Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kon Asian Bistro (39 of 50)

Restaurant: Kon Asian Bistro
Location: 553 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818
Cuisine: Japanese Hibachi and Sushi
Price: Pretty average for Hibachi/Sushi (~$15-$20 per person)
Score: 39
Would I eat there again: Yes

Kon Asian Bistro has been getting a lot of attention in the year since it opened in East Greenwich.  After our initial visit last week it seems that most of it is pretty well deserved.  Located in an unassuming strip mall on main street, Kon has done an impressive job of turning a blank box into a very comfortable eatery.

We encountered a 45 minute wait (and it looked longer when we left) but thankfully they have designated a fairly large area in the front of their restaurant as tall bar table seating and a waiting area for the hungry hordes.  We started off with the house Merlot (Robert Mondavi) which was surprisingly enjoyable (the wine tasting we had done just before dinner at The Savory Grape also helped relax us for the wait and is highly recommended).  The bar selection was pretty standard and vodka centered, but the crowd around us seemed to be drinking it in with no complaints.

A huge buddha sits in the middle of the restaurant behind a 15 foot goldfish pool and a pretty divider/waterfall setup separates the front (regular dining/sushi) from the hibachi area in the back.  We ended up sitting next to the fish pool, which turned out pretty well except for when I dropped my chopsticks in the water (and the sleeve of my jacket, and my napkin).  Service was polite and fairly attentive and waters were refilled once.

We dined on the sushi and sashimi for two option which comes with soup or salad for both, and then 10 pieces of sashimi, 18 pieces of sushi, and a nice selection of maki rolls.  The salad was uninspired sushi restaurant salad- iceberg with tomato and the ginger orangey dressing.  The miso held up pretty well, good depth of flavor and taste without being overwhelmingly salty.

The plate with our mountain of sushi was pretty impressive.  I had wanted to get the sushi boat (ours looked even better than that one) option for a long time at any restaurant, and tonight was my lucky night.  The sashimi portion was arranged on a straw mat that was over a bowl filled with ice and a battery powered blue light that shone up through the ice and highlighted the sashimi from underneath.  Sounds corny, but it looked pretty darn neat.  The fish on the platter was all fresh and tasty, with a selection of tuna, yellowtail, flounder, striped bass, and crab stick.  It appeared that there was a light sprinkling of a salt on top of the fish, hopefully it was just sea salt and not MSG, but either way it tasted pretty darn good.  The yellowtail was exceptionally memorable and complex.  Our maki rolls were clean tasting and enjoyable- not as impressive as the sashimi, but perfectly acceptable.  The sushi offering matched the sashimi and tasted just as good.

Conclusion:
Kon Asian Bistro has won over the hearts and stomachs of many Rhode Islanders in the short year it has been open.  It is very well designed and crafted, and has quality sushi and at a reasonable price.  The attention to detail and consistently happy diners get Kon Asian Bistro a spot on the top ten list!

Kon Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brick Alley Pub (35 of 50)

Cuisine: American Seafood
Price: Moderate-expensive (~$20 entrees)
Score: 35
Would I eat there again: Yes

The Brick Alley Pub is one of the most popular spots in Newport, if not all of RI. Located on the upper stretch of Thames Street, it sprawls out through a series of 5-6 rooms (plus an upstairs), and a summer patio. Despite the copious number of seats, we still encountered a 45 minute wait midweek after 8PM. The Brick Alley has been around for over 20 years and won countless local awards and accolades, and still manages to put out decent food to a huge number of people. They don't quite break into my top ten list, but they are a perfect location for a party or group where you can get dependable, friendly service and soak in the chaos of a local landmark. I think the volume they are doing probably precludes them from reaching into the top tier of eateries, but given the challenges of operating a huge staff, and taking care of hundreds of people per seating, the Brick Alley does it quite well.

We thanksfully ended up being seated after only 20 minutes of our supposed 45 minute wait and got to enjoy their outdoor patio. To get there you wind your way through at least 3 rooms, with hallways, kitchens, and more seating areas off to the sides. That and the intense decoration style of the place can be a bit overwhelming. It looks like they started decorating their walls 26 years ago, and have never taken anything down, while continually adding more stuff. One Corona sign is ok, but do you need 4 in a row?

The staff was well trained and took good care of us, obviously used to being slammed just about all the time. The menu is actually three- a drinks menu, a specials and wine menu, and the normal dinner menu. Dishes covered the spectrum of American seafood, and showed little interest in reaching to more exotic fare. Most entrees are pretty expensive, but come with your choice of side and soup/salad bar. It is an interesting business model- it is hard to get a dish for much under $20 (unless you stick to the sandwich section), but it comes with enough food to satiate the most voracious appetite. I would have preferred a de-bundling option, but I suppose that is how they make their money.

The Portuguese clam pasta was bountiful and satisfying. No standout flavors, but well balanced and the Chourico was a nice touch. Their newport cioppino offered up an impressive assortment of squid, fish, scallops, littlenecks and mussels with a less memorable preparation. The sides we sampled (garlic mash and a baked sweet potato) and the salad bar fit the pattern, not offending while not really impressing us much either.

We did enjoy a Newport storm on draft (brewed just a few miles from the restaurant), served in a cheap plastic cup. The sound volume was fairly acceptable considering the masses around us, they thankfully don't pack you in too tight, and the leftovers and check were handled efficiently.

Conclusion:
The Brick Alley Pub seems very comfortable and confident doing what they do, which is serving a vast sea of people decently good, satisfying food night after night. Not stellar, but perfect for a fun night with friends and for the experience of a Rhode Island institution.

Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:


Where are the new reviews?  Are you still alive?
After eating at over 50 locations in 2009 I realized a couple things.
1) My hobby was expensive. 2009 was not a great year to be spending extra dough.
2) While I had some great meals, too often we went home a little disappointed.  The food might have been ok, but it often was no better than what we would have cooked at home, in a similar amount of time, for 20% of the price, and far healthier.  We decided to save dining out for special occasions- eat out less, at nicer places.  
I look forward to revisiting many of the top 10, (and some of the others) where I had some truly inspiring dishes.


As such, I am retiring my reviewing for now.  I doubt many tears will be shed. 


What is happening to the Fishy Foodie next?
Do not fear, I will still be around, in a new broader, and hopefully somewhat more regular role.  I plan to start writing more about my real food passions, including fermentation, fungi (did you know yeast is a fungus?), and molecular gastronomy.  


I may throw in occasional noteworthy restaurant experiences from around the country.
I hope you have enjoyed the reviews so far (I will keep them up for a while- as long as they are still relevant), and that the new content is interesting!




Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nero's Restaurant Oak (31 of 50)

Restaurant: Restaurant Oak
Cuisine: American
Price: Not cheap (~$20 entrees)
Score: 31
Would I eat there again: Eventually

Salt. What a powerful ingredient. Sodium, chloride, and that's about it. Wars have been fought over it, and it's the first half of the ubiquitous American spice combo- S and P. When used in moderation, it can enliven, heighten, and bring out the latent power of a dish. But add just a tiny bit too much, and the whole dish can come crashing down on your plate. At Restaurant Oak, we were victim to the latter.

In ten years of life in and around Providence I have driven down Hope St. and past Oak countless times and always been curious, yet had never dined there. Their neighbor probably doesn't help- when Chez Pascal is across the street from you the bar is set pretty high (in fact we watched as folks pulled up directly in front of Oak to park, then walked across the street to Chez Pascal...).

The decor is attractive and inviting (if rather reddish), and has nice big glass windows fronting on Hope Street. The waiter was very friendly and attentive, keeping our waters tended to (which was vital as it turned out) and taking good care of us. It was fairly slow the night we dined there (in the middle of our meal we were the only customers in the whole place) yet he managed to stay on top of his game and not get sucked into the comatose stupor that can befall wait staffs on slow nights.

Instead of the standard bread you often get, an excellent focaccia with a homemade hummus was provided as a house treat, and seconds were offered (and accepted!) when we finished the first round. For our dinners we shared the Oak meatloaf, and the smoked salmon club with the addition of sweet potato fries (a real weakness of mine). They both came out very quickly, which was hopefully a sign of a kitchen looking for work, and not overly pre-prepared dishes. The sweet potato fries were tasty and very salty, which can probably be forgiven/expected. The smoked salmon was decent, and had the lowest sodium content of the meal (although the bacon slices in it didn't help). The meatloaf dish was the epicenter of salted danger. Two very generous slices of meatloaf, topped in a gravy, with mashed potatoes, and green beans. Seems pretty innocuous. I started off with a couple green beans- very nice and crispy, but salty. The mashed potatoes started off good, but then you guessed it, the salt came through. At this point we were making a pretty serious demand on the water glasses, and our wonderful waiter kept the water coming. The meatloaf could have had great flavors in it, but all I could taste at this point was salt. My taste buds were overwhelmed, and I had to give up in defeat.

Now it is completely possible that a salt shaker had lost its top in the kitchen all over my plate. Perhaps this happened and nobody noticed. Or perhaps I was just the unlucky victim of an off night. Regardless, it was salt overload. Let me know how Oak has treated you- I am quite curious, but I am afraid for my blood pressure should I try again.

Conclusion:
Nero's Restaurant Oak looks great, has a friendly staff, and a decent, if fairly standard menu. We ran into serious salt overload, but minus that one factor I think Oak has a lot of potential to be a good neighborhood eatery.

Restaurant Oak on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 10, 2009

Recently closed

Below is our list of recently closed Rhode Island restaurants.
If you have a restaurant to add, or one of the places below is NOT closed, please let me know at thefishyfoodie AT gmail.com.


R.I.P. to the following:
  1. Taqueria Pacifica- Downtown (September 30th, 2009)
  2. Chelo's - Wakefield (September, 2009)
  3. Chinese Laundry (September, 2009)
  4. The Blue Elephant (Mid-August, 2009)
  5. India - Warren Location (Early August, 2009)

New Restaurants

Below is an ongoing list of newly opened Rhode Island restaurants.
If you have a restaurant to add, please let me know at thefishyfoodie AT gmail.com!
Good luck to:
  1. Wings over Providence (Hope St- September 2009)
  2. Snookers (Ashburton St- September 2009)
  3. Ardeo (Waterplace Park- September 4th 2009)
  4. Baja Tex Mex (Thayer St, Providence- September 2009)
  5. Dakar (Roosevelt Ave, Central Falls- August 2009)
  6. Shark Sushi and Hibachi (Thayer St, Providence- July 2009)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Red Fez (38 of 50)

Restaurant: The Red Fez
Cuisine: American/Eclectic
Price: Average (~$12 entrees)
Score: 38
Would I eat there again? Yes

The Red Fez sits in a location perfectly suited to its ambiance. Smack dab in the heart of the historic downtown parking district and near the soon to be defunct 195 highway, it is not the first spot you might think of for a restaurant. But hey, at least there normally is parking! Its location fits the mood of the restuarant very well- a little off the beaten path, quirky, yet still clean and comfortable.

Dining is offered on two floors- the downstairs is the fancy dining room (i.e. only one stuffed animal head, almost sufficient lighting, and no pinball machine). The upstairs is where it gets really interesting- PETA activists may want to take a pass on the upstairs, as the red hues and profusion of formerly happy woodland creatures on the walls make quite an impression.

Attitude is everything though, and while they have some of the same ironic hipster feel of Julians, the staff is far more friendly, and the whole dining experience is lower key. The drinks list is not huge, but well balanced, with a good variety of bottled and draft beers ranging from $2-$15, and an acceptable basic wine list. A couple inventive-sounding house cocktails round out their offerings. We enjoyed a Paulaner Hefeweizen on draft, nice and refreshing with a subtle spicy citrus aroma.

The food menu is small, with normally a handful of appetizers, a few permanent menu items, and 3-5 seasonal offerings. Everything I have eaten at The Red Fez has been well done, and I often will dine on a variety of their small plates so we can try more dishes. This evening we started off with corn and ancho fritters and avocado, shrimp and corn tacos. The fritters had just the right consistency- soft and cushy with plump corn kernels liberally scattered throughout. Sweet chili sauce provided a good balance to the fritters. The tacos were tasty, simple and fresh. Not greasy at all, everything tasted like you wanted it to.

We finished off our meal with the pulled pork BBQ sandwich (which comes with local slaw and pickles!) This is a serious dish, two of us were not able to finish it off, despite having only eaten the two appetizers before this. The pork is super moist and tangy- a slight heat rides through the sauce that has a nice touch of sweetness. The bun was pretty hefty, but still collapsed under the power of the pork and slaw. Service was prompt and friendly, and waters never got empty.

Conclusion
The Red Fez is a unique restaurant in Providence that deserves more attention than it gets, although it seems like they might be happy with the way things are. Funky decor, creative dishes featuring local items, and a good drink list put the Red Fez solidly on the ten top list. Well done!


Red Fez on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shark (32 of 50)

Restaurant: Shark Sushi and Hibachi
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi and Hibachi
Price: A bit above average
Score: 32
Would I eat there again? On occasion

*NOTE- Shark opened just two weeks ago, and as such is still very much in the formative stage. This review (and any other review of a newly opened restaurant) should be considered as a first impression, not a final judgement. It is written with the intention of giving an introduction to a new restaurant- so enjoy!

Dunkin Donut closed down on Thayer Street nearly two years ago. Their space (and more recently Spike's on Thayer) had sat empty until Shark started moving in. Work started in earnest a long 6-9 months ago, and in the intervening months they have done a complete makeover and update of the space.

The interior is dark and attractive, fitting in well with Kartabar, Andreas, and the rest of it's relatives on Thayer. Several flat screen TV's adorn the walls, and the staff looks like the standard Thayer wait staff (read into that what you want). The main attraction is the fish tank. Sitting squarely in the middle of restaurant (and filling the entire back bar area) the tank is pretty darn huge, and yes there is a shark, along with a lionfish, and a fun assortment of other tropical species that are hopefully shark-proof. It is refreshing to look at the fish instead of the same 100 quasi-high end liquor bottles.

There is an extensive cocktail list that seems a little stuck in the sugared up fruity martinis of the past 10 years, but has some fun options including a house made pineapple infused vodka. A fairly standard wine and beer list, and a few interesting looking sakes round out the drinks list.

The menu seems to have 3 main segments- sushi, more standard american entrees, and hibachi (also known as Teppanyaki). We did not try the hibachi which could be fun, but at $15-$30 per person I think I will wait for a special occasion. Their other entrees (pasta, fish, chicken and meat all looked fairly average, and seemed priced high ($16-$24 for the pasta options), but without trying them out I will reserve further judgement.

The sushi menu is fairy extensive with higher end maki rolls seeming to be the most interesting (if pricey with most specialty maki rolls over $10). We dined on a variety of standard sushi rolls (california, tuna, yellowtail, salmon skin, etc..) after starting out with their fried calamari and miso soup. The calamari was enjoyable with a good dose of pickled hot peppers and scallions tossed in. The menu also claimed a miso aioli in the dish, which seemed to be MIA from our plate, but sounded nice. The soup had a good flavor and heartiness, simple and just want you want from a warmup course. The sushi was all fine, nothing stood out particularly and it seemed to taste rather similar (this could have been due to poor ordering choices as well). It was fresh and clean, and I imagine some of the more fancy rolls and variations might be where the excitement is.

Service was very friendly and polite and waters were kept topped off. They certainly had plenty of staff on hand, which is a good thing as they were pretty busy (and with their restaurant seating ~ 120, they had better be ready for some serious rushes).

The grand opening is still a ways off- so hopefully they will get the chance to turn their good start into a great restaurant.

Conclusion
Shark is the newest addition to Thayer Street, challenging Paragon, Andreas, and Kartabar for the drinking & dining crowd. At this point it doesn't really stand out from the pack (in fact it feels like it could have been there for years), which hopefully will change as it gets some more experience under its belt. We could use a really good Japanese restaurant on Thayer, I hope they can rise to the challenge!


Shark Sushi and Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rhumbline (35 of 50)

Restaurant: Rhumbline
Cuisine: Seafood/American
Price: Fairly expensive
Score: 35
Would I eat there again? Yes, when I can afford it.

Rhumbline is my first reviewed restaurant on Aquidneck Island (Middletown, Portsmouth, and Newport, RI). Newport is only 45 minutes away from Providence, but this is Rhode Island we are talking about, where a 45 minute drive seems like a voyage to Europe. Service was not speedy, but for a relaxed evening with good food, drinks, and live music (Friday and Saturday), Rhumbline delivers the goods.

Parking can be rough in Newport, especially in the season (anytime you dare go outside with a bare head) and parking enforcement is renowed. Invest in a spot at the parking garage, it is well worth the peace of mind and not getting a $35 ticket!

Rhumbline has a decent wine list and makes a mean manhattan. As the name suggests, it is devoted to the sea, with nautical adornments on the walls, and a goodly selection of seafood on the menu. We started off with the steamed mussels- plump and juicy with a refreshingly simple and traditional preparation. Refills of bread were well appreciated for the tasty broth. For our entrees we shared the scallops and blue-cheese stuffed burger. The burger was right on- well seasoned, a little pink in the middle with chunks of fragrant, gooey cheese dripping out, and a sturdy, well proportioned bun. The scallops were again fairly straightforward in their presentation (and you pay $27 for 4), but cooked just right. Flavors were full and balanced, letting the named ingredient of the dish shine through the framing of the seasonings.

Conclusion:
Rhumbline is not cheap, expect to pay $30-$50 a person. But it is very comfortable, popular with locals, and clearly has a dedicated hand in the kitchen maintaining a high level of quality in the dishes. For a good night out on the town when you aren't feeling too broke, the Rhumbline offers a nice alternative to the standard Providence options.


Rhumbline on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ted's Montana Grill (30 of 50)

Cuisine: American/burgers (eco-emphasis)
Price: Average
Score: 30
Would I eat there again? Not likely

As a general rule, I do not review restaurants that fall into the corporate/chain category. Not that you can't get a good meal at a chain (in fact many chains have innovative customer service initiatives, and often offer a very consistent dining experience), but my goal is to introduce diners to local, independent gems that might not be getting the attention they deserve. Most chains make sure they get plenty of advertising exposure already.

Ted's Montana Grill caught my attention due to the eco-friendly stance they are taking. It is nice to see that the market signals that localvores and organic producers have been sending for years now are starting to reach corporate america. I wanted to check out how Ted's (named after Ted Turner) lived up to its claims of eco-friendliness and most importantly, if the food was any good.

First the food: Not very good. Service was polite and waters were attended to, and the atmosphere is clean and comfortable, but the food was mediocre at best. They offer bison as an alternative to beef for most of their meat cuts, which was refreshing, but the taste was lacking. The Montana burger (ham, grilled onions, and cheddar) was cooked as requested, but the toppings were soggy, salty, and oily. The signature salad was far and away the low point of the meal. Yes there was some avocado, corn, tomato and a couple other potentially interesting items scattered in the salad, but the base was iceberg lettuce. Any restaurant that bases their signature salad on iceberg is sending a message, and it's normally not a good one. The salad came with pulled chicken, which also sounded promising. Imagine a slim jim shredded and coasted in a corn syrup based BBQ sauce, and you have a pretty good idea of the pulled chicken.

Ted's green efforts are more impressive, but still could stand for improvement.
The good:
-Offering bison as a meat alternative (offering a vegetarian/vegan alternative as well would be even cooler)
-Using straws made from paper
-recycled paper menus
-installing solar panels at one location
-recyclable/biodegradable to-go products for drinks and left-overs

the lame:
-serving drinks in reusable/recyclable glass containers (i.e. glasses)
-non-smoking restaurants (would have been a big deal 10 years ago, maybe)
-an excess of lights (and incandescent no less)

Conclusion:
Ted's Montana Grill is trying to ride the eco-wave that is sweeping the country, and gets points for making an effort. Unfortunately they forgot about the quality of food along the way. Extremely mediocre food drags down what is on the surface a good idea, resulting in a completely unmemorable dining experience.

Ted's Montana Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Angkor (32 of 50)

Restaurant: Angkor
Cuisine: Cambodian
Price: Average
Score: 32
Would I eat there again? Occasionally

Angkor, just like Apsara Palace, has a neat backstory. A relative of the proprietor escapes from the homeland, brings recipes and memories with them, and introduces their family and national recipes to their new home. While the tale seems a little worn, it is compelling and provides a nice setting for the meal. The meal we had was good, with potential for greatness, but the execution was a little off the night we dined at Angkor.

We started off with the scallion pancakes. Angkor serves them deep fried, which was fine, if a somewhat heavy start to the meal and rather overpowering to the delicate flavor of the scallions. FYI- Angkor is BYOB, so plan ahead!

For our entrees we tried the Pad Thai (I tend to use Pad Thai as a bell-weather item as almost all southeast asian restaurants offer a version of it) and the combination Bee Boong. Both were a bit on the oily side, and the meat was rather dry, probably from overcooking. Angkor's version of Pad Thai is not particularly spicy and has an almost smoky full-bodied flavor (hoisin sauce?). Enjoyable if very average. The Bee Boong was fine- not particularly memorable, and not at all offensive. Service was polite and prompt, waters were attended, and the decor is ok.

My main critique of the evening was the chairs. They are extremely heavy and the seat cushions are so slippery you tend to find your chin slowly sliding down to table level by the end of the meal. A higher coefficient of friction is definitely requested.

Conclusion: Angkor is an intimate family run eatery in the middle of Wickenden street. The potential for great food is certainly there, but was a little lacking on the night of our visit. Hopefully others will have better luck.

Angkor on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 5, 2009

3 Steeple Street (41 of 50)

Restaurant: 3 Steeple Street
Cuisine: American Bistro
Price: Average
Score: 41
Would I eat there again? Yes

First of all, the restaurant 3 Street Street is actually located at 125 Canal Street (although to be fair, it is located on the corner of Steeple and Canal, the entrance just happens to be on the Canal St. side). The building happens to be the second oldest industrial building in the US still standing, and they have done a good job of highlighting the heritage. Old bricks and supports show through in many places, and entire space has a sense of age that you don't find often in Providence.

A brief census of reviews reveals that most diners have a love/hate relationship with 3 Steeple Street. Given the proximity to Waterfire and it's great location it is quite possible than some of the disgruntled reviews are due to evenings when it just became way overcrowded and the kitchen became overwhelmed. The dinner and service we had was excellent- not the best, but very enjoyable and well worth visiting.

We started off our evening with the IPA on tap (Long Hammer IPA), very citrusy with a nice floral touch, if a bit light on the hops for an IPA. Their house empanadas were excellent- crimini mushrooms, cheese, and a very impressive tomatillo salsa. Service was polite and professional, making themselves available when needed and not hovering.

For our entrees we shared the caesar salad and catfish. While I love restaurants that focus on local ingredients and give credit to the farm/source of their food, sometimes it goes a bit overboard (think "meadowlark farm spring baby spinach with fresh roasted georgia pecans, vermont marinated goat feta, and house oven cured heirloom tomatoes"). At 3 Steeple Street we were able to order "Catfish". And it was delicious. The caesar salad had hot croutons and was well dressed- not quite at Al Forno standards, but pretty darn good. The catfish had an amazing pecan and corn meal crust that was incredibly delicate and moist. The hot pepper aioli and sweet potato mash gave it an upscale fish and chips feel. Probably one of the best catfish dishes I have ever had, and it was just called Catfish.

Conclusion:
3 Steeple Street offers a great selection of dishes at reasonable prices. Good service and food that was solidly prepared combined to make one of our best dinners yet. Well Done.


3 Steeple Street on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enn (24 of 50)

Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi
Price: Pretty expensive
Score: 24
Will I eat there again? NO

I recently heard that a new sushi restaurant had opened in Lincoln, RI. Given the social demographics of Lincoln, and its relative closeness to Providence, I have always been rather surprised that there are not more places to eat. A couple spots exist around the Lincoln Mall, but in general the fecundity of places to dine in Providence stands in stark contrast to Lincoln's culinary options.

I was therefore delighted to learn about the opening of Enn Japanese and Sushi Bar, and had heard third-hand that it was pretty good. Unfortunately, it was not.

The interior design was the first warning sign. Enn is located in what looks like a generic multi-use office building, with a bewildering number of doors on the outside (although only one of them is actually open). The interior was perfectly clean, but completely non-interesting. Everything was rectangular, from the walls, to the art, to the ceiling tiles- it looked like if you walked down the hallway to the restroom you might come out into your dentists lobby. The interior was so wide open that you almost felt exposed, and could have benefited tremendously from some well placed dividers or walls.

Things went from bad to worse with the food. We started off with a sweet potato tempura maki roll- probably the best part of the meal. Nothing great, and it tasted pretty much like your average $3.50 vegetarian sushi roll- except it cost $4.50.

For our entrees we choose the stir fried udon with veggies($9) and the teriyaki pork ($15). The teriyaki pork was purported to be "smothered in Our Special Sauce"- which seemed to be a rendition of high fructose corn syrup, soy sauce, and who knows what else. The pork would have been ok on its own, but the sauce dragged it down. The udon noodles may have set the bar for the least enjoyable dish we have tasted since we started The Fishy Foodie. Remember those asian stir fry frozen kits you used to buy at the supermarket for $3? A bunch of veggies, a couple noodles, and a packet of frozen generic sauce that you heated in a skillet and almost invariably ended up rather soggy and steamed- not stir fried? That is what we got, except it cost three times as much. Not good.

The highlight of the evening was the restroom- very clean, nice hands-free plumbing, the works. Regrettably, I found myself here almost immediately post-dinner. Feel free to make any connections that you want.

Conclusion
Enn received the lowest score that we have given out thus far. High prices, dull food, and bland decor do not a great meal make.


Enn Sushi & Japanese Cusine on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chez Pascal (45 of 50)

Restaurant: Chez Pascal
Cuisine: French inspired seasonal
Price: Expensive and worth it
Score: 45
Will I eat there again? Definitely

There are a limited number of top-tier restaurants in Providence, or Rhode Island in general. There are plenty of places were you can spend lots of money, and even more spots that should be amazing- considering the flocks of diners that frequent them. Urbanspoon's ranking system does a decent job, considering how vulnerable to abuse it is. One of the main motivations for creating The Fishy Foodie is to create a list of the top eateries in the state that was fairly objective and that most people could at least appreciate, if not necessarily agree with. Chez Pascal is definitely on that short list, landing a impressive second behind Al Forno, and one point ahead of La Laiterie.

Attention to detail is what brings the dining experience to life at Chez Pascal. Seating is artfully arranged in a space that is fairly small, but the careful use of walls and partial dividers gives the feeling of both space and privacy. With the exception of our waitress, the staff was excellently trained, very polite, and professional. Water glasses were well attended, and the entire staff was attentive to us (which was a good thing, given our waitresses fairly complete disinterest in us). The service of the waitress was our lone criticism of the evening, costing the restaurant 2 points.

The star of the night was the food. We both dined from the bistro menu (3 courses for $30- you pick 1 of 3 apps, 1 of 3 entrees, and 1 of 2 desserts) which is available from Tuesday- Thursday nights. Given that many of the entrees run $25-$30, this really is a excellent opportunity to taste a wide variety of expertly crafted dishes for a reasonable price. We started off with the mixed greens with caramelized pecans, onions and apple, and the roasted mussels. The salad was good- fresh, light and well balanced. The mussels were incredibly tender and juicy. Melt-in-your mouth would be an appropriate descriptor- and while the seasoning on them was a bit mild for my tastes, the flavors combined to a crescendo greater than the sum of the parts.

For our entrees we chose roasted wahoo (one of my favorite and rarely served fish) with beluga beans and potatoes and brined pork tenderloin over endive, roasted turnips and potatoes, and topped with an apple mash. Both dishes were outstanding. The power of the food at Chez Pascal lies in the careful combination of ingredients. You can't just have great ingredients (although that is vital!), you need to be able to own and master them, so you can achieve unique flavor combinations that come alive in your mouth. This is a common theme that all the best restaurants I have eaten at share, and Chez Pascal was no exception.

Before dessert we partook of one of the house specialty cocktails (the Faux Pas) consisting of pear and ginger sorbet, pear liquor and pineapple juice. Served in a martini glass, it was the perfect temperature (almost icy) and married the sweetness of bosc pear and kick of ginger quite satisfactorily.

We finished off our meal with their two bistro dessert offerings: a trio of profiteroles with home-made ice cream and chocolate sauce, and an upside-down baby cake with pecans and bananas. Delicious, although to be honest, at this point in the meal we were in such culinary bliss that we might have no longer been the most attentive and critical judges.

Conclusion:
Chez Pascal is a wonderful restaurant. A keen attention to detail results in ambiance, food, drinks, and service that are all excellent. Well done.

Chez Pascal on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Solo Burger (28 of 50)

Restaurant: Solo Burger
Cuisine: Burgers
Price: What you would expect
Score: 28
Will I eat there again? Maybe

**NOTE**
Solo Burger was opened within the last couple months. As a new restaurant, kinks are almost certainly still being worked out and readers should take this into account. Many eateries take a few months to really get their service and recipes down. The experience that I had may not be indicative of the quality of experience you will receive in the future.

Solo Burger joins the growing ranks of niche restaurants, establishments that try to make their fortune by focusing on a very specific theme. There are interesting restaurants that serve just mac 'n' cheese, for example, or only a certain style french fry. Solo Burger tries to do this with burgers; and at least the night we visited, came up lacking.

Aesthetically, the place is pretty sharp- if to a fault. Lots of shiny metal and hard edges. It could certainly use a bit of toning down, although the restrooms were very pretty (full-on dark tile and all automatic equipment). They clearly spent a fair amount of effort and money designing the place. It just needs to look a bit more comfortable.

They have a nice bar and several beers on tap at a great price (16oz glasses ranging in price from $2.75 (Shock Top) - $3.50 (Sam seasonal)). When we were there almost half the customers were at the bar- so perhaps that is how they are planning on making a go of it.

The menu is pretty short (as it should be with a name like Solo Burger), you can choose from a few standard apps (wings, fries, chips, etc...) and they have a few salads, but most of the menu is burgers. Unfortunately they were out of several of their burger options (tuna, salmon, sausage, veggie, and hot dog (not really a burger)) leaving falafel as the only vegetarian option, and crabcakes as the lonely choice from the sea.

Undaunted by the scarce menu, we soldiered on, supported by cheap brews and a coffee milkshake that was tasty, if on the watery side. Service was perfectly acceptable and waters were kept topped off.

The Solo Burger was perfectly ok. Bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and a nice toasted bun. A good portion size, and quite tasty. The meat unfortunately had a distinct gas grill taste which was even more pronounced in the Jamaican Jerk Chicken sandwich. This sandwich was the low point of the meal. Dried-out, barely seasoned, and tasting like the grill- it was pretty darn bad. Sweet potato fries were a bit soft and could have had more kick, but still a nice touch.

Conclusion: It's attractive in a cold way and has cheap beer. But with a name like Solo Burger, you better have damn good burgers. Unfortunately, they were not. Perhaps with time they will improve, but at this point I can't recommend Solo Burger, if you solely want a burger.

Solo Burgers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 4, 2009

River Falls (35 of 50)

Restaurant: River Falls
Cuisine: American
Price: Very reasonable
Score: 35
Will I eat there again? Probably

I must confess: I have lived in Rhode Island for close to 10 years now, and I had never been to Woonsocket, even though it is only 15 minutes from my house. Whether it is just out of the way, inconvenient, or god knows why, I had never been there. This felt rather wrong to me, so finally we made it up to the big city in the northeast corner of RI. Woonsocket was fine, but that's another story; we are here to talk about our dining destination, River Falls.

Not surprisingly, River Falls is located on the river and is right next to a waterfall (in one of the many, many old mill buildings that line the towns between Providence and Woonsocket). The whole restaurant is very tastefully decorated and laid out, with oversized soft chairs, appealing lines and dark wood, and what must be a great view over the river during the day. The front room when you enter is a square bar with 20-25 seats, 3 TVs and a few tables near the bar. A staircase up to a second dining level (where a band was setting up) transparently separates the bar area and the dining room.

The wine, beer, and cocktail list was of a healthy if predictable diversity (although they did have an offering from the local Wachusett Brewing Company as one of their 9 draft options). The menu is also standard, if quite large. From burgers, to grilled pizzas, to fried seafood, steaks, salads, and buffalo wings, most Rhode Islanders will feel right at home at River Falls.

What is unique about dining at River Falls is that everything is a bit classier, cleaner, more stylish, and tastier than you might expect. Think a Chili's on steroids, or Chelo's about 3 notches nicer. This is made even better because the prices at River Falls are just about the same as those mass-produced relatives.

We began our meal with the heart attack-inducing River Falls Combo Appetizer ($10.99 for fried potato chunks with steak, bacon, and cheddar chunks, buffalo wings (with actual breast meat!), and coconut shrimp). We calmed our pulses a bit with a caesar salad (not fancy, but fresh and tasty) and then finished up with a fried haddock sandwich. Again, the fish in the sandwich was substantial and well-prepared, and could have been far greasier. Not exactly a light meal, but it was remarkably enjoyable and at a good price.

Conclusion
River Falls is a well done American bar and restaurant. It is attractive, tasty, and well-priced, certainly worth checking out.


Caesar Salad on Foodista
River Falls on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Minh Hai (34 of 50)

Restaurant: Minh Hai
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Price: Fairly cheap
Score: 34
Would I eat there again? Yes

Let it be known- I am a sucker for Asian cuisine. Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Malaysian... I love it. The vibrancy, range of ingredients, and bold flavors light up my taste buds and make me smile.

Minh Hai is a small Vietnamese restaurant on Park Avenue in Cranston that packs a pretty great punch. My last review (Tina's) talked about how great it was to have the namesake/owners present and involved in the dining experience, and once again we were waited on and served by the owners! The personal attention and care that most owners put into their service and restaurant cannot be beat. In fact- if you look at failed restaurants, the point where things start going south is often tied to when the owners step away from the business. It takes passion to survive in the food service industry. If you rely on employees to provide all the energy, your days are probably pretty limited.

Service was very friendly and polite, if a bit slow. We were one of only four parties, but with what a total of 3 staff to wait, bus, and cook you have to be a little patient. The wait was aided by the drinks policy, which is both BYOB and has a basic in-house wine and beer list. We took advantage of a dinner special they are currently running- $20.09 for two entrees and an appetizer (available Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday lunch). Most entrees run about $10, so this gets you a free appetizer (we chose excellent and attractive shrimp rolls- Goi Coun) (B on the menu). Decor is simple and the lighting is a bit bright- pretty much par for the course.

We dined on tofu with eggplant and onions in a spicy plum sauce (#67 on the menu) and marinated pork with imperial rolls (think fried egg roll) over rice and salad (#26). The tofu was great- spicy, slightly sweet, with satisfying chunks of lightly sautéed onions. The pork was sliced very thin, marinated and then grilled, creating an amazingly tender and well-seasoned entree that went perfectly with the rice (providing body to the dish) and imperial rolls (indulgent fried pleasure). A small, simple salad cleared the palate, bringing a well-rounded completeness to the dish.

Conclusion:
Minh Hai serves excellent, authentic Vietnamese cuisine. You may not be pampered, but you will get great food prepared by folks who know what they are doing, and that is plenty for me!


Minh Hai on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tina's Jamaican Restaurant (34 of 50)

Cuisine: Jamaican
Price: Average
Score: 34
Would I eat there again? Most definitely

It is very rare to walk into a restaurant where the namesake of that restaurant not only greets you, but seats, waits, serves, cooks, and clears your table. And yet this was exactly what happened recently when we ate at Tina's Jamaican Restaurant on Atwells Avenue. Tina's is one of the most authentic and enjoyable Caribbean eateries at which I have had the pleasure of dining.

It doesn't try to be fancy. The lighting, tables, and decor are simple; and the staff is often just one or two people for the whole restaurant. This is a place to hang out with friends, chat with Tina, and get great home-cooked Jamaican food. Every Wednesday the entire dinner menu is just $9, and with dishes ranging from curry goat, jerk chicken, ox tail, and Mama Tina's special (red snapper in coconut milk)... this is pretty hard to pass up.

We started off with a glass of pineapple ginger beer (amazing) that was made in house. The jerk chicken was well-seasoned, while still managing to not be overly spicy or salty. Curried goat was incredibly tender (if you have eaten goat you know this is no simple task) and far less gamey than goat often is. Both dishes were served with fried plantains, rice, and stewed vegetables (cabbage, butter, onions, and peppers). Portions are generous, service is friendly, and the food is good. Add in some good company and you have a wonderful evening at a very reasonable price.

Conclusion

For tasty, homemade, and authentic Jamaican cuisine, look no further than Tina's Jamaican Restaurant. The food is great, Tina is even better, and they serve Roti on Thursday - Saturday evenings. Not the fanciest or technically complicated food by any means, but a wonderful place to eat. Enjoy!
Tina's Jamaican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Haruki East (38 of 50)

Restaurant: Haruki East
Cuisine: Sushi
Price: Average
Score: 38
Would I eat there again: Yes

Haruki East is one of the most popular sushi restaurants in the state. It is tastefully decorated, well-staffed, and able to dependably turn out good Japanese cuisine. It has never blown me away, but considering the very reasonable prices (not much more expensive than say Tokyo) it is well worth visiting.

The Haruki group of restaurants has three locations- the original in Cranston, Haruki East in Wayland Square, and Haruki Express just off Thayer Street. Haruki East has a great curved sushi bar that seats ~15, as well as a front room with the ever popular TV/bar setup.

Service is polite if not effusive, waters are kept refilled, and they do have a fun sake list. We dined on an assortment of maki rolls (yellowtail and scallion were particularly tasty) and an udon soup with tempura shrimp and veggies served on the side. Everything was quite good, but a bit less seasoned than I normally prefer. Perhaps Haruki East is just trying to encourage us to appreciate the more subtle flavors in the dishes, which would be a nice change from the usual technique that restaurants take of hitting you over the head with salty, spicy, sweet, and my personal favorite taste, umami.

Conclusion:
All in all, Haruki East is a perfectly fine place to eat. Consistently well-prepared food combined with a thoughtful drink list, attractive decor, and a well-trained staff gives Haruki East a pretty high score. Certainly not my favorite, but a restaurant that will stay a part of my dependable eating-out rotation and one that I would certainly recommend to others.

Haruki East on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seven Moons (35 of 50)

Restaurant: Seven Moons
Cuisine: East Asian Fusion
Price: Average
Score: 35
Would I eat there again? Yes, occasionally

Seven Moons is the second highest rated restaurant on Urbanspoon Providence.  For a young eatery (less than 2 years), this is quite impressive, and given the deserved reputation of most of the other top ranked restaurants, I felt a need to check out Seven Moons.  
My opinion? Seven Moons is your standard east asian restaurant, backed by some very savvy business folk/restauranteurs.  Many eateries are started because someone loves cooking, or just really wants to own their own shop, or thinks it would be fun.  Some of these succeed and become huge hits (normally those from the first group), but most of them fail.  It seems Seven Moons was started by people that wanted to make money, and make lots of it.  

Seven Moons caters almost ridiculously well to what Rhode Islanders love in a restaurant. It has a huge parking lot, many different seating areas to chose from (all brightly lit), at least 2 bars and 3 TV's, and a gigantic menu.  Variety is the name of the game- with a chapter book menu spanning almost every standard asian dish I can think of.  Sushi, bento boxes, pad thai, noodles, soups, house specials, combo plates, family size options- they have it all.  

Service is polite yet brusque, as if they are always about 2 minutes behind a deadline (given their popularity perhaps they are).  They offer a seating area with traditional low tables that you would normally sit at on cushions cross-legged, yet oddly they cut out the platform under the table, so you actually end up sitting just like you normally would.

The food is pretty good.  We got the Seven Moons antipasto (think a pu pu platter on steroids, minus the fun fire) that included nime chow, shrimp, satay, noodles, chicken wings, crab rangoon and a couple other things for $20.  It was fairly intensive on the fried, but not too greasy, quite flavorful and complemented by five sauces (there's that variety again!).  Tom Yam soup was a bit dull but perfectly acceptable and a generous serving at 24 ounces (also available in 48 and 64 ounce sizes!). 

Conclusion
Seven Moons seems to be wildly successful, and I don't see that changing any time soon.  It wants to serve tons of people pretty decent, standard asian food and it meets that goal perfectly.  It will never be the artisan, unique restaurant that I love and search for, but it does what it wants to do very, very well.

Seven Moons on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rosinha's (34 of 50)

Restaurant: Rosinha's
Cuisine: Portuguese/Cape Verdean
Price: Average/slightly expensive
Score:34
Would I eat there again? Yes

NOTE: Rosinha's has only been open a couple weeks at this point, so any reviews should be taken with a grain of salt- service and food is probably still in a state of high flux.

The Hope Artiste Village is only in its third year since it started transforming what used to be known as the Hope Webbing mill, and has already grown into the home of quite an impressive array of businesses. Seven Stars Bakery, New Harvest Coffee, The Blackstone, and countless retail and office spaces have made their home in the huge red brick building on Main Street in Pawtucket. The most recent addition is Rosinha's restaurant, featuring a huge dining room that can accommodate both regular restaurant dining and large functions (supposedly up to 200 people). The cuisine claims Portuguese and Cape Verdean roots, a combination that I cannot claim great knowledge of- but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Located right next to The Blackstone, Rosinha's is a single, huge room with high ceilings. Well positioned drapes and colors give the space a cozy feeling, despite the open enormity of the room. The entire dinner was very enjoyable if somewhat rough. Truly fantastic portuguese olives were served as appetizers next to very dull bread with pre-packed pads of butter. We had a perfectly enjoyable bottle of vino verde (for only $14!!) but it was served at room temp much to the detriment of the first glass (an ice bath was provided which helped out the second half of the bottle). The menu was broken into appetizers, meat, and seafood. Vegetarians might have a bit of a hard time here, but that was not a concern for us. We had a seafood stew that included shrimp, scallops, littleneck clams, mussels, and an entire half lobster for ~$16, and the steak Rosinha (steak covered in a rich sauce with a fried egg on top) (~$17). Both were excellent if a bit on the salty side. There is definitely a chef who knows what he/she is doing in the kitchen.

Service was wonderful and attentive. Water glasses were kept full, extra olives were brought out (did I mention how great they are!), and people were friendly.

Conclusion
Rosinha's is doing a great job for being in their first month of service, and brings some unique flavors and tastes to the Providence food scene. While things could change drastically in the coming months, I would give a hearty recommendation for people to check them out.

Rosinha's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Loie Fuller's (33 of 50)

Restaurant: Loie Fuller's
Cuisine: French/American
Price: somewhat expensive
Score: 33
Would I eat there again: NO

Loie Fuller's is one of the best decorated restaurants in Providence. It is very nicely lit with tile mosaics on the floor, stylish paintings and beautifully detailed woodwork. They also have a good drinks list with some excellent beers on tap (La Chouffe) and a decent wine list. If the review could end right here- we would have an amazing restaurant!

Unfortunately the food (and to some extent the service) was lacking. Our server was kind and helpful, but the front of house team seemed either understaffed (unlikely given how slow the restaurant was) or rather indifferent. Not the deliberate abuse a al Julian's, but more of a general malaise- a restaurant on a long, slow slide downwards.

The food seemed to be affected by a similar apathy. There are clearly good ingredients used, and the menu reads well, but the overall architecture of the dishes falls short. Scallion and Pistachio Ravioli ($13 for 6 average size ravioli- and nothing else) had a delicious center, but the pasta was very sad. Either dried out or freezer-burned, it tasted as if the moisture had been driven from the dough, leaving a hard tacky shell. Braised wild boar($18) with roasted squash was tasty, but a tad plain. The best food we got was actually combining the two dishes- ravioli with braised boar on top was quite excellent! Everything was thoroughly doused in butter, which helped with the taste if not the impression of an artfully crafted meal.

Perhaps my expections were set to high- but when I see a gorgeous room with good drinks and good looking menu (and relatively small portions for the price) I somehow expect greatness. That was lacking.

Conclusion:
The decor is impressive and very well thought out. Unfortunately the night we visited the food was not of the same caliber. There was great potential in the dishes- but the balance was just not there. For a similar experience (but better food), I would have to recommend Julians or La Laiterie.
Loie Fuller's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bob and Timmy's Grilled Pizza's (36 of 50)

Restaurant: Bob and Timmy's Grilled Pizza's
Cuisine: Grilled pizzas
Price: Average
Score: 36
Will I eat there again: YES!
Grilled pizza's and Providence go hand in hand. Local legend has it that the grilled pizza was invented at Al Forno, and while it may certainly have been brought into the mainstream there- I imagine that cavemen have been grilling dough over their fires for quite some time...
Regardless, there are a bunch of eateries that serve a mean thin-crust grilled pizza here in RI. I had heard of Bob and Timmy's for quite some time, but never fully figured out where it was. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology (iphone + urbanspoon), we were able to brave the wilds of federal hill and made it safely to 32 Spruce Street.
Not only do they have beer and wine and cocktails to go with their grilled pizza's, but they also make some mean wings. Certainly not the hottest, but they had a great sauce on them, using the magical combination of vinegar and hot pepper (one of my favorite flavor combos) lightly tempered with sweetness to achieve a truly tasty wing (And for $10 they had better be good wings)!
Sam Adam's winter lager and our memorable wings were followed by a grilled pizza margarita. There are many interesting pizza options available, but as devotees of the pizza margarita we thought that it was important to start out with the classic tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. The dough was great- super thin crust, almost like a naan, but still a pizza crust. The only part we found lacking was the fresh tomatoes- which given that it is January may well be understandable if not delicious. One of the best parts of the pizza was that it stayed hot for a remarkably long time, mostly due to a well heated serving pan I imagine.
Service was very friendly, and it was clear that many of the customers dining that night were long time regulars well acquainted with the waitstaff (always a good sign). Not the best grilled pizza (Al Forno and Bacaro top it fairly easily) in town, but at just over half the price for a larger pie, a much more affordable one!
Conclusion
Not the easiest place to find, but well worth the effort. Great wings and a great crust with good toppings make Bob and Timmy's Grilled Pizza's a restaurant well worth visiting.
Bob and Timmy's Grilled Pizza on Urbanspoon