I am new to Providence and when my parents told me they were coming through town and wanted to take me out to dinner, I immediately chose Chez Pascal. We went during the week, so we could take advantage of the Bistro Menu, a Prix Fixe selection which is offered only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The cost is $28 for three courses or $34 for the three courses and one glass of house wine.
We got there early, but there were already several people at the bar, who looked like contented neighborhood regulars.
In addition to their regular menu and Bistro Menu, Chez Pascal also offers a vegetarian tasting menu. I was really happy to find that. It looked amazingly great and it reinforces my opinion that Providence is quite friendly to people who chose not to eat meat. I am following a modified vegetarian diet myself, but I do eat fish. Had I not gone the seafood route, the vegetarian tasting menu would have been my choice. Next time.
My parents were side tracked by some of the items on the regular menu, but I went with the Bistro Menu, which changes every week, and I was so glad I did.
My first course was a huge, overflowing bowl of Roasted Mussels with Mirepoix, Garlic, Pernod and Aioli. I have never had such sweet and tender mussels. They were perfectly cooked, sweet and tender, with a lovely delicate broth in the bottom of the bowl. Not one piece of grit, not one tough, overcooked rubbery reject made it into the mix. The Mirepoix (traditionally a base of onions or leeks, carrots and celery) formed a sweet and flavorful foundation to the broth which in no way overpowered the mussels. I don't think I made eye contact with anyone or participated in too much conversation while I was devouring these treats. These were the best mussels I have had in a long, long time. They were perfectly cooked and the flavors in the delicate, creamy sauce only enhanced them. (The mussels were served with two large pieces of toasted bread, which I did not eat.) Reluctantly, I offered my dad some, as they were so good. I noticed he did not talk too much as he finished off my mussels. An obvious hit, as he is usually a wonderful conversationalist.
For my next course, I had the Grilled Arctic Char Filet with Roasted Bliss Potatoes, Asparagus, Onions and Olive Tapanade. The fish was perfectly cooked. (My father is an excellent cook when it comes to fish and I really have a hard time with fish that is overcooked.) It was not served with lemon, which I could have requested. Crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, it was a large portion, bigger than I had expected. I couldn't finish it, which is unusual for me, especially with fish. The vegetables that came with it were good. Nothing unusual, but tender, moist and fresh. I do think the seasoning of this dish could have been a little perkier, but maybe that is just my reaction to a dish that followed up those amazing mussels and that unforgettable broth.
I rarely eat dessert anymore but went all the way with the Warm Almond Torte with Creme Anglaise and Apple Compote. Once again, I was not very good company because this was outstandingly wonderful so I just focused on each lovely bite, ignoring my poor parents (who probably did not care too much as they were splitting a dish called Chocolate in 3's- three different selections of sublime looking chocolate treats on a huge plate for $9). I was expecting a slice of some kind, with a crust, but was presented with this little mountain of rich almond cream, almost like a heavy pudding. It was amazing. And again, another huge portion. I ate every bite and licked the spoon.
My glass of wine was nothing exciting....I can't remember what it was but it was forgettable and my only disappointment of the night. I wish there had been more of a selection.
This was a wonderful bargain and one of the best meals I have had since moving to Providence a few months ago. I've been at a few other spots that I have enjoyed but there has often been a little flaw....appalling noise, smoky air from the open kitchen or food that is not all that interesting. I wish I lived across the street....or right next door. I'd be one of those people settling in at the bar as soon as they open the doors for the evening, ready for another outstanding meal.