Friday, May 22, 2009

QUICKVIEW: Red Stripe- +++ / $$

Everytime I hear the word "Red Stripe" all I can think of is those bizarre ads where some Jamaican guy appears after some strange scene and yells "Hooray beer!" Red Stripe seems to have no problem with this association because a large poster with said Jamaican guy graces the entrances of the dining area.

Conceived as a cheaper alternative to Mill's Tavern (with both places owned by, of all things, Job Lot), Red Stripe manages to maintain some of the upmarket air of its more expensive brother. I thought the interior struck a good balance between a casual TGI-Friday's sort of ambiance, with nicely arranged dinner settings with tablecloths. The warm sourdough bread had a very strong flavor to it and was served with super-soft whipped butter. Very nice. They also left a large carafe of water on a small tray at the table so you could pour your own. That was a nice touch I wish more restaurants would employ.

I got the crab cakes for an appetizer and was impressed. They were crispy on both sides, and filled with very large chunks of good crab meat. As far as herbs and spices go, they were pretty middle of the road. Not spicy, but not mild. I enjoyed the healthy serving of aioli, but the sprouts weren't the best companion. I would have preferred something with more substance and crunch to it to counterbalance the softness of the cake.

For entrees my partner and I got the Red Stripe burger and Croque Madame. The CroMad is a Croque Monsieur with an egg over easy on top, bathed in a strong bernaise sauce and mustard. Kind of like a very large egg benedict. The ham was fresh and tender, no complaints. The bernaise and mustard went very well together. A rich, savory, not-too-strong flavor went very well with the sweetness of the ham, and the smokey Swiss-ness of the gruyere. The burger was a bit more whelming. It was HUGE, but nothing special. It was just a standard burger. They didn't add any special herbs or spices, but they also didn't mess up. And when they say fries, they means FRIES. I have never seen a pile of french fries so big. If you watched Super Size Me and agreed with Morgan Spurlock's assessment that the super-sized fries are overdoing it, you'll puke just looking at this mountain. At least the fries are very good. They are very thin and crispy, and flavorful. I've always preferred thinner, crispier fries to large steak-style. Considering the 1/8th scale Mount Fuji of fries, the burger is well-priced. Frankly, I'd prefer fewer fries and a lower price.

For dessert we ordered a slice of chocolate espresso cheesecake and the melting heart molten chocolate cake. We were pleased with both. The cheesecake had a subtle espresso flavor that didn't overpower the rest of the cake. It was mildly sweet with a deliciously thick crust that required a satisfying amount of pressure to break through. The chocolate layer on top was good, and the whole, chocolate-dipped raspberry on top was a nice touch. It wasn't anything amazing, but most places nowadays phone in dessert, with such default options as "chocolate cake," and "brownie sundae." This wasn't groundbreaking, but it was a least a nice spin. The Lily's Melting Heart was disappointing insofar as it wasn't molten chocolate cake. The key word is molten, and that kinda' leads you to believe there will be something, I dunno', molten? But no. It was basically two pieces of heart-shaped chocolate torte. Again, it was good, and I'm glad there was some inventive spin. The raspberry sorbet was a bit on the icy side, but had overall good texture, excellent flavor, and went very well with the warm torte.

Taken as a whole, I think Red Stripe succeeds. I enjoyed my meal, my dessert, and the ambiance of the dining area. The menu has a number of items I would enjoy, and as such, it's a pretty good bet that I'll be back.

Red Stripe: +++
Price Range: $$

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465 Angell Street
Providence, RI 02906

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91 Point Judith Road
Narragansett, RI 02882

Monday through Saturday
Lunch 11:30AM to 3:00PM
Late Lunch 3:00PM to 5:00PM
Dinner 5:00PM to 10:00PM

Brunch 10:00AM to 3:00PM
Late Lunch 3:00PM to 4:00PM
Dinner 4:00PM to 10:00PM

Bar open late nightly

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