After being snowed-out twice (can't wait for this winter to finally be over...) we made it to Rogue Island, the new hyper-local restaurant/bar in the renovated Providence Arcade in downcity. Their shtick is that most of their ingredients and beverages come from within 50 miles of Providence.
The restaurant space has been lovingly renovated with salvaged/refinished wood, Edison bulbs, and tasteful metal accents--overall very trendy, casual, and attractive. The bar was busy throughout our meal and only seemed to get more packed as the night wore on. They have 10 local beers on tap, including Bucket, Proclamation, Gray Sail, and others. There are also a selection of local wines.
Rogue offers a house-made charcuterie board and a flatbread du jour as appetizers. Both were listed as "market price" on the menu, and when we enquired, we learned that they were close to $30 a piece--overly ambitious pricing given the size and ingredients. The rest of the menu was somewhat more reasonable, with most appetizers in the $7-$12 range and entrees around $25. It's worth noting that I felt the entrée portion size was quite generous (along the lines of Broadway Bistro, by way of comparison.) We agreed the food was right about a B/B+ overall. The vision was there for an A meal, but execution missteps took it down a notch.
We started with chicken wings--nice and spicy with a house-made rub and thick, molasses-like drizzle. The wings were billed as a small plate, and there were four whole wings (wingette & drumette). They were served with a few dollops of blue cheese "foam" (I'm generally not in favor of unnecessary foam, but this was no-harm-no-foul foaming.) The real hit was the pile of pickled celery underneath--totally awesome and made us with we'd ordered the house pickle platter.
I got the slow-cooked egg and coffee-cured pork belly appetizer. The egg was perfect, with the yolk uniformly thickened into a luscious, spreadable paste. The pork belly was super tasty, but difficult to eat. The fat was so chewy as to be impossible to cut or chew, and the meat was tough and extra-"bacony" in texture. I think this means it was overcooked or cooked too quickly? The crispy Brussels sprout leaves were great on the plate, but the almond "yogurt," while tasty and interesting, had a disturbingly grainy texture. Part of this is probably naming issue--best not to call something yogurt if it's grainy.
Entrees were solid. I had the amazing catch of the day preparation--cod with peppery arugula pesto, celery root, roasted apple, and ginger aioli. There were "crispy" root veg confetti as a garnish, but alas, they'd lost their crisp and were more like root veg jerky by the time I ate them. The plate would have been better off without them. My husband had a surf-and-turf special, rib-eye and monkfish over risotto with broccoli rabe. It wasn't super exciting, but everything was cooked nicely and tasted delicious.
For dessert we shared the deconstructed pear-cranberry "crumble" (incidentally, I'm not sure why half the things on the menu are in quotation marks.) This was not so great. The pears weren't softened at all, there wasn't enough cranberry tang. There were actually chewy "craisins" in the mix, which seemed out-of-place, and the crumble was meager, boring, and difficult to eat. The buttermilk sorbet on the side was excellent and interesting, however. Overall, the desserts we saw in the dining room all looked pretty underwhelming. For the time being, I'd skip dessert and head elsewhere to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Service felt a little unpolished, but friendly. I think most of the folks just need more experience. There was a middle-aged gentleman loitering (for lack of a better word) near the maître d's outpost. My guess is he's a co-owner or manager? Either way, he seemed extremely nervous, pacing and wringing his hands, and generally looking at a loss as to what to do with himself throughout the evening. He did manage to clear a few plates, but otherwise he was a distracting presence. Somebody give that man a drink and a mission!
We'll probably be back to check out Rogue Island in a few months, after they've had a chance to settle in and work out their service and menu kinks. I think they could make an interesting addition to the downcity scene, especially if they up their game with a few modest tweaks. It's clear, however, that the kitchen has a vision and desire to serve interesting food and big flavors---nothing wrong with that in my book.