Time: 7:30 pm, Friday night
Where: The Salt Exchange, 245 Commercial Street, Portland
Why: Valentine’s Date
George and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s day a little early by treating ourselves to a dinner that costs more than 20 bucks and wasn’t just protein and veggies. Yay! Carbs! We had never been to The Salt Exchange (TSE), so being enterprising gays who love new experiences, we rolled the dice and made our reservation. Not that we needed to – there were plenty of seats to go around.
TSE is decorated in “contemporary” style. So (as I have sadly come to expect in any Portland restaurant) there was the requisite exposed brick wall, the high ceilings, the minimalist decor, and a local artist’s art.
Our waitress, Hana, was attentive and sweet. I am a stickler for not using the same utensil with any successive course, and she was there with a fresh fork or spoon or knife as needed. Our food was brought quickly (as I hoped it would be, due to the lack of others in the restaurant) and unobtrusively. Our water glasses were always full and we never found ourselves wanting for anything. Excellent service.
I ordered a lovely apple blueberry martini, made with vodka, apple and lemon pucker, and that Maine Blueberry soda that I can never remember the name of. I know it sounds kinda cloying and sweet but it was really crisp and refreshing. Hana dropped off some homemade garlic chips (yum) and some french bread with teensy cubes of butter and salt (fine). George had a glass of red.
TSE is a small plate restaurant, so go expecting to order 3 to 5 small items for your dinner. And bring your wallet. It’s a tish expensive considering the 4 or 5 bites you receive of each dish.
I started with Crab Cakes (spicy!), moved on to Sweet Potato Soup (the highlight of the meal), had Poached Pear Salad for the first time (goat cheesy!) and finished with the Stuffed Chicken (a leg (boo)). George had Potato Croquettes (eh), Brocoli and Scallop soup (awesome!) and the “Local And Sustainable Daily Fish Preparation” (fine).
Truth? The soup was the best course. My crab and his potato croquettes were tasty but ordinary. I had 1/4 of a pear on my salad (although I loved the hazelnuts). And really? A chicken leg? And fish with gravy? I expected more for the price.
I don’t think I would recommend TSE for a first date. Maybe a second, once you know you like the person and if you don’t mind spending a pretty penny for teensy plates. The food was just ordinary, with occasional dashes of inspiration. What can I say? When you try new things it’s sometimes a crap shoot.
Hana rocked, though. Yay Hana!
And now, some glamour photos (note that all of these are shown larger than they are in real life):
This post is my first foray into Group blogging – see www.portlandfoodmap.com for more bloggy stuff from other more famous folks. (Valentine’s Day Dating Advice)