Hello all, this is Charlie, and welcome back to Stationary with a Bag of Chips. When last I wrote in this space I believe I was up to my elbows in beef jerky, and believe me, I am a better person for the experience. Sammie is trying to chill out in front of the ol’ idiot box this evening so I will offer up a brief review of a Portuguese place I tried today.
A couple of co-workers and I went to Mesa 21 in Fall River, MA today for lunch on the recommendation of another (who bailed on us at the last moment). The restaurant (no website that I could find, here is their Facebook page) is apparently a former Italian brick oven place that has re-opened serving Portuguese fare while still offering pizza from the oven.
Now, southeastern Massachusetts is heavily Portuguese and they, like Italians, live for their food. In my experience, however, this hasn’t translated into a lot of great Portuguese restaurants in the Fall River area. In fact, my co-workers and I regularly complain about the lack of decent joints of any kind in the area, so it was nice to find that Mesa 21, while not stellar or anything, was both good and cheap.
The meal started with a basket of bread accompanied by garlic olive oil, red pepper flakes, and grated parmesan, evidently holdouts from the Italian days. The two kinds of bread, ciabatta and Italian, were soft and fresh with a nice crust.
For a beverage I tried a beer called Shock Top, a Belgian white produced by Anheuser-Busch. The folks at RateBeer seem to think it sucks, but I thought it passable – it was relatively smooth and without much of an aftertaste. And in any case my other options were Bud and Bud Lite, and I’d rather suckle from the teat of a wombat on ‘shrooms than drink a Bud.
I ordered Carne de Porco à Alentejana, a traditional Portuguese dish comprised of seasoned cubed pork, littleneck clams, and cubed fried potatoes.
(Note: I had already speared that clam on the left when I took the picture with my cell phone – they didn’t serve me an empty clam.)
(Further note: I know you’re wondering why I, the non-blogging member of the family, was taking a picture of my food. Well it’s reached the point where I can’t eat comfortably before hearing the click of a camera.)
This was a pretty good size portion for 12 bucks, I’d say. The flavor was quite potent and meat fork-tender – it was evidently well-marinated. It quite reminded me of a blademeat sandwich, which is SE Mass’ answer to the pulled pork sandwich. Rather than smoked meat slathered with barbeque sauce, it’s pork shoulder that’s been stewed in a spicy broth that’s heavy on the paprika and then heaped on a bun. That there were only four clams was a bit disappointing, but they were sweet and tender, rather than overcooked as they so often are. Also pleasing were the cubed potatoes. They were very crunchy on the outside and did not get soggy in the broth. (Side note: I think that the Portuguese are the only people who love potatoes as much as the Irish. They serve potatoes with everything. Go into a Portuguese corner market in MA and order a sandwich and I’ll send you a naked picture of the Pope if they don’t put potato sticks on it [Actual naked photo may vary].)
Anyway, a tasty and filling entree and non-offensive beer for 18 bucks including tip is not bad, at least around here.
Interestingly, Mesa 21 gets a few slaggings on the Google reviews and on Foodbuzz. Several of the negative reviews don’t mention the food, however. One states outright “who cares about the food, the staff are all trash”. Hmmm. Sounds unbiased to me!
In any case, I never judge a place on one visit unless it’s truly horrendous. My co-workers were also happy with their food and the service was pleasant if unexceptional, and they were doing a brisk lunch business. On the basis of this visit, I’d go back.
Now back to your regularly scheduled healthy eating and whatnot.