Generally I do things out-of-order, but during this past week, I got it right! First, our party had a superb dining experience at Avenue N American Kitchen in Rumford, and then the following day, I read the restaurant’s review in the December issue of RI Monthly.
I was confused by the article’s contradictory headline and pictorial layout in contrast to the review itself. On the surface, the article appears to positively spotlight Avenue N, when in reality the writer takes multiple opportunities to suggest that if chef/owner Nick Rabar’s culinary reputation precedes him, his loyal following may be surprised that his new restaurant menu makes slight departures from the expected. Quite frankly, I wasn’t aware of Chef Rabar’s culinary resume, therefore placing our trusting palates in his hands was an exciting opportunity to try something new.
We arrived at Avenue N a bit early so we could sit at the bar and first have a cocktail. We met the very capable and personable bartender Kelly Adams. We couldn’t help being drawn in by the interesting Elixirs (Elixers) cocktail menu for $7.50 each. We ordered the Bourbon Hayride (Makers Mark, vanilla bean syrup, Domaine de Canton, fresh lemon, hard apple cider and a bourbon soaked cherry) and a Loft Collins (Tanqueray, house made grapefruit bitters, ginger syrup, citrus and tonic). This might have been the best $15.00 we’ve spent in a while. Kelly is both creative and passionate about the drinks she mixes. Like a chemist in a lab, she carefully watches over every ingredient including her homemade bitters – really, who makes their own bitters? You have to respect bartenders who will frequently poke a clean sample straw into the drink before serving it in order to ensure that the cocktail is perfect.
Our dinner started off with two well-prepared salads – Local Field Greens (Fuji apple, goat cheese, dried cranberries, almonds, and a honey – citrus vinaigrette) and a Roasted Beet & Arugula Salad (Belgian endive, Bartlett pear, candied pistachios, goat cheese and white balsamic). Texturally, the tenderness of the fresh greens, the crispness of the apple or pear, the crunch of the nuts and the tanginess of the goat cheese set the tone for the next noteworthy starter. The Butternut Squash Bisque may have been worth the trip alone! On a cold evening in January, we couldn’t have chosen more appropriately. A velvety-smooth, rich and flavorful squash bisque finished with a light walnut oil and garnished with delicately fried onion straws. This savory bisque may keep me returning to Avenue N throughout the entire squash season!
When we asked for menu recommendations, our waitress was quick to suggest the Braised Beef Short Rib or the Sugar Pumpkin Ravioli. Upon her recommendations, we ordered them both. In addition, we chose the New Bedford Cod and Cider Brined Pork Chop entrees.
The Braised Beef Short Rib is always a good choice because like a Veal Osso Buco, or any other tougher cut of meat with marbling, the flavor is developed through the braising process where moist slow cooking melts the fat, tenderizes the meat and allows it to fully absorb the cooking liquids. The results are generally fork tender goodness. This dish was served in a Cabernet reduction with horseradish mashed potatoes and haricot vert. It was expertly prepared and presented.
The impressive Sugar Pumpkin Ravioli entrée was served with Swiss chard, pine nuts, pearl onions, roasted tomatoes in a Pecorino Broth. Homemade pasta makes a significant difference in the overall quality of a dish because the texture and taste is noticeably more pleasing. The hints of nutmeg within the pumpkin filling really helped bring out the seasonal freshness of the dish.
The Cider Brined Pork Chop was an absolute winner. Brining is an excellent method for maintaining the moisture and flavor within pork. Served with a parsnip puree, dates, chopped bacon, chanterelle mushrooms in a sherry-rosemary jus, Chef Rabar’s efforts paid off with this enviable entrée.
Although I saved a clean fork, I did not poke it into the New Bedford Cod. It was served with beluga lentils, acorn squash, chourico, and wild arugula in dijon butter. Our friend reported that it was quite good.
Maybe ignorance is bliss, but without any preconceived expectations, we walked into Avenue N American Kitchen last weekend for dinner and were treated like welcomed guests in a warm atmosphere, where the food was perfectly prepared, creatively inspired and richly developed in flavor. It’s not for me to determine whether a chef’s culinary history is an indication of future performance, it’s only for me to determine whether my dining experience was memorable one!
Avenue N American Kitchen – 20 Newman Avenue Rumford, Rhode Island 401.270.2836
The price point at Avenue N for a couple ordering drinks, appetizers, entrees, coffee and desserts is approximately $85 -$ 100 including tip.