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Cava, Portsmouth NH

tony h

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Cava @ Portsmouth - July 2012

This is a small plate tapas Influenced restaurant in downtown Portsmouth, NH.  Why tapas influenced? Well - no tapas I've ever had has been this good.  Chefs Gregg  & Michael preside over the establishment supported by excellent kitchen and front of house house staff. It has an open kitchen and 4 seats which overlook the kitchen make it the chefs table - ask for those you won't be disappointed. With a short stop over in Portsmouth it was so good we came back the following night.

Here's a first for me - a wine list with two prices - retail prices of the wine and restaurant price of the wine. With a typical mark up around $10 these guys are saints and shames pretty much every other restaurant i can think of (byob excepted).

First night we went for the tasting menu which at $29 (yes, twenty nine dollars) is easily the bargain of the holiday.  Even with eight courses they didn't pass off with the cheapest dishes.

First up was sweetcorn & tomato gazpacho - kept as distinct soups in the glass but when mixed they complemented each other wonderfully - great peppery aftertaste 

Next was pork belly with apricot purée & chanterelle - so good and beautifully presented. 

This was followed by scallops with fennel & salsify chips & salsify purée - just fabulous.

Beef sirloin with watermelon several ways w roast nuts - the beef was great but the watermelon was just a little on the bland side.

Patatas bravas - with harissa and garlic aioli - best PB I think I've ever had. The only downside was that this is a side dish and not necessarily one I'd serve on its own.

Experimental dish of foie gras with chocolate, raspberry and pistachio.  My part er loved it but i found it a little too off-the-wall perhaps but full marks for trying. (this was an extra dish that we ordered)

Pineapple cubes with pomegranate molasses and lime - wonderful palate cleanser and great combination

A final dessert was also served but I have no notes 

Second night - we made our own tasting menu. 

Rather sweetly Michael had prepared an off menu dish for us to start with.  Tomato bisque wrapped in cheese casing pan fried with tomatoes and mexican cheese (didn't catch cheese name).  When you cut into the fried block the liquid tomato centre poured out a wonderfully.  The tomato bisque is set with gelatine before being encased with cheese. The heat seals the casing but melts the tomato.  Impressive 

Carpaccio of beef served on a block of Himalayan salt. Came with raw and fried cauliflower with carrot slices. Wow!

Potato and prama croquette with chilli strands, garlic aioli and tomato/harissa base - so flavoursome & so light.

Dates stuffed w manchego wrapped in param and then baked - superb combination of sweet salt and savoury 

Scallops ceviche with raddish chilli & avacado puree.  A bit disappointing if only because the other dishes were so good and because we had the wonderful roast scallop dish the previous night

Squid and pork belly served with tomato & harrissa sauce - stunning and visually breathtaking 

Flank steak with roast corn, colita cheese, lemon rind and micro basil. I cannot truly describe just how refreshing and flavoursome this dish was - simply magical.

Hummus w lamb, pomegranate molasses & lemon.  A good dish but ruined by coming at the end of the meal rather than rear the beginning.

We finished with some churros - wed didn't need as we were so stuffed at this stage - but kept seeing them being cooked all night & couldn't resist.

Unexpectedly - night 2 was actually a few dollars cheaper than the first night.

A great find - come see for yourself.

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