Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Restaurant Review- Ri Ra Irish Pub

August is certainly the month for birthdays in this family. Tom's birthday is on the 9th, grampa's was on the 12th, and my birthday falls on the 14th. I turned 31 this year, and to celebrate the occasion, Tom offered to take me out to dinner anywhere I wanted to go. The Portland area has several hundred restaurants. Regardless, I did not even have to think about where I wanted to go. I chose Ri Ra Irish Pub in Portland's Old Port. Ri Ra has always been one of my favorite restaurants to visit. The downstairs is a traditional Irish pub, they have live entertainment practically every weekend and serve traditional pub fair. There are actually two bars downstairs, a main area where the band performs, and a smaller bar that is more intimate. I actually celebrated my 30th birthday there with a series of Irish car bombs. While the downstairs is definitely a great evening hang out, my favorite part of Ri Ra is actually the upstairs. First you pass through a whiskey room with couches and another bar, then you reach the restaurant, a moderately sized space with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean and a fireplace on the wall. The menu is made up of traditional Irish cuisine along with some Irish-American fusion dishes. Overall, the restaurant presents the perfect ambiance for an intimate dinner for two, or larger tables for a family gathering.

My birthday dinner started with a glass of reisling. These days I am only allowed an occasional glass of wine, so I make the most of it. Tom had a pint of beer. We ordered potato cakes as an appetizer, these are an absolute must have. Ri Ra has mastered the potato cake to the point of an art form. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and perfectly seasoned. They garnish the potato cakes with baby greens and balsamic vinegar, simple and elegant all at the same time. Tom's dinner happened to come with a salad as a starter, so I opted to have a cup of the potato and leek soup. Again, another must have when you visit Ri Ra. The soup has a nice thick consistency from the potatoes, perfect for dipping Irish soda bread into. For the main course, I had potato wrapped haddock with sauteed baby carrots and a lemon caper beurre blanc. The potatoes were nice and crispy while the haddock inside was moist and perfectly cooked. the lemon caper beurre blanc went right through the potato and pulled everything together. I would highly recommend this dish. The main course was followed by dessert. Tom's dinner included a slice of blueberry cheesecake, which I was more than happy to share; however, the server offered me a free dessert in celebration of my birthday. I chose the creme brulee, and I am very happy that I did. I love shattering the sugar top, and the underlying custard was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

If you are ever in the Portland area and you are looking for a nice place to share a meal, I strongly recommend Ri Ra. In addition to dinner, they serve a pretty amazing Sunday brunch as well. They are located right on the corner of Commercial Street and Franklin Street next to Casco Bay Lines. The prices are in the moderate range, and the menus are available on the web site.

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