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New Local Restaurant Reviews

Our friends know that we like to eat out.  Or we’re lazy.  My partner is an amazing cook, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do after a long day at work.  A lot of new restaurants have opened near us in the past year.  Here are some review-ish notes of local restaurants we have tried.

Simones in Warren, RI.  This place is owned by the man who use to own The Sunnyside which was a popular breakfast and lunch place on Water Street.  They bought a restaurant on Rt. 103 or Child Street that has been home to a number of not so good dinner places.  When we lived in Warren it was a dinner place with live entertainment on the weekends.  We have seen quite a few bands play there.  First, let me say it is good that they have parking since parking is such an issue in Warren.  However, they have not used the space in front of the building wisely, as it is wasted parking space, in my opinion, with large areas of mulch we had to walk through to get to the front. Poor curb appeal.  Hopefully they will do something with it in the spring.  Their menus change weekly, which is a nice touch.

We sat at the bar.  Immediately Jeff said to me that they need a low temp glasswasher as each time they opened the glasswasher, steam poured over and up the bar.  All the stemware was set behind the bar, glass side up, ready to be filled with dust.  These pieces need to be hanging.  We ordered a few different dishes to try.  The lobster ravioli had little lobster flavor.  It was very bland.  The cucumber martini was delicious but I had to ask for a second.  A good bartender will ask you if you want another drink before you do.  We ordered the bowl of marinated olives but the olive picks didn’t work very well, so we had to use our fingers.  They really could have used a second bartender that night.  The server who was carrying drinks near us needed some training as she was carrying her tray with two hands in front of her.  As someone who waited tables from 1988 to 1993, I wonder how you can even get a job as a server without knowing how to carry a food or drink tray. The Grand Marnier was a good pour at the end of our meal.

I went back with my sister-in-law for drinks and small plates a few weeks later.  The grilled lobster was horrible but the baked oysters were delicious.  Then we brought friends for brunch in December and everything was good, except my Eggs Benedict, which were overcooked.  The three times we have gone, there’s always been something not quite right about our meals, so I am hesitate to return.

In mid to late October, we attempted to get into Eli’s Kitchen, which everyone was raving about, but there is no place to hang out there if there is a wait, so we stumbled into Metacom Kitchen, where Tinker’s Nest was for years.  No parking for this place.  It was pouring out that night (remember October?) and we had to park way down Metacom Avenue to find a spot on the street.  The owners are, Richard & Sue Allaire.  Richard was recently a chef and part owner at Providence Coal Fired Pizza.  He was a also a chef at Tuckers in Newport.

The use of the space, in general, was our biggest issue with the place.  The art work is weird and too small for the space.  The layout of the dining room is wasted space.  They could easily put two more 4-tops in the middle.  And every time the door opens, you get a big gust of wind as there is no barrier/entryway.  Jeff was impressed by the flatware.  We tried the egg in a blanket and it was amazing.  Strangely, in this new day of mixology, there was no drink menu.  Jeff had the burger, as he always does when we try a new place.  And I had the salmon but highly disliked the strange mushroom side dish that came with it.  We weren’t blown away at all.  Not sure if we’ll go back.

Two weeks ago, Thursday, we tried The Aviary, which recently opened in Swansea on Rt. 6, next door to Tickles.  Tickles is a country store with a boutique approach.  They sell jewelry, clothing, Stonewall Kitchens, and knick knacks.  They are also famous for their Tea Room where they sell sandwiches and soups.  Their new restaurant, directly adjacent to Tickles has a beautiful interior design.  Two big rooms, one with a bar and the other with a fireplace are tastefully decorated and laid out.  A lot of money went into the design of this place.  Walking in, on a very cold January night, however, one wonders why the entrance is the furthest place from the parking lot.

We went with another couple and got their early so ordered drinks at the bar.  I had their specialty cocktail, the Whooping Crane, which is organic cucumber vodka with muddled basil and lemon, topped with lemonade and club soda.  Jeff had the Foul Game which was bourbon infused with apples and cinnamon sticks.  Mine was delicious.

For appetizers we tried the duck wings and the deviled eggs.  I wasn’t a fan of either.  The eggs were boring.  If you’re going to serve deviled eggs as an appetizer, they need to be jazzed up in an interesting way.  The best deviled eggs I have tried, since they’ve become a popular restaurant item, were at the Red Fez in Providence.  I ordered the Lobster Salad Roll.  It was good but I don’t think the lobster was very fresh.  Jeff had The Aviary burger, our friend’s had the Aviary grilled pizza and the Handmade Gnocci.  Everyone was pleased with their food and the service.  We will return.  The grilled pizza looked delicious and would be a great meal to have at the bar one night.  I would include the link to their restaurant, but they do not appear to have a website yet.  I had to find the menu on Facebook.

Last week we finally made it to Eli’s Kitchen. We were relieved to finally get into the place.  We sat at the communal table, rather than waiting for a 2 top.  We ordered the Shiraz.  The server let us taste both of the red wines on the menu and the Shiraz had more earth than the Cabernet Franc.  We tried their famous Sweet Chili Cauliflower.  It was outstanding.  For dinner I had the Seared Bomster Scallops, served over a ragout of braised pork and heirloom beans, fingerling potatoes, lemon relish and chervil.  The lemon relish topped each of the scallops.  It was outstanding.  I licked my plate clean.  Jeff tried the Eli’s Kitchen Burger, saying to me as he ordered, “I have to try out the burger to judge every new place.”  He said it was much better than the Aviary burger.  IMG_1592

So, there’s your brief tour of new restaurants in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island as you voyage through 2015.  I’d love to hear your critiques!

 

 

Al Forno: A Big Disappointment

I was blessed to have my sister and her husband in town for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.  (They live 6 hours west of me).  My husband and I rarely get to take them out for a nice dinner, so we were really looking forward to giving them the Al Forno experience.  This is one of the best restaurants in Providence.  The kind of place where the service is snotty, so you expect something good in return.  We walked in, the Friday after Thanksgiving, somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00.  I was worried we’d have a long wait because they do not take reservations–and do not even dare to ask if they do. 

We waited at the hostess desk on the first floor.  A woman comes in and says “How may I help you?” like we could be there to buy a new car, gift certificates, anything besides a table for four.  I look at her confused and say “Table for four?”  She immediately gets on a phone and calls to see if there are any tables.  I’m thinking, “shouldn’t the HOSTESS know if they are any tables?”  She says to the person on the phone, “10 minutes? 15?”  She hangs up and says it will be about 15 minutes and we say “great.”  She takes us upstairs to the bar where we  order drinks.  The drinks are fresh and homemade.  The bartender cuts fresh fruit for every drink; no fruit bar tray at this joint.  We’ve barely had a sip and they bring us to our table. 

I’m so excited about bringing my sister and her hubby to this place, I can’t contain myself.  I tell them we must order the homemade fruit tart.  At Al Forno’s you order dessert with your meal as they bake them fresh during your meal.  Brilliant!  We start with a bottle of red wine, once it’s decided that I am the only seafood dish at the table.  Jeff has a long conversation with the server about the wine choices, most of which are in Italian. 

For appetizers we order their famous beets and frites, sauteed beets with fresh thin fries on top and crispy cod cakes with smashed avocado. I hate beets with a passion, but know that the other members of my party love them.  We are pleased with our appetizers. 

For dinner, we ordered the following:

Wood-Grilled George’s Bank Scallops:  sauted mushrooms, creamed parsnips, roasted broccoli

Wood-Grilled Leg of  Lamb with Fresh Rosemary:  roasted harissa spiced butternut squash and broccoli rabe

Grilled and Braised Beef Short Ribs:  Al Forno mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and Brussels Sprouts

And Jeff ordered the dirty steak.  They throw a steak on the wood fire, literally. 

And because we needed to order dessert when we ordered the meal, I ordered the Pear Walnut tart, Hannah ordered the Warm Chocolate-Filled Crepes with Crème Anglaise (hot fudge sauce, fresh whipped cream), and Dana ordered the Lemon Granita.

And all this looks quite nice, except that it wasn’t quite the way it was advertised.  My scallops were cooked perfectly, but the parsnips were not creamed, they were chopped in tiny cubes and served with OYSTER mushrooms, long, stringy oysters mushrooms which I pulled to the side because the texture did not go with the dish at all.  Dana’s grilled and braised beef short rips appeared to be a top roast or some kind of pot roast.  Not one little rib to be seen.  Hannah’s lamb was a little gamey, according to her, and Jeff seemed happy with  his dirty steak. 

However, here is the kicker.  After our meals were delivered by the runners, we had to flag down the busser, who was primarily serving water and ask her to bring us some pepper.  There was no salt and pepper on the table. She came over with fresh ground pepper and proceeded to grind it in one spot.  The server NEVER came back to check on us or ask us how everything was.  By the time he did come back, we were done our dinner AND our wine.  He looked at me and said, “do you want another glass of wine?”  It took everything in my soul to prevent myself from saying “where the fuck have you been?”  If he had come back when he was supposed to, I can guarantee we would have ordered another bottle for the table.  Jeff was also upset that Hannah’s setting was not cleaned up between the appetizer and dessert. 

The dessert arrived.  Two of them.  The crepes and the lemon cake.  I told him we were missing the pear tart and he looked like a deer in the headlights.  He hadn’t ordered it.  I couldn’t fucking believe it.  Excuse my language, but that’s how I felt.  And to try to make up for it, they apologized profusely and asked us if we wanted some other dessert.  Did we want some freshly baked cookies or they could bake us a another tart, but it would take 20 minutes.  No!  I was excited about the freshly baked tart jerks! 

We had some coffees and went on our way, saddened by what should have been a spot-on experience.  I don’t know if it is my luck or a shift in the culinary city of Providence because we had a similar experience at Capriccio’s last spring.  Poor and shitty service.  And we went back and forth about going to Gracies instead of Al Forno’s that night.  Next time we will take them to Gracie’s. 

 

 

 

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