Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review: Chez Pascal

Chez Pascal
960 Hope Street, Providence, RI
401-421-4422 (reservations recommended)

Chez Pascal is owned and operated by Matthew (chef) and Kristin (front of house) Gennuso. I was really excited to eat here for several reasons: the chef's focus on fresh and local ingredients (the menu changes weekly), the house-made charcuterie, and the fact that Chez Pascal also runs a hot dog cart during the day (not everyone wants diver scallops, y'know?). We never made it to the hot dog cart, but we really liked dinner.

Our first courses were a soup and a salad. Our salad was a local heirloom tomato salad with a corn flan. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe and a nice assortment of varieties was presented. The flan was served cool and really let the corn's flavor shine. I was surprised by the cool temp at first but it was a nice change. We had a Gratineed Onion Soup (think French Onion Soup) that was, without a doubt, the best version of that soup I have ever eaten. It was rich and beefy and cheesy and oniony, and surprisingly, perfect for a slightly cool summer evening.

For mains, we had a scallop dish and a knockwurst special. The large (U-10) scallops were seared and served with a tomato relish. The crispy potato cake was really interesting (and good). The potato was sliced thinly and compressed into a cake. The cake was then sliced and sauteed on the cut edge (on its "side"). It made for a nice contrast between crisp and roasted potato flavor and texture. This is a technique I am going to recreate at home.

The knockwurst was actually an appetizer special. We had eaten so much, that I knew an appetizer would be plenty. The knockwurst was a grilled half link served over cranberry beans. The sausage was seasoned well: not too salty, with good spicing. The grilling gave it a slighty smoky edge. The beans were perfect: cooked to a melting consistency, but not mushy. (If you haven't guessed yet, I do not like al dente beans (they are underdone in my book) . But it can hard to get beans to that right point of tenderness without them falling into mushy territory. Providence seems to be a city of excellent bean-cookers.)

We finished up our meal with a selection of cheeses from Farmstead. We had fresh ricotta with berries, a triple creme with a blueberry compote and a cheddar-like (forgot to write down these names) cheese from Neals Yard Dairy which was served with a tomato relish with mustard seeds (like a mostarda of tomatoes).

We spent $120 (before tip) for two cocktails, two glasses of wine, three starters, an entree and the cheeses. It's worth noting that Chez Pascal offers a very reasonable prix-fixe menu Tuesday through Thursday and a vegetarian tasting menu ($30!) all week long.

Our server was very friendly and every one there, both the waitstaff and the customers, seemed very cheerful. The room was cozy with tables close (but not too close) together. There were a few large groups and a lot of couples.

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