I finally made it over to Loie Fuller last night. While there are some things to like, I had one of the least satisfying dininig experiences I've had in Providence in quite some time.
First, the good news: The place, as mentioned previously, is beautiful, with incredible Art Nouveau woodwork, murals, and mosaics on the floor. It could easily pass for a Belle Epoque place in Vienna or Paris. I also had the Framboise Lambic on tap ($7), which was surprisingly sweet, very much like a kir royale made with a light lager instead of champagne, but it was a nice aperatif for a warm night. And the wine list, while limited, is well chosen and very reasonably priced. We had an excellent 2000 Guyon Aloxe Corton (Burgundy), which at $44 is a steal, as I'd expect it to be $35 in a shop, if you could find it.
The bad news: Perhaps it was because of the Projo review on Wednesday, but when we arrived at 6:30, the place was packed, with a surprisingly older crowd. They don't take reservations (which is a pain), and we were told the wait would be 40 minutes. The bar area is small and loud, but we decided to stay. One hour and 50 minutes later, we were seated. A couple of very small apologies, no offer of a drink or anything else, nothing other than an exasperated "what can we do, the diners are taking their time." We were starving when we finally sat down.
Once we were seated, the service was mediocre, almost indifferent. We had our excellent wine, and had 3 appetizers: a seared scallop salad,($9) 3 large scallops with a citrus vinagrette over rocket, which was very good; an "asparagus waffle" ($9), with foie gras butter and blackcurrants, which turned out to be four small wedges of cold, waffle shaped something, tasted vaguely cardboardy, served cool, with smeared smudges of butter which did have a distinctive foie gras flavor. There was no obvious asparagas flavor at all; and, "fried courgettes, with raclette cheese",($8) which we expected to be zucchini cut into circles, but in fact was cut into 4 quarters, like a pickle, deep fried in a thick batter and covered with tasteless melted cheese. I can't imagine why anyone over 10 years old would ever order this again, and we didn't finish ours.
For mains, two of us had the ravioli with pistachios in brown butter and balsamic reduction sauce (very reasonably priced at $8). It was quite good, though laden with butter, not for the faint of heart. I had their version of steak frites ($15), as we had seen the large plates with frites going by during our interminable wait, and I couldn't resist the urge. The steak, surprisingly, was a small fist-sized piece (idenitified as a "club sirloin" on the menu. I ordered mine medium (I know, I know), but when it arrived it was woefully overcooked, well past medium well. At this point, after 9:15 (remember, we started here at 6:30), I didn't have the energy to send it back. It came with a too-sweet sauce, in a little metal cup, and fries were a big disappointment, especially for someone who loves the proper frites at Red Stripe. These were hot and crisp, but were clearly made from frozen shoe-string potatoes, We ate less than half.
For dessert, we tried the Pear tart with ginger ice cream ($7), which was OK, a bit too "rustic" for my tastes, though the ginger ice cream was good, and the milk chocolate pot de creme ($3.50), served in an espresso cup. It was very good, though I don't know why they went for milk chocolate, as a dark chocolate version would be much more satisfying to end the meal, IMHO.
All in all, I doubt I'll be back until they take reservations. If they did, I might give them another chance.
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