Eating Out in Providence, pt 1
September 4, 2008, 12:39 am
Filed under: Restaurant

I had a few noteworthy meals this past month that I forgot to write about. I’ve been reading up on the Providence food scene, and we’ve been checking out some of the popular places first.

1) CAV

CAV (pronounced “cahv” like the french word for cave) is mentioned in just about every article about places you should go in Providence. It’s tucked away in an almost deserted, quiet warehouse district. Inside, the place looked like the home of an old, wealthy person who sailed his way around the world and collected artifacts from various countries. Or like that store Bombay at the mall, except their artifacts are truly hundreds of years old, and you too can buy a 14th century Chinese bust for $12,000. No lie.

On weeknights, they have a “bistro menu” that includes a salad and a smaller portion of about 4 entree choices for only $17. I chose the bistro menu and my entree was rolled pasta stuffed with chicken, spinach, walnut, and herbed cheese mousse and cream sauce, then sprinkled with sun-dried tomatoes and garnished with a parmesan cheese cracker.  This smaller portion came with I think 3 or 4 of these canneloni-like rolls, and it was plenty. In fact, I didn’t even finish it. It was yummy and very rich. What a great value!

My date had Sesame-Crusted Tuna with a Wasabi Aioli, which also came with a cucumber & carrot maki, and pickled cucumber salad ($27). The tuna was served rare, but not rare enough for the way we prefer our tuna. Thumbs up nonetheless. The wasabi aioli was much milder than I expected. I want to slap some on a sandwich one day.

Dessert was Mascarpone Mousse, with shaved chocolate and amaretto cookie crumble ($6.95). And an Irish Coffee for me! My only complaint was the absence of whipped cream on the coffee.

2) Julian’s

Julian’s is known for a hip atmosphere and wild menu. Their online menu only partially reflects the amazing creations that were on the specials menu. I regret losing the slip of paper that I wrote my dinner descriptions on. I had a really hard time choosing what to have because everything on the (long) specials menu sounded awesome. Eventually, I went with Curry-Crusted Tofu with Sesame Sticky Rice Balls and Beet Carpaccio. (That’s beet, not beef) I think that this item was from the selection of Appetizers/Lighter Fare. The plating was really pretty: on a rectangular platter was a landing strip of thin slices of beet, then 5 little triangles of tofu, each triangle topped with a black sticky rice ball and a single leaf of arugula. I tried to take a picture but it was too dark. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this dish. The tofu was heavy on the curry spices but the rice balls were also very heavily spiced with Indian flavors. It just wasn’t for me.

Since I didn’t like my dinner, I had to get the dessert. A Chocolate Pound Cake with Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow and Caramel and Chocolate Sauces. The hot cake was crunchy on the outside, and oozy gooey on the inside. The marshmallow was the real star though! A giant homemade marshmallow rolled in toasted coconut was sitting on top. This experience redefined my notion of “marshmallow”! For the first few bites, I thought I had misunderstood and that this was marshmallow ice cream because it had a similar texture to ice cream without being cold. I liked it so much that when I later saw some fresh vanilla marshmallows at Whole Foods (for $5, ouch!) , I got them and we finished them in about 3 days. Now I’m thinking about making my own.

I don’t know why their website says that they are open “9 am – 5 pm”; that’s just silly. We were there around 9 or 10 pm on a weeknight, and we still had to wait for a table. Julian’s has an awesome selection of vegetarian food (way more than stir fries or pasta primavera!) and a really good beer menu. Brian had a Creme Brulee Stout that tasted like liquid candy. I could smell the caramel-iness from across the table. They are also known for their homemade ketchup. Even though I didn’t like my dinner, I definitely want to go back and try a bunch of the other things on the menu that sounded good.


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