Counting Down the Best New Foodie Road Trips! (No. 5)

1222378991Last week, Chowder began a six-week odyssey to give hungry voyagers new-and-improved recommendations for road-tripping gastronomically around New England—destinations that aren’t Fore Street in Portland, ME. (This isn’t a slight to the tried-and-true FS: The wood-oven-fired mussels slathered with sizzling jalapeno-spiked almond-garlic butter will likely be Chowder’s death-row last meal.)

With Rubi’s Sandwiches in Great Barrington coming in at No. 6, we’re ready to reveal No. 5, as we inch our way to the top.

No. 5: THE GREEN MONKEY (Portsmouth, NH)

Portland, Me., gets plenty of glory for how well it plays the charming-waterfront-town-with-cute-little-shops-and-bistros game. Meanwhile, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, provides almost as much charm, yet enjoys none of the acclaim.

For Chowder, naturally, food = charm, and Portsmouth’s Green Monkey is among the charming-est around. Not technically new (it’s a few years old), the Asian-fusion/New American comfort food restaurant has maintained a low profile on a quiet side street near town center.

The cool, quirky interior—decked out in reds, golds, and funky chandeliers—is fine, but the monkeys stenciled onto the white tablecloths are the very reason we seek out charming destination restaurants in the first place.

The food is really good. Chowder went ape (sorry…) for the excellent fried oysters: plump and briny, then dusted with lemon-ized salt and served with a cooling aioli. That’s when it became apparent that every one of the three parties seated at the bar (all regulars) had a plate of the Fuji Apple and Pork Wontons.

Not wanting to feel left out, Chowder ordered a batch, which arrived as crispy fried wonton shells filled with piping-hot batting of seasoned pork and crunchy apple, served with a sweet-and-sour sambal sauce. Think Asian-inflected samosas, and the pinnacle of comfort food.

Entrees were all solid (Chowder shared the Grilled Rack of Lamb, the heaping plate of Pad Thai, and the Pomegranate-Marinated Duck Breast), and the wine list was reasonably priced—both times Chowder consulted it that evening.

BEST BETS: Fried Oysters with Lemon Salt and Aioli, Fuji Apple and Pork Wontons, Pomegranate-Marinated Duck Breast, Porcini Mushroom Sachette

DRIVE TIME FROM BOSTON: 1 hour, 10 minutes

INFORMATION: The Green Monkey, 86 Pleasant St., Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603-427-1010.

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5. The Green Monkey (Portsmouth, NH)

6. Rubi’s Sandwiches (Great Barrington, MA)

**** NEXT THURSDAY…NO. 4! ****