The phrase “fine dining” and inexpensive rarely go together. Our larger towns like Manchester and Portsmouth charge up to $30 or more for a rack of lamb, but at Akasia Fine Dining, a cozy and casual little bistro a bit off the beaten path in Somersworth, you’ll find the same big-city quality cuisine — complete with a huge portion of succulent lamb coated in delicate and tangy Dijon mustard herb crust, including simple accompaniments like smoky grilled summer squash and creamy scalloped potatoes with a hint of nutmeg— for a mere $18. It’s a welcome surprise, and not only is the food delicious and a great value, but the owners’ hospitality exudes warmth and welcome.
The dishes here have a bit of an Asian flair. Gracious owner Lydia Brennan, who runs the front of the house, is from Indonesia and husband Chef James Brennan is Korean. Elements of both culinary traditions are found in signature dishes like an exotic crispy whole fish in a sweet and sour pineapple sauce for only $11.95 or a gorgeous rosy grilled salmon fillet in a wine and herb cream sauce for $12.95. Appetizers are equally good and you can dive into a large bowl of mussels in a wine and herb broth with two large buttery baguettes for dipping for only $5.50, or try spring rolls filled with thin noodles and crisp vegetables for only $4.50. Do not, I repeat, do not miss the house-made chocolate mousse, a decadent bargain at $4. There is a full bar available with some exotic cocktails and a small wine list. It’s more than worth a trip to the suburbs for this bargain-priced, creative cuisine.
Akasia Fine Dining is at 109 Main St. in Somersworth. Open for dinner Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Call (603) 692-6098 for more information.
Rachel Forrest’s “Cheap Eats” appears monthly. She is a former restaurant owner and now independent food writer who lives in Exeter. Hear her on “Wine Me Dine Me” — a radio show with co-host Susan Tuveson Fridays at 6 p.m. on WSCA-FM 106.1. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com when she’s not on the road finding great Cheap Eats.