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.


King’s Garden 點心

David’s Review

Well the big secret is out; I’m still in love with Asian cuisine. I’m drawn to it like “white on glutinous rice.” To be more specific, Dim Sum is the elusive meal that remains enigmatic for most locals, and if you’ve not found your way to King’s Garden in Cranston for this experience yet,   grab some non-Asian friends and go because your Asian friends are already there!

Congee is a warm thick rice porridge or soup that is served in many Asian cultures primarily for breakfast, but can be substituted for just about any meal because of the variety of proteins that can be added (i.e. chicken, pork, beef and fish). Anyone who likes oatmeal, cream of wheat or rice cereal would equally appreciate Congee. This Asian comfort food is simple tasting yet terrifically satisfying and an absolute must at King’s Garden because it arrives at the table bubbling in a baked crock, and is the creamiest and most flavorful Congee I’ve ever had.

The Dim Sum menu is extensive and allows diners to check off those small plate dishes (and quantity) he/she desires.  So, in addition to Congee, the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings were fresh, flavorful and perfectly prepared using the delicate dumpling skin that turns translucent when done.  The Steamed Minced Meat Ball reminded me more of Shumai and was also tender, juicy and appetizing.  The Fried Shrimp Balls (3 golf ball sized) were perfectly crispy and non-greasy on the outside with a piping hot and tender shrimp center.  The Steamed Roast Pork Bun (2 per) was worthy of a second order because the freshness of the sweet hot bun coupled with the salty roast pork center was clearly the envy of all the other buns yet to be eaten!  The Chao Chow Dumpling was the stand-out winner during our meal. I really enjoyed trying something new which pairs interesting ingredients and textures together. The dumpling combined chopped taro root, watercress, peanuts, pork and cilantro. I shared a private moment in silence to respectfully honor the glorious “dumpling.”

My only regret is that I have but one stomach to give per meal and was not able to continue my journey down the King’s Garden menu any further. The silver lining to this cloud is that I will thankfully return in order to sample much more in the near future.

The King’s Garden may  be a new Fork in the Rhode for some, but I have a feeling that this place has been lovingly “forked” many times before me…..

King’s Garden 90 Rolfe Street Cranston, RI  401.467.8916

Los Andes

Dave’s Review

Peru may offer some of the most exciting cuisine in Latin America. The gastronomy claims its good fortune thanks to some significantly important factors: supportive climate conducive for flourishing vegetation, geographic location relative to the mountains and ocean, and the country’s willingness to meld contemporary cookery from a diverse immigrant influence of Spanish, African, Asian and European into their ancient Peruvian ones.

The staples of Peruvian and Bolivian (as well as much of South America) cuisine are corn, potatoes and beans. Although similar in staples, regional cuisine does vary from country to country and city to city because the preparation of ingredients, variations in spices, and cooking techniques are influenced by four continents of culture and 200 years of colonization.

La bienvenida a Los Andes Restaurante! Bolivian born, second-generation Brothers Cesin and Omar Curi are carrying on a family restaurant tradition in a delicious manner!

Ceviche! Cerviche! I liked it so intimately I had to write it twice. Los Andes packs a martini glass  with Tilapia, squid, shrimp, mussels in a citrus, cilantro, red onion, garlic marinade.  A fresh, flavorful and perfectly balanced appetizer well worth the trip alone.

On a more adventurous note, Cesin insisted we try a classic Peruvian and Bolivian street food – Anticucho de Corazon (small pieces of grilled skewered meat marinated in garlic, onion, cilantro chopped, vinegar, lemon juice – I believe) served over roasted potatoes with a creamy mint and goat cheese sauce. Classically, the meat is beef heart. In this case it was beef heart. Now before you fade away into obscurity, try to put this into perspective. The heart is a muscular organ that shares the  similar textures and mild taste of all the other muscles. If you think your beloved steak is not a muscle, think again.  Also, lets not be hypocritical regarding the foods we are willingly eat. For example, common hot dogs and/or lunch meat ingredients include meat by-products, fat, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite. Beef heart ingredient; beef heart. By the way, the Anticucho de Corazon was terrific.

An additional standout appetizer was the homemade Saltenas (Bolivian chicken pie) made from a sweet corn pastry dough and stuffed with chicken, peas, olives and potatoes.  Served with spicy pico – jalapenos and garlic relish. This flawlessly prepared baked “pot pie” is exciting enough to make you forget that you just ate beef heart!

As if the appetizer courses were not enough, Cesin brought out a sampling of all four Bolivian soups on the menu: Fricasé – pork and hominy in a spicy broth, Sopa de Mani – peanut soup with beef, Locro – Chicken, rice, plantains and/or potatoes, and Chairo –beef and barley with vegetables.  Although the broth in all samples was one-note in flavor, they were all bountiful and had a good taste.

Of course there were entrees; the pieza de resistencia!  The Pique a lo macho – steak and chorizo with tomato, onion and pepper in a spicy wine sauce served over thick cut french fries. This hearty dish was quite good. Including sautéed tomato was an excellent way to help cut the heaviness of this dish. The sauce was a bit over-salted, especially in light of using chorizo.

Parillada a Los Andes – ‘grilled’ meats – rib eye, beef short rib, chicken thigh, sausage, served with yucca, cheesy rice and ensalada rusa (potato salad) – diced potatoes, vegetables (peas and carrots), and red onion. This dish was brought out with a side table and a portable burner to keep warm. I’d be willing to bet that this could have fed a family of four! The meats were simply grilled and perfectly spiced.

The Pescado a lo macho (fried tilapia, shrimp, squid, mussels and clams in a beer based broth with tomato and a side of rice) was a clear favorite. The fish was fresh and flawlessly prepared. Regardless of where you dine, the freshness of the fish and the attention paid to properly cooking it should never be compromised.

Los Andes is a winner because the quality of the fish was superb, the Curi’s hospitality was sincere, and the prices were enviable.

Chris’s Review

Quite often, the places you wouldn’t hang after dark have some of the most authentic and unique food.  When Rhode Crew founding member David e-mailed me of our next review spot, I thought this would be an opportunity to head to a part of Providence that I would not normally frequent and savor some of the local grub.

Bolivian and Peruvian restaurant, Los Andes on Chalkstone Ave. would provide me with a meal fit for a Bolivian King.   We didn’t pretend to know anything about the cuisine choosing to utilize the friendly and knowledgeable staff to educate us on the menu and the different offerings.

As an avid TV viewer of all things food, one of my favorite TV takes is Food Networks’ “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” It is a show that highlights certain celebrity chefs’ favorite bites across this great land.  I recently experienced one of those moments at Los Andes.  Repeat after me “salteñas”!! I know it sounds like a Spanish term for a soup cracker, but it is something special and Los Andes restaurant is the purveyor of these gems.  A salteña is a Bolivian version of a chicken pot pie, but with a twist.  The dough is a cross between a corn muffin and a pie crust resulting in a sweetness that is a wonderful contrast to the spicy chicken filling. They were the first thing we tried and for $2 it took all my power not to order 6 of them for my meal and nothing else.  They only thing that kept me from following through was my desire to try other ethnic dishes and the fact that we ordered a tremendous amount of food.

The next offering was a sampling of all of the soups that Los Andes offers. I would order each one of them, but for the sake of time and space I would recommend the Fricase.  This soup contains slow cooked pork butt in a spicy broth with hominy.  It was delicious.  I was not in a seafood mood initially, but the Ceviche’ Martini quickly changed my thought process.  An exotic combination of seafood, citrus and cilantro, this refreshing appetizer and traditional South American staple was well represented here.  Following my sudden change of heart and newfound seafood craving, the entrée that I enjoyed the most was a dish called “Pescado a lo macho”.  This was a potpourri of seafood including fried tilapia, squid, mussels, and clam in a spiced beer and tomato broth was outstanding.  All I can say is don’t be intimidated by the location.  Broaden your horizons and palate by venturing out to Los Andes.

903 Chalkstone Ave Providence RI 02908 (401) 649-4911