The thrill of international cuisine just down the Street
UNH grad student Brooks Payette poses in front of a picture of President Obama at the Truman Bowling Alley in the White House. Brooks Payette/Courtesy
It's dinnertime, everybody's hungry, but no one can quite settle on what type of cuisine they feel like eating.
Street, located in Gallagher's Plaza on Islington Road, is one of Portsmouth's newer and more diverse restaurants, offering a variety of ethnic foods based on recipes from around the world.
"You can go to China, India, Vietnam," Chris Macdonald, Street's sous chef said, "but if you're going out with a group of friends, why not have an option for all of it?"
Street provides the opportunity to experience multiple cuisines within one meal. Many of the dishes are smaller portions or easily shared, so people are able to experiment with different ethnic foods in one sitting.
"We're not terribly expensive," Macdonald added, which makes it more affordable for customers to try several dishes opposed to a larger, single dish.
"It's the epitome of fusion," he said, "giving the option of all those things that aren't available. It's a new-age atmosphere."
Street tries to stick to its theme of casual "street" food that would generally be sold on the streets of countries around the world.
"We often pick a culture to research, looking up different ethnicities and indigenous food," Macdonald explained.
Most recently, the culinary staff at Street has been experimenting with ramen noodles, considering it has become a large part of Asian cuisine, which is the inspiration behind many Street recipes.
They have been testing a pork belly ramen dish made with a pork broth as a special. The dish is served with house-made kimchi and topped with a cracked egg to run into the broth. It has been fairly successful thus far, and will probably make a more permanent appearance on the menu.
Macdonald studied in Japan before coming to work at Street.
"It's definitely a plus to have a solid, educated crew," he said.
Macdonald has been working at Street since the beginning, nearly two years ago. He has helped develop multiple recipes on the menu, including the lamb burger, and has always been keen on the idea of its vast diversity.
"The concept just was amazing to me," he said, "and I wanted to be a part of it. The option to learn is great for any upcoming chef. It's a constant education here, always learning new things. It's almost like school, except I'm getting paid and having fun. It is a lot of work, but we've been very fortunate."
Niales Baldwin, bartender and part of the managerial staff, has also worked at Street for some time. The bar tries to reflect the abstract qualities of the food, and attempts to serve an equally diverse array of alcoholic beverages that will pair well with the meals.
According to Baldwin, the "Margarita Regardless" seems to be the most popular drink on the menu.
The drink is inspired by Mexican cuisine, mainly because it's made with tequila. The twist that everybody seems to love about it is its spicy aspect, which is atypical of the traditional margarita.
"The margaritas are popular for a reason," Baldwin said, "and we all make them exceptionally well, I think."
For those brave enough to try it, Baldwin finds the "Pisco Sour" most enjoyable to mix because it oddly involves the addition of egg whites.
While much of the menu is popular, and Street has managed to gain a steady stream of repeat customers, or "friendly faces" as Macdonald puts it, the Bibambap is probably Street's signature dish.
Bibambap, a Korean dish, literally translates to mixed vegetables and is typically served in a stone bowl over fire, so that the soup essentially cooks in the bowl.
At Street, chefs try to replicate this by serving it in a hot skillet over crisped rice. "A lot of dishes are already in existence, so we just sort of have our own spin on it," Macdonald said. "A hot dish right in front of you gives a similar effect. It has a lot of bold, great flavors."
He says the curry fries are definitely the number-one seller, made with a small amount of spice, topped with curry mayo and served with a side of curry ketchup.
"The Cemita," a sandwich that originated in Pueblo, Mexico, became so popular that the owner opened a separate restaurant called the Cemita Shack just a few blocks from Street.
"It's amazing," Macdonald said. "It has pickled onions, avocado, Mexican grilled cheese, fried chicken and chipotle mayo."
There's even a vegetarian option that comes with a veggie burger in place of the chicken. The Cemita Shack has all sorts of variations of this Mexican dish.
Street carries 11 different beer lines, mostly local, a variety of dark and light. "A lot of the food lends itself to lighter beer because it goes well with the spice," Baldwin said.
That is not to say that Street doesn't carry any traditional American dishes. Street serves American cuisine as simple as fried chicken (with its own special twist, of course) and is well-known for its burgers, which the chefs grind fresh meat for daily.
Macdonald says that they are toying with the idea of creating a fall/winter menu and a summer/spring menu, serving heartier dishes in the cold seasons and lighter, fresher dishes in the warm seasons. Both regulars and new customers can look forward to this possible change. In the meantime, enjoy the unique atmosphere and wide variety of flavors that Street has to offer.
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