Avenue N American Kitchen

David’s Review

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.

AJ’s Restaurant

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Scott’s Review–

I am going to be honest with you. I recommended that the RhodeCrew should review this place. It just goes to show you how a “find” can be right under your nose, and if you’re not one to try restaurants off the beaten path, treasures like AJ’s can be missed. I think one of the reason’s I hesitated for so long in stopping by AJ’s was its location. It is kind of in an area where many vacant store fronts currently reside – the patch of Main Street between the “strip” in downtown West Warwick and Route 117.

Freshly baked muffins! Freshly baked “anything” for that matter, has me at first bite. Once you walk into AJ’s for breakfast, you will feel like you are at the epicenter for breakfast in West Warwick. Recently I have been attracted by anything pistachio. When I learned of their pistachio muffins, I went nuts. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly baked & then grilled muffin in the morning…it tastes like….victory??

Anyway, here is what gets my orange juices flowing in the morning….grilled, I repeat, GRILLED home fries. If I walk into a breakfast joint and their home fries are deep fried, it’s a deal killer. The grilled home fry is a work of art and in certain areas in the country, they are about to be added to the endangered species list. This is why I love those Jersey diners…you never know what kind of grilled home fry concoction you’ll be served –but it will be good and grilled. AJ’s does a great job of preserving the art of the home fry. Slap on some ketchup and if that is all I eat for breakfast, I am content. Doing the low-carb thing? Great, hand over your home fries and enjoy your plain egg whites!

Lately, I have been real picky about my omelet’s color. I prefer my omelets yellow as in “scrambled egg” yellow. I don’t like it when an omelet shows up on my plate like it didn’t put on any sunscreen after a hot sunny day at Scarborough Beach. I requested my omelet “yellow” and it showed up yellow.

Poached eggs – here’s another deal killer. If you fork a poached egg whether it is Benedict or solo, there better be a lava flow of yolk immediately following. AJ’s has consistently nailed this often overlooked detail on poached eggs.

AJ’s employs the team approach in serving you. You may be initially served by one waitress but by the end of the meal, almost every waitress will have made it over to your table with one thing or the other. I will warn you…they will drown you in fresh brewed coffee. I ha d to eventually put the jelly tray on top of my coffee cup to let them know I didn’t need a refill after attempt #5!

David’s Review–

AJ’s Restaurant is an example of what every town needs…a local breakfast joint where the menu is as straightforward and unpretentious as its staff.  I had a feeling this might be a special place when I first walked into a busy AJ’s for breakfast one morning and could tell that the only person who had not been there before was me!  If this revelation should ever strike you upon entering a new restaurant, do not fear the unknown, but embrace the journey for which you are about to embark.

The standout menu items were the freshly baked selections from within the glass case at the counter.  Scott was right on the money about the muffins. We had pistachio, corn and blueberry which were all hot, moist, light and excellent. Believe me, corn muffins are easy to make badly, and if you happen to violate the golden rule of serving bakery the same day, corn muffins can be a downright danger if they get lodged in your throat without proper ventilation and irrigation.

In addition to the muffin appetizer was my order of eggs Benedict.  Getting poached eggs cooked properly is a challenge for even the best restaurants, and always a gamble to order when dining with others because if the yolks are served hard-cooked, your friends will be done eating by the time the kitchen has rectified the order.  Well, fear not fellow diners, AJ’s served perfectly cooked poached eggs! The Hollandaise sauce could have used a bit more lemon and seasoning but was still buttery and good.  The potatoes were grilled perfectly, but also could have used some salt, pepper and onion.

My experience at AJ’s was a good one and I’m thrilled to have found a new breakfast place worth revisiting. I think we all need a place where “everybody knows our name.”

AJ’s Restaurant 1365 Main Street West Warwick, RI 02893 (401) 828-4160

Pho Paradise

Originally uploaded by forkintherhode

Dave’s Review–

Often written Pho and pronounced “fuh,” this Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup can be “the” key dish that unlocks your door to the wonderful world of Vietnamese cuisine! That being said, welcome to Pho Paradise!

We were graciously welcomed in by Pho’s very proud and hospitable owner Trinh.  She patiently walked us through the extensive menu and offered several recommendations, but we couldn’t resist immediately ordering a giant bowl of the piping hot Pho Paradise. This powerhouse noodle soup comes in three sizes (S – $6.50, L – $7.50 and XL – $8.50) and there was no way that saving two bucks on a small was of any interest to me!  The XL Pho Paradise bowl is filled with thinly sliced beef eye round, brisket, flank, tendon and tripe.  Additionally, the soup is served with a side of basil, lime, bean sprouts and hot peppers for adding.  Each table is properly outfitted with chopsticks, soup spoon ladles, and two primary condiment sauces; Sriracha (chile) and Hoisin (plum).  The real standout in their namesake signature soup is the complex broth. What a clear winner!

We are lucky to have a neighborhood Pho Paradise in little Rhody! I assure you, Trinh may have not known we were coming, but she’s sure we’ll be back!

Scott’s Review–

Number 26. That’s it. That’s all you have to know when you show up for the first time at Pho Paradise. This is their signature pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) that has all the ingredients that Dave mentioned above in his review.

synergism: syn·er·gism: \’si-ner-ji-zem\ Function: noun \ Definition: interaction of discrete elements (elements=ingredients?) such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

There is a definite “synergism” going on here within this soup. This is why I like Pho so much. With traditional soups, many of the ingredients are in it from the get go. Many simmer long hours to create the final soup. Aside from the complex tasting broth, all the ingredients in pho – different types of beef, rice noodles, the sides of bean sprouts, basil, chili peppers, squeeze of lime, etc., are all combined at the last-minute before it is eaten. This insures an extremely fresh, crisp, pho experience. I swear, every time I finish a bowl of pho I am in a pho drunk funk! I can’t describe it, but I immediately want to get into a Snuggie and hit the couch.

337 Broad Street, Providence, 401-369-7985. Open Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. BYOB. All major credit cards accepted. Parking lot.