Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Savor Providence

This past Saturday was the Savor Providence promotion, organized by Trinity Rep and participated in by 26 of Providence's restaurants. Do you think the heavy rain all day kept me away? I think not! We only had two booklets between four people, so instead of ten places we tried five.

The booklets were $35 dollars each, and each booklet had 10 tickets. You can use said tickets for food at any of the locations and use as many tickets for as many servings at any one location you want.

I used this math as my baseline to determine if I was getting my money's worth. Now, the whole point of savor Providence is similar to Restaurant Week. Restaurants use the day as a promotional loss-leader to drum up interest. As such, I should be expecting MORE than $3.50 worth of food with each serving. If I didn't get that, and instead merely got $3.50 worth I won't lodge that against the business. I at least got my money's worth.

First stop!

Aspire: What a disappointment. The menu printout, while providing information on all of the other participants, Aspire's said "see restaurant." I can understand why. If they had known the cheap-ass crap Aspire was going to sell, they wouldn't have let them join.

You know how I used the $3.50 metric as a baseline? Maybe larger numbers would make more sense, if you got ten of these...

Or ten of these...

Would you feel that you had gotten $35 worth of food? It was a complete wash out. I assumed when grabbing the food from the buffet-like table, which was lorded over by some food-Nazi to make sure people didn't make off with a second helping of $0.25 food, that we got one of each with each ticket. Nope. We got one. One skewer or one pot sticker. And it wasn't even a pot sticker. It never saw a pot to which it could stick. It was deep-fried.

The presentation was shite. Simply thrown onto a dish with some green onions chopped up. Plates were shoveled out to a central table and you simply grabbed what you wanted. Service was non-existent. The food was adequate. The sesame chicken skewer was exactly that, and the pot sticker was overly salty, but otherwise alright. Still, for $3.50, a complete rip-off. If they hope to garner new business with this, they'll be sorely disappointed.


ENO and Farmstead: We went in and skipped them. The place was laid out attractively, and service was good, the wine being served was also very good, or so I heard, but we could see that amount of wine being served was small, and you didn't exactly get a bucket of cheese. We didn't really think it worth it. And after Aspire, we were more leery of using out tickets. Still, reports say the wine and cheese were good.


10 Prime Steak & Sushi: This place was what I was expecting. We got formal service and some waters. They used the opportunity to give us menus and see if they could make a full sale. The dishes were well-presented. It was obvious that, oh, I dunno', they gave a shit.

This little dish of steak on house-made potato chips was both inventive and delicious. The crisp potato chip went very well with the perfectly cooked, rare steak slices.

The California roll was just that, but it was well-made with fresh crab. And, importantly, they gave us three bits. A buck-seventeen per bit, not a bad price.


Bravo Brasserie: Bravo brought it on home with the best deal of the day. The service was just as good as 10 Prime, although I think they missed an opportunity to try and up-sell us on a full lunch.

The steak toast Bearnaise was a treat. Two pieces of crisp French bread toast, with a piece of steak and a scoop of Bearnaise slathered über alles. The steak was tender, but a bit overdone. It was still very flavorful. The thick and flavorful Bearnaise was an excellent complement. If a restaurant offered four of these for $6.99, that would be a good deal.

The pizza was a similar story. Very well-made. The dough was crisp outside, chewy inside. The topping was stretchy and moist, with flavorful mounds of spinach, roasted red peppers, and herbs. A good deal for $3.50.


Trinity Brew House: Again, everywhere had better service than Aspire, and this place was no exception. We were sat promptly and they used the chance to try and up-sell us on a full lunch, very good. The choices were a brownie sundae, an 8oz glass of beer, or lobster mac 'n cheese. I opted for the lobster mac (net, lobster has antennae, but don't you grab it!) and no one opted for the beer. After Bravo, the otherwise good offerings paled a bit. Trinity also suffered from its status as an overly loud sausage-fest. It was 12:30pm and there was already a cadre of loud men clamoring around the bar, yelling at each other and the television. It's barely noon! What do you think you are, German?

Considering the plebeian nature of M&C, I expected more for $3.50. But it was very well-presented, with a strong lobster flavor. Quite a few big chunks of lobster. So I guess it was a good deal. Even the small salad with balsamic vinegar was good.

The brownie sundae was good. The ice cream was nice and creamy, and the brownie was warm and dense. Chocolate flavor was good, obviously not a mix. It was worth right about $3.50, I think.


Cav: I've never been subtle with my love of Cav, and the day did nothing to dim my enthusiasm. They offered a goat cheese croquette (a small fried cheese ball) drizzled and a generous glass of wine. Unfortunately...

It wasn't very good. It's bouquet was incredibly fruity, but none of that made it to the palate. It was about as dry as I'd expect a Merlot, but very flat and bland. None of the silky body I'd expect from a good Merlot, instead my tongue was greeted with a wateriness. As an overall complement, the wine was serviceable, but it was overpowered by the fantastic goat cheese. But what Cav lacked in quality, they made up for in quantity.

The glasses were filled very high (the photo is after a few minutes of sipping). In many restaurants, this alone would be worth more than $3.50. If the wine had been better, I'd have called it in competition for the best deal of the day. But really, it didn't matter. It was all about the cheese. We had four tickets, but they brought us out a fifth ball to finish the display.

I love Cav's goat cheese croquettes. Delicately fried so they're not at all greasy. Like M&M's, they melt in your mouth and not in your hand. The chunky goat cheese is creamy, rich, savory and perfectly mated with the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. A perfect way to end the day.

Onwaa...uh. Oh. We're out of tickets.

Yep. This was it for us. We had run out of tickets and stayed at Cav for brunch. The french toast was a bit too sweet. It really needed something savory to counter to 100% maple syrup. But that's neither here nor there. The day was a success. The rainfall did nothing to dampen our spirits. The winner on our tour was definitely Bravo. Bravo to Bravo for giving us our money's worth combined with good service and atmosphere. Second goes to 10 Prime, which also combined good value with service. Cav would come up higher if only the wine had been better, but as it stands it must do battle with Trinity Rep for third place. Aspire was definitely the turkey of the evening. Every place we went, we chatted with other event-goers, and we heard the same story: Aspire sucked, Temple was great. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to try Temple, though it would have been nice. Frankly, I'm happy with what I got. There's no question that I'll return next year.

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