Saturday, July 12, 2008

QUICKVIEW: Pot Au Feu Bistro- +++ / $$$

One of Providence's old guards, Pot Au Feu is famous for being one of the only two places at which Julia Child would eat, the other being Al Forno.

She always said she liked Pot Au Feu because she couldn't find a traditional French bistro up in Boston. Obviously, there was tons of French cuisine, but the bistro is a unique experience. It's not intended to be fancy, nor is it intended to be terribly expensive. The bistro is like a nice, French version of TGI Fridays.

Pot Au Feu's bistro fits the bill, even though it's on the pricey side. The atmosphere is cozy, warm, romantically lit, and pretty loud when it gets packed. Part of the kitchen is on full display so you can stare at the chef and make him feel uncomfortable. An entire wall is lined with opened bottles of wines dating back to the 1970's. White Christmas lights are scattered throughout, and the complex mix of textures, colors, and lights creates a very dynamic and pleasing dining area.

For appetizers, we got the onion soup which was, I guess expectedly, some of the better soups I've had. Loads of cheese, a large crouton, and ultra-soft and sweet onions that were cooked long enough. A mild beef flavor, the soup was primarily onion. Even though I like my soup with more body and heartiness in flavor, the lighter broth was excellent. The lobster bisque was creamy, with a deep lobster flavor, but I like it when restaurants serve their bisque with a smattering of something in the center, be it crackers or bread, to mix up the textures. The salads were salads.

For dinner, we had the stuffed chicken, with cranberries, croissant, and peaches, which was delectable. It was tender, sweet, and perfectly prepared. The Coquilles St. Jacques was, again, perfectly prepared. Scallops weren't the biggest, but they were very tender and flavorful. The Tournedos Bearnaise were perfectly cooked, leaning towards the rare side of medium rare, AS THEY SHOULD, with a mild, too mild in my opinion, Bearnaise sauce. The Crepes Du Jour had chicken, tomato, and bordelaise sauce. Very well prepared, but the filling was missing something. It needed a binder of some sort, like a mild cheese.

For desserts, the vanilla mousse with caramelized pecans was too mild. It was exceptionally light and airy, very well made, but the vanilla flavor was light bordering on non-existent. Also, the pecans were too gummy to really offset the creamy texture of the mousse. If they had included granola, or replaced the pecans with almonds, I think it would have worked better. The creme brulee was excellent. It was easily some of the best in Rhode Island. It differentiated itself by being served warm. Most creme... cremes brulee?... are served with the custard chilled except for the freshly brulled sugar on top. This was less solidified, creamier, and warm. It went well with the rich vanilla flavor. The pot of chocolate was utterly decadent. The chocolate flavor was so strong and so dark it was a little overpowering. It bordered on a savory dessert. I liked it a lot. Super-dark chocolate goes well with sour-sweet fruit, and I think a raspberry reduction or coulis would have gone well. Still, it was rich, dark, and oh so good.

After much procrastination, I'm glad I finally made it to one of Rhode Island's gems. I wish I had gone sooner and will definitely go back.

Sorry for the lack of photos. The dining area was dark and my poor little camera just couldn't handle the low light.

Also, this review applies ONLY to the bistro, not the Salon.

Pot Au Feu: +++
Price range for two: $35-$75

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Bistro Lunch:
Monday through Friday 11:30am to 2:00pm
Bistro Dinner:
Monday through Thursday 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30 to 10:00pm

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