Rather than try to review the "so many newish Asian restaurants in Cumberland County," Nancy Heiser narrows the criteria and ranks the pho at three Vietnamese restaurants in her most recent Dine Out Maine review in the Maine Sunday Telegram. "Pho is a traditional noodle soup of Vietnam, a comforting bowl of broth brimming with rice noodles and garnished with bite-sized sections of meat." Saigon, located at 795 Forest Avenue in Portland, was the victor, earning four stars.
It was clear like a consomme, rich and light at once, complex and aromatic with a mingling of spices hinted at but not seen -- star anise and charred ginger among them. The soup's rice noodles had a firm but silky texture. Thin beef slices, touted as rare on the menu, were cooked through when the bowl came to the table.
The other two competitors, Lemongrass and Little Saigon, are both situated on Maine Street in Brunswick. Lemongrass earned three-and-a-half stars: "The rice noodles were broad like linguine, firm yet silky, and easy to slide down." Little Saigon took the booby prize with two-and-a-half stars. "Little Saigon distinguished itself with the rarest beef slices, but its broth didn't quite stand up to the competition."
John Golden has high praise for David's 388 and its two young chefs: Carlos Tirado, 27, and Dylan Leddy, 23, in his Golden Dish review of David Turin's South Portland outpost.
It was fascinating to watch the two young chefs, barely out of training toques, whip up one magical moment after the other. ... They work like agile jugglers at the stove top, maneuvering dish after dish seamlessly with beautiful results.
While Turin's Portland restaurants (David's and Opus Ten) are better known in food circles, Golden says he's "totally hooked" on 388 after two visits.
Despite a cannibalism reference in the opening paragraph and an equally disturbing meat pile photo accompanying the review, The Portland Phoenix's Brian Duff has mostly good things to say about Buck's Naked BBQ in Portland's Old Port:
The pork ribs in particular were spot-on, with a great char, rich flavor, and just-right tender, fatty moistness. The pulled pork had the right texture, but lacked the same depth of pork flavor, and here we used some of the sauce to good effect. The best of these was a vinegary-peppery version with a black stripe on the red bottle. The beef brisket had a deep rich flavor and was expertly cooked just past any hint of stringiness. The house sausage was more sweet than spicy, with a pleasant smokiness.
The Bollard's Dan Zarin took a trip to Auburn, "home to thousands of French-Canadian Americans and one kick-ass ethnic diner," for his monthly Breakfast Serial review. The diner to which he refers is Rolly's, which "looks like just another greasy spoon in a gritty, working-class neighborhood. But this diner is different for one key reason: their specialty is crêpes."
Zarin, used to crêpes that are "absurdly expensive and filled with frou-frou ingredients" from his encounters with them in Portland, finds a delicious bargain in the small city 45 minutes away:
I ordered the Big Breakfast. For the bargain price of just $6.50, my meal included two eggs, two strips of bacon and two sausage links; choice of baked beans, cottage fries, homefries or potato puffs; and choice of a crêpe, French toast or two small pancakes. Coffee was included, with two free refills. I opted for a crêpe, of course, and potato puffs (for the sheer novelty) and ate everything on my plate. The eggs were perfect, the bacon crisp — in short, the dish was everything you'd want from a diner.
— Tom Minervino
· Dine Out Maine: With Vietnamese Soup, or Pho, It's All About the Broth [MST]
· Daring-Duo at David's 388 [TGD]
· At Buck's, Naked is the Way to Be [PP]
· The Breakfast Serial: Rolly's Diner [TB]
[Lemongrass. Photo: Trip Advisor]