I finally had the chance to dine at Providence this week (thanks to a big spending baby brother). We went for lunch, on a whim, and had a blast.
Overall, I have to say it was a superb dining experience. Having read so many postings on this board, ranging from ecstatic raves to near outrage, I was unsure what to expect. In retrospect, going on the spur of the moment was a good thing; my expectations never truly had a chance to percolate.
First impressions, the dining room was serene and sparsely populated. The interior design is generally restrained with the exception of the white pods strewn about the walls, are they meant as a nod to the nautical theme, barnacles perhaps? I didn’t really dig the lighting fixture that adorns the ceiling but that is being more than a bit picky.
Baby bro works in the high end restaurant biz in NYC so we were definitely intent on taking in all the details and design elements like lighting fixtures, flatware and stemware. Indeed, the tables were turned as I was finally dining with someone even pickier than myself.
We started with some Pellegrino and a 1/2 bottle of vouvray. I can’t remember the year or vintner but it was certainly a nice companion to our lunch.
The wine list was, as expected, voluminous. What I didn’t expect was so many wines of differing price points. I absolutely hate going out for an expensive meal and realizing that there are no wine options under $100, it feels like being gouged.
Lunch consisted of three apps, a split entree, coffee and two-and-a-half deserts.
The kanpachi was served with summer truffles, tomato relish, yellow pear tomatoes and burgundy amaranth was stunning.
Equally delicious was the peeky toe crab topped with shaved fennel, the crabmeat was sitting atop fennel puree in the midst of a pool of satsuma sauce dotted with chive oil. It was a beautiful dish.
The chowder with chives, bacon, potatoes, clams and cream was my brother’s call. And even though ordering chowder on a 95 degree day is not my idea of an intelligent choice, I couldn’t resist a few bites once it was on the table. It was everything I’d come to expect from the chowder at Water Grill, which is to say, the best I’ve had outside of Cape Cod.
We then moved on to a very ample maine lobster salad, even when split for two. It was adorned with citrus fruit: grapefruit and a variety or orange?, asparagus spears and was dressed with a rooibos tea and vanilla vinaigrette. The salad was light and very, very good. They used a light hand with the vanilla and rooibos and were generous with the perfectly shelled pieces of lobster.
We were hoping to sample another entree but the key ingredient, tasmanian sea trout, was still en route to the restaurant from the vendor. We tried to save room, waiting to see if the fish would appear at some point during our 2+ hour lunch, alas it did not.
The sweet finish:
This left extra room for desert so, we ordered two and were sent another, an amuse bouche of sorts, mid-meal though. We also had columbian coffee, brewed in a french press, that was superlative.
The amuse-ish desert was cantaloupe soup garnished with yogurt, mint and cucumber sorbet topped with a fried ginger chip. It was delicate, refreshing and delicious. The dish was so soothing but that ginger chip nearly put hair on my chest, it was bracing to say the least.
The two, larger deserts were also great.
I had a dish of blackberries with freeze dried corn, polenta crisp and corn ice cream. I know it sounds odd, but it was truly delicious. The berries were gargantuan and with them the corn bits and corn ice cream were an awesome coupling.
Baby bro’s desert was a chocolate mousse served with avocado-banana puree and horchata ice cream. It was served with a cinnamon/chocolate crisp, the flavor of which was something like abuelita brand mexican hot chocolate. Honestly, who knew avocado and banana could be happily married? And horchata ice cream is way too good of an idea not to catch on!
What struck me most about the deserts? The boldness of pastry chef, Adrian Vasquez, is every bit the match to Cimarusti (and Shoemaker) in both use and variety of flavor and aesthetics. Deserts can be so bad or so boring, it is great to see someone who can take risks and still deliver the goods!
The service was great, graceful but not at all obsequious. I also loved that they had contemporary music playing and not generic classical or other ambient tunes. To paraphrase the MasterCard ad, eating a great meal, so many dollars, eating a great meal to Radiohead, priceless.
Only one negative, and it isn’t even mine. My brother mentioned after the meal that he found that his stemware held a slight odor of fish - he says it is a common and hard to control problem, even at the best seafood restaurants. I didn’t notice it but he’s a professional in these areas and I will have to take his word for it. I am the proverbial squeaky wheel and think he should have asked for another glass or glasses.
Mercifully, I did not pay the tab but my educated guess is that the tab was somewhere between $150 and $200, not cheap -still, in my opinion, very much worth it. Providence seems to me the kind of place that is firing on all cylinders and you have to pay for that type of performance.
Bodie (the poster formerly known as c-bo)