Last night I got together with my friend Mary Alice. We decided to take advantage of the second week of Restaurant Week in Providence and hit up a well known establishment, Cafe Nuovo. I had never been, but my family and friends are always raving about it so I was eager to go.
Mary Alice and I were both a few minutes early for our 7 o’clock reservations, so we met up at the bar. When I arrived, Mary Alice was already enjoying a glass of California Pinot Noir. I sat down, ordered the same and we enjoyed a glass of wine at the bar while we waited for our table. We ended up being seated a bit past 7:30 which we were both fine with since we were enjoying an unusually good glass of wine and important conversation. Mary Alice is my oldest friend (who is not related to me) as we first met in nursery school at the age of 3. It had been at least a couple of months since our last meal together, so there was a lot to discuss.
Once we were seated we quickly reviewed the Restaurant Week menu. Being a foodie (or finicky as some might label me) I had been studying the menu for a few days (or maybe a week) leading up to the dinner. So I was already fairly certain what I would be having.
We both ordered the calamari and shrimp appetizer. I must admit that the description on the restaurant week menu was a bit lacking. For some reason I thought that the seafood would be sautéed. No such luck. The shrimp and the calamari were fried. I was slightly disappointed, but I did enjoy the balsamic shallot jam, sriracha tartar and the tomato, cherry, and pepper relish that accompanied the seafood. I will say that the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and I wish I had a better balance of shrimp to calamari (my plate was filled mostly with calamari – which I could not come close to eating all of). I think it would have been a better appetizer if it was prepared differently, but I think most people might like having their seafood fried.
My entrée was a different story. I loved it. I almost ate every bite, and I was so happy with my decision on what to order after thinking so long about it. I decided on the Risotto with Scallops.
I was curious to see how the scallops would be prepared, and I was slightly nervous that they would be undercooked. I was pleased to see a perfect sear on the scallops as they were presented at the table. The scallops were cooked flawlessly. The risotto had a wonderful consistency (as a person who often prepares risotto, I know it can sometimes be a challenge so I appreciated the quality) and the seasoning on both aspects of dinner were lovely. The lemon flavor was not overpowering, and I think I detected chives – a wonderful combination.
I was very happy as I enjoyed my second course:
Mary Alice also had a wonderful dinner. She ordered the Risotto with beef tenderloin tips.
Her risotto was very different, and more complex – it had wild mushrooms, peas, a generous mixture of gorgonzola and the beef came with a dijon demi glaze. We were both surprised by how tender and well prepared the beef was. (We also both agreed that all too often during Restaurant Weeks the meat choices can be sub-par at best – we were pleasantly surprised tonight that both of our main courses were so perfect.) We both agreed that my risotto was a more traditional consistency, but both mixtures tasted very good and we liked both entrées.
For dessert, I ordered one of my favorites, crème brûlée:
I am not sure what is better than Madagascar vanilla bean, especially when it comes to crème brûlée, and I was happy to see that the vanilla bean was visible on my dessert and the flavor was lovely. The fresh fruit was a nice touch and it managed to balance out the richness of the dessert a bit (which was much appreciated on my part!) It was wonderful and I ate every bite.
Mary Alice ordered the chocolate cake composed of a bittersweet chocolate mouse. She thought it was very good…
All in all, Cafe Nuovo had a wonderful menu for Restaurant Week, and I am looking forward to a return trip to try other choices on their full menu. It was a lovely three hour dinner with great food, a wonderful friend and a lively atmosphere.