PORTSMOUTH — Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast kicked off Thursday with 46 local establishments participating in a biannual event that draws up to 75,000 people over 10 days.
During a kickoff party Wednesday, organizer John Akar, who is co-owner of Cava Tapas & Wine Bar, said the Seacoast’s restaurant week is successful because chefs highlight their specialties rather than just offering a deal to get people through the door.
One of the staples on the fall restaurant week menu at Cava is the butternut squash soup with chocolate, marshmallow and pumpkin seed, Akar said. The restaurant will also feature a beef short rib with porcini glace dish as well as a locally foraged mushroom dish during their main course, which is served tapas style.
At Cure, owner Julie Cutting is excited for the duck confit poutine and New England baked stuffed haddock they are making. Cutting said she eats haddock served that way all the time when she goes out, but it’s not normally on their menu.
Cutting is also looking forward to serving a special dessert she said her mother used to make as a child when her grandmother was not home — chewy marshmallow and brown butter squares made with peanut butter whipped cream and a hint of sea salt.
“It’s a lot of fun for my staff because they get to do something a little different than the regular menu, and they get to be a little more creative,” Cutting said.
At Botanica, which is a French restaurant and gin bar, owner and chef Brendan Vesey said they will feature cured salmon tartare, a salad of frisee and watercress with blue cheese, poached apples, radishes and croutons, as well as lobster croquettes as appetizers.
For entrees, they will feature a cassoulet with lamb shank, duck confit and Toulouse sausage as well as a roasted flounder dish with caviar sauce.
Desserts include a selection of chocolate torte or red wine poached pear with pistachio crumble and crème anglaise.
“We’re keeping it very simple, very French,” Vesey said.
All of the restaurant owners suggest making reservations because the week can be busy.
Restaurateur Peter Labrie, who owns The Atlantic Grill in Rye where the kickoff party was held, is on the restaurant week committee. Labrie said the event is so successful on the Seacoast every year because of the work participants put into it.
“It’s more than an individual restaurant promoting themselves,” Labrie said. “Every restaurant has to do everything in their power to make it a positive experience for the diner to make sure they come back to Portsmouth as a whole.”
A number of local hotels and inns will be offering deals so people can spend the night after having dinner and participate in lunch specials the following day. They include Ale House Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites in Portsmouth, Residence Inn in Portsmouth, The Hotel Portsmouth, The Sailmaker’s House, The Water Street Inn and Three Chimneys Inn in Durham.
Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast will run through Nov. 16.
For more information, visit restaurantweekportsmouth.com. Participating establishments and their menus can be seen by scrolling down the page.