Man Food: The Portuguese Rostie at PotatoFreak
All photos by Katie Barszcz for Boston magazine
Somewhere between a diner and a cafeteria lies PotatoFreak, a potato-centric joint just outside of Union Square in Somerville. The interior is colorful, the bright lights hum along, and the space is larger than it appears. The cuisine, despite being Brazilian in origin, is globally diverse to say the least, touching on notes of the tropics, Mexican, Swiss, Spanish and everything in between. You can order a potato every which way imaginable: baked, mashed, fried, incorporated into potato-leek soup, and, as the menu’s centerpiece: the rostie. Swiss in origin, the rostie is a thick, shredded potato cake—here, these come stuffed and topped with everything from smoked salmon to chicken stroganoff.
I opted for the “Portuguese” rostie, an odd blend of Calabrian sausage, eggs, olives, green peppers, mozzarella, onion, and cream cheese. The cake arrives with a shiny and crackly potato crust, with a homemade look evidenced by an unevenly browned exterior. A few slices of scallions provide a minimal garnish for the puffy, wide circumference of potato, which completely engulfs the dinner plate. The crisp factor is not to be dismissed, as a few slaps of the fork against the crust yield an audible treat. But looks and texture alone can’t make up for the flaws that exist here.
A piping hot filling is pleasant, but the seasoning is missing from start to finish. I can’t detect any hint of salt, normally a potato’s best friend, and the components of the filling are wildly inconsistent. The sausage is curious because it should be a spicy, dry Italian variety, even if it is a Portuguese-themed rostie. It looks like a Polish kielbasa, but really has more of slightly smoked hot dog flavor; I would have preferred something actually Portuguese, such as linguica. There is only one dime-size piece of olive to be found, and the green pepper and over-cooked eggs are lost in a sea of under-done potatoes and raw onions. Mozzarella is also almost impossible to detect, and the added cream cheese is an interesting and mildly successful touch. A sauce may have solved some of the issues with dryness but it couldn’t quite cure the overall stumbles along the way.
Although the rostie itself is well-prepared on the exterior and substantial enough to feed two, the inconsistent filling misses the mark. It’s in some serious need of salt and the uneven doneness of the interior potatoes and onions make it unsatisfactory. For such a potato-heavy representation, it’s a disappointment that the main focus is a notable letdown.
102 Washington Street , Somerville, 781-519-7811, potatofreak.com