Saturday, August 25, 2007

REVIEW: CAV- ****1/2 / $$$

I fell in love with CAV. The dining area is large, with plenty of seating, so waits are usually short, if at all. The dining area is decorated like Charles Foster Kane's dreams, with loads of antiques, and pieces of art from the four corners of the globe.

While lunch is a treat, and a really good deal, nighttime meals are the star. During the summer, you can sit outside in the small courtyard that houses Jerry's Art Supply and Framing. The small area exudes a quiet Bohemia that isn't nearly as pretentious as Thayer Street. As such, the clientèle isn't as young and trendy as many of the places in Providence. Instead, it's replaced by a well lived, older group in their 30's-50's. If you didn't know, this is a good thing. The random waves of 20-somethings that ramble around Thayer street and the surrounding area are thankfully far away. Probably attracted by the nearby Club Ultra and Snookers.

If you choose to sit inside, you're treated to a dining area that literally glitters. Small lights and candles illuminate the area and all its artistic wonders. It can only be described as ethereal. The staff is young, but not too young, and boy howdy are they friendly and attentive. It can get hairy, strangely, when large groups of people show up out of nowhere. I've experienced this three times, and the staff then gets overloaded. I can only assume it's commonly uncommon... or something.

Their appetizers are impressive. The Pizza St. Donato is a personal favorite. The gorgonzola isn't overpowering, which is always nice to taste. Their crab cakes and bruschetta are delicious, but the crab cake is a bit pricey at $13. It's more than made up for with the prices on the entrees. CAV's entrees are some of the strongest in Providence. The delectably sweet and savory Poulet aux Poires (chicken with pears) and Shrimp Scampy in vodka butter sauce are really fantastic. And for what CAV is, the prices are very reasonable. The available prix fixe menu is a good deal at $17, but underwhelming, and appears to be aimed at bargain gourmets who like their food good and bland. All sections in account, the menu is rather limited. I would like to see more specials and all-around more spontaneity coming out of the kitchen. The wild and crazy nature of the restaurant cries out for random amuses-bouche to be served.

Their dessert offerings are not as good as their dinner and lunch offerings, but that's barely a complaint. They change frequently enough and include things like the mind-blowing chocolate cake/tort/thing, served with house-made meringues, and an interesting coconut sorbet served in the coconut shell. Try their biscotti. I don't think it's made there, but it's some of the best I've had. I really need to find out where they get it.

CAV also offers a Sunday Brunch that's kinda' blah. Sunday brunch is supposed to be a buffet or some other interpretation of the "eat till you puke" ethos. The food is well-priced and very, very tasty, but it's still just breakfast. They don't answer the ever-important question "why here?" Why should I go to CAV instead of, say, Bickford's, where it's breakfast anytime? I guess the aforementioned lack of youthful morons and the always pleasurable atmosphere somewhat answer that question, but not totally. CAV's brilliance just doesn't carry over to breakfast.

Still, CAV would need a far greater transgression than bland breakfast to dull their grand lunch and dinner. It is a wonder of Providence and all of New England. Restaurants in New York that charge twice the price don't offer as much. CAV is, without doubt, one of the best.

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