

My friend went with the Grey Ghost ($10). While this was also very tasty and I definitely wouldn't turn one down if someone offered me one, we both agreed that mine was better. If I was a nicer friend I should have offered to split the cocktails. It was my birthday, so I was selfish.

The waitress explained the specials that were being offered for the day. She also explained how the menu would be served once we placed our order. There is a column on the menu with 3 sections going down to about halfway on the page. Then there were 3 columns going across the bottom half. Based on what you order they start serving from the top and when they reach the bottom 3 columns, they serve from left to right. She advised that if we wanted it to be a full meal, we would want to order 2-3 dishes per person. We were excited to dig in.

We started with the To Settle and Nibble Section of the menu and had the Fried Milk-Braised Cauliflower ($8) served with a honey soy glaze. This really started our dinner off with a bang. If I was alone at home, I would have totally drank that sauce on the bottom of the bowl. Darn restaurant patrons making me follow social etiquette. I only had a very small complaint. It felt like the batter on the cauliflower could have used more salt. I think the sauce was supposed to take care of that but there would occasionally be a bite that tasted a little bland (I know I could I speak this blasphemy about this delicious dish). My friend sent me a text the next day that she woke up craving this dish.

Our next section was under the Crisp Section. We chose the Seared Scallops with white sweet potato puree, pickled red onion, pineapple mojo (what the heck is mojo?), and lime ($16). This was our most expensive dish and I tried not think how each scallop cost us $4. But it was worth every penny because it was so frickin delicious. The flavors melded together so incredibly. The scallops were cooked to perfection and I may have considered swiping the plate with my finger to get as much of that potato as possible. I instead embarrassed myself by scraping my fork along the plate to get every last bite. I love pickled onions and this worked so well with this dish.

We ordered the day special...I will give you all a moment to finish drooling over our House Made Donut  filled with Pork Belly and Fried Tomato (actually I am not positive it was tomato but I am fairly about that for excellent review skills) and there was a sauce involved as well ($9...I think). This was my first time eating pork belly and it definitely will not be my last! I am going to say something that shocks you but I think pork belly is the more delicious version of bacon (I know, my mind is blow too!). I would have liked if it had been a sweet donut to go with the saltiness of the pork belly but otherwise it was pure perfection for me.

At this point my Little Bit of Lima became Non-Existent Lima and it was time to get another drink. Because there were so many fun choices on the menu, I wanted to try something different this time around. I went with Chupacabra ($11). The waitress explained that this was their version of a margarita (and I love me some margarita) and it was made with Vida Mezcal, Orange Curaco, Cayenne Syrup, Lime, Blood Orange. This was a wonderful combination of sweet and spicy. I love a sweet drink with a little bit of a kick. This was also my first time with Mezcal and it was another great experience with something new. I can't wait to got back and try out some of their other awesome options.

The North Spore 'Shrooms ($9) off of the Bold Section came out next. These were oyster mushrooms with a jalapeno aioli. Again, we were blown away with their sauce. I looked up the word for awesome sauce maker and according to google that is a "Saucier". They had an awesome saucier in that kitchen. We really enjoyed the mushrooms and they had a great texture (they didn't get that horrible rubbery feel that some mushrooms can get). The dill was a little big (I may or may not have choked a little on the dill and had it get stuck in my throat...a tad embarrassing at the dinner table) but nothing that would prevent me from ordering it again.

We stayed on the Bold Section and went with the Brussel Sprouts ($8) that came with Salmorra (um...don't feel bad if you didn't know what salmorra meant because I didn't either...I looked it up and it is a Catalan (a language in Spain) for "Brine"), lardons, and marcona almonds. It would have been almost impossible for someone to mess up Brussel Sprouts for me since I love them so much. However, Sur-Lie managed to elevate them to an entire new level for me. Small bits of bacony (bacony is too a word...stop judging me about my Birthday Meal) goodness along with fancy almonds in my Brussel Sprouts...sign me up!

Our final selection from the entree section came from the Bold Section (apparently we were feeling really bold that night). Our final choice was Fried Oysters ($12) that came with bacon ganache (a fancy word for lard...please don't make the same mistake I did and eat a spoonful of just the lard. I don't care how much you love fatty things, you do not want to eat a spoonful of it), kale, and garlic. Again I ran into the same issue I had with Cauliflower that the batter seemed to be missing the salt. They were still really great. Our favorite thing on the dish was the kale. It seemed to have been crispy (probably lightly fried) and wonderfully seasoned. I just realized that the kale was another new thing for me (geez...I need to expand my food horizon, I am missing out on some really delicious things). This was probably my least favorite and it was still unbelievably tasty and it probably had a lot to do with me getting full at this point.

I know I mentioned being full at this point but that didn't stop us from ordering dessert. They had so many amazing sounding options and it was difficult to choose. We finally decided on Coconut Sticky Rice ($6) served with Gelato Fiasco mango sorbetto and cinnamon. This was a perfect ending to a perfect meal. It worked out great between my friend and I because I preferred the rice and she preferred the gelato. The combination of the cinnamon and coconut was heavenly to me.

At the end of the evening the Chef was making the rounds and stopped by to see how our meal went. I just love how they really seem to go above and beyond and how enthusiastic everyone is there.

I can't say enough good things about Sur-Lie and can't wait until I can get back. If you are in the Portland Area, you need to make the time to have dinner here (I also heard on the down-low that they will be serving Brunch there in the very near future). If you want to try them for yourselves (and why wouldn't you?), they are located at 11 Free Street, Portland, ME.