I'll begin with the first of two conundrums. Years ago, I slaved my way through a book whose title had won me right over. "Conceptual Blockbusting", written by a Stanford professor, led one through chapter exercises to help you learn how to ' think outside the box.'
Prior to today, when I had read CH references to this fairly new Portsmouth NH restaurant (I had never seen the place) it was called Street or 'Street 360' . Since its address was not #360, my mental reaction was to wonder why it wasn't called Street 365. Well, when we traveled there yesterday to try it out for lunch, I had a good laugh when I looked up to see the facade sign reading 'Street 360 (followed by the degrees sign)' Ha! 360 degrees- Street food from around the world. Yep. So much for my conceptual block busting.
When I read good things about Street 360's concept on a CH thread, I was instantly intrigued ; ethnic 'street food' is one of my loves, particularly the sandwich equivalents: tacos, empanadas, meat pasties, etc. Put meat in a flaky crust and I'll be first in line. Empanadas ARE on Street's menu, so away we went. And we sampled many more things as well.
The pluses were, simply, everything we had . We picked Asian and Latin inspired dishes.
The empanadas were fried and filled with an atypically full-flavored beef mixture.Atypical because most South American empanadas are very mild (VERY), and contain no spices or herbs (sometimes a tiny amount.) When the waitress asked the chefs about the filling, they told her that the recipe had more ingredients than any other dish on the menu.The end result is a dark brown moist mixture of chopped braised beef in a sauce that reminded me of a mole>> various ground chiles, cumin, cinnamon, onion, tomato........ The result is an 'inauthentic' filling with a high payback in flavor. Ironically, these empanadas are served with a 'Peruvian lime sauce' that looks like an Aji Amarillo sauce but is not.
My Bibimbap was waaaay better than others i've sampled in Boston (at Super 88 Food Court and Buk Kyung.). The reason is the same that makes so many of Street's dishes preferable (for me) to many of the 'authentic' versions of those dishes. Chef Josh uses the 'authentic' dish as the starting point. But where an 'authentic' Bibimbap may be an iron pan of white rice w/ a stir fried topping of a protein with a tiny amount of vegetable, Chef Josh presents his Bibimbap as a cast iron skillet with a layer of rice (yes, crisped on the bottom)topped with a segmented color wheel of plentiful stir fried vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, carrots, beansprouts,zucchini,scallions) and a generous pile of tender high quality beef pieces in the center. ( I passed on the sunnyside egg.) One mixes in Street's housemade Gochujang sauce for a not hot flavor binder. Wow! Finally- a well balanced meal that covers the many nutrition bases in one pot. Well worth its $16.
Also very exciting was my Singapore Salad of local greens and crunchy veggies- cukes, daikon, carrots,peanuts- with Thai basil, mint, cilantro, in a Sesame Ginger dressing. (It was abundant but I did find the $11 tag unreasonable.)
My Love was 'too-busy-eating-to-talk' happy with his 'What About Cobb Salad' of greens,artichokes,feta,bacon etc etc. and his chicken milanese Cemita ("Good but not as good as La Verdad's") And of course, we had to get some take-out for later in the week.
We took away deconstructed orders of an unusual pork-thick spicy tomatoey Pozole and a bountiful Beef Pho Bo Vien. "two of our most popular items" per our waitress, Kate, as friendly and helpful as the best of 'em. Word is that owner/chef Josh has just returned from his honeymoon in SE Asia, and the new menu will surely reflect his travels. (Though I'd bet that Bibimbap isn't going anywhere.)
I'll end with the second conundrum. Street 360 , while only a year old, is open all day and is wicked popular at all hours, with a devoted local fan base (did I mention they have quite the creative bar program?) But its youth is not part of the conundrum; it's the fact that it is located a mile from downtown Portsmouth, in a little pocket mall, with ZERO street visibility (it faces the rear mall building [w/ a Pigs Fly Bread store at one end.]) The location sounds like a profile for disaster, but the opposite is true, so go figure! The locals are probably thrilled to have a spot that they don't have to share w/ the tourists. But heads up, Chowhounds, go forth and live up to your name! This hidden gem is well worth it!