The Providence dining scene is moving along nicely. There are several new restaurants opening, the details of which I keep myself posted on through websites such as Chowhound and the forums on Urban Planet. Within the past week, there has been serious buzz about a new restaurant on the West Side, and my attention was peaked immediately by two things I saw on Urban Planet about it: 1. They have La Chouffe on tap. 2. The simple comment "Oh. My. God." A "foodie" was stunned into almost silence by this restaurant! That never happens! I must try it! I had to be in with the up-and-coming and got myself to this new restaurant as soon as I could.
The restaurant is called Loie Fuller's and is owned by the same man, Mike, who owns Lili Marlene's bar on Atwells Avenue (a place I have not yet checked out, but must, by its description on the RI Monthly website as a "Film Noir Fantasy Bar"). Andy and I trekked out to Westminster Street, and tracked down Loie Fuller's by looking for the simple "LF" on the door.
Before we could even look at the menu, we had to marvel at the decor. The attention to detail is remarkable. In fact, it took Mike 2.5 years to complete Loie Fuller's. Hand painted walls, intricate hand carved wood work, colorful mosaics covering the floors, antiquated wall-mounted lamps (all this detail is applied to the bathrooms as well). It is really quite enchanting. We were seated at around 6:45, so it was still light out. But as it turned dark the space (which seats about 40- not including the bar) became that much more romantic and intimate. Even the paper menu has the theme dancing off its pages: a dancing Loie Fuller, antique french-style font, the "LF" emblem on the back.
After our discussion of the decor, it was time to get what I came here for: La Chouffe on tap:
And while I sipped this most incredible of beers (light, refreshing, with a hint of sweetness- and a very high alcohol content of 8%), I perused the mouth-watering menu. The offerings match the detail of the decor. They are unusual, sensuous, and inspired by the best France has to offer: escargots, foie gras, champagne, tarragon, and truffles.
I started with the arugala salad with shaved truffle cheese and foie gras toast:
The greens were dressed with a fruit vinaigrette- I think a mixture of apples and cranberries. It was tart and sweet all at the same time and it complemented the peppery greens and salty, warm foie gras so perfectly that I chewed each bite very slowly so I could savor the different elements of this salad. I wish there had been more foie gras on my toast- but I lend that more to my greediness than a fault of this dish.
Andy had the pan seared sea scallops salad with bruleed grapefruit and mixed greens, drizzled with a honey and citrus vinaigrette:
This was quite a treat. Scallops were apparently made to go with grapefruit. The tartness of the fruit softened by the sea flavor of the shellfish and the textures that comprise both of these made for an incredible bite. The presentation was also surprising- we figured the grapefruit would be in wedges tossed with the greens. This was, again, a tribute to the detail of Loie Fuller's.
For my main, I had the green onion and pistachio ravioli in a brown butter and balsamic reduction:
This is the best pasta dish I have had in ages. The ravioli was cooked to my liking, the filling was limited- but rightfully so. The mixture of cheese and pistachios was so rich that any more filling would make this dish overwhelming. The sauce was the perfect compliment to the rich stuffing and I wanted to sop up the rest of it with the crusty French bread provided.
Andy had the bone in pork porter house in a carraway bourbon glaze with sauteed kale:
A huge piece of pork cooked to the best level of tenderness. The kale was actually a key element to this dish. Once again, it added textural background to the pork and its bitterness helped balance the sweet glaze.
For dessert, we shared the milk chocolate pot au creme:
At first, Andy was disappointed it was so small (a little bigger than an espresso cup). But after you taste it, you know why. It carries the richness of a chocolate milk shake, with the smoothness of a mousse. You don't need any more than this to satisfy even the greatest of sweet tooths.
We shook the owners hand on our way out and told him what a fantastic experience dinner had been. And as we walked out Andy said "If all restaurants aspired to this, you would never have to eat a dull meal again." Amen.
*note: After reading this review over, I noticed I said nothing about prices. I wanted to note that for all the richness in the food and the decor, the prices are very reasonable. Entrees are $8-15, Salads $5-8, the Pot au Creme $3.50. The only thing that gets pricey is alcohol- but isn't that the case everywhere?
1455 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02909