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3 Davol Square
by Bob Mariani
When the sleek, sophisticated Hi-Hat opened last year in Davol Square, I was delighted that Providence finally had a truly first-rate jazz club with great sound and clear sight lines and a comfortable ambiance. I noted then that the menu, created by world-class chef Todd Lesakowski of Blue ginger fame, was probably better than it had to be. The quality of the musical groups they were bringing in would be reason enough to go there.
Well, the market for purist jazz being what it is, the Hi-Hat’s musical pallet has had to widen quite a bit to attract a much more eclectic audience. On any given night now, you can hear everything from R & B to Mo Town, to folk, funk, blues or jazz. But always of the highest caliber, whatever genre.
Gone too is the very distinctive cuisine that Chef Lesakowski had brought to the mix. It’s been replaced by a tasteful mixture of hot and cold tapas and a more modest list of pastas and entrées created by Chef Robert LaMoia from the Cranston eatery of the same name. The menu is executed by Chef David Bucci.
On the Tuesday night we went, it was "singles night" at the Hi-Hat. The very talented singers, Mac Odom and Chill, were setting up on the bandstand as we sampled some of Bucci’s work which included one-taste tapas style dishes like: marinated mushrooms cooked in a lemon and peppercorn brine ($6); creamy mozzarella slices accompanied by some surprisingly ripe tomatoes and basil; a grilled eggplant Caponata with sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions and oven-dried tomatoes ($7); a marinated snail salad ($9); a tangy seafood Chiviche of squid, scallops, shrimp and octopus ($10).
There was also some delicious fresh artisan bread from Olga’s just across the street accompanied by an olive tapenade.
For hot tapas we sampled some Boauerones (Portuguese-style smelts) ($8), which I found to be not quite as crispy as I’m used to; some Gambas Jamone, fire-roasted jumbo shrimp wrapped in Serrano ham ($12) and served with a nicely flavored couscous. The highlight though, was the Veal Relleno ($12), tender veal medallions rolled and stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth white asparagus, ripe black figs and fried caper berries in a light lemon- butter sauce. There are also brick oven pizzas for $10.
Mac Odom and Chill were up and swinging now doing amazing Steve Wonder and Marvin Gay covers and there were a few couples out on the dance floor. As the music played on, we perused the short list of entrées like jumbo lobster ravioli; chicken breast with almonds and caramelized cranberries; grilled pork loin in a pomegranate sauce; and baked stuffed shrimp. Jan ordered a marvelous dish of Pappardelle pasta in a spicy red sauce laced with bits of chicken, veal and sausage. A nice take on a classic.
I was a bit less thrilled with my beef tenderloin with a blue cheese crust. The steak was very tender and juicy but the cheese "crust" was more of a heavy-handed dusting at the last minute. The two ideas never really married. Entrée prices range from $16 to $18.
The dessert roster lists such sweet indulgences as "LaMoia’s award-winning" Fried Twinkies with crème englaise and melba sauce and whipped cream; a Banana Foster Martini with butter-scotch and whipped cream; and Double "O" Chocolate Cake with dark chocolate mousse and ganache.
To get the best of both worlds, we chose the Fried Combo Plate— three Oreo cookies and one Twinkie deep-fried and saturated with chocolate sauce and crème englaise and, of course whipped cream.
The Hi-Hat has had to adjust to accommodate a range of tastes not only in its musical presentations, but in its menu offerings, as well. I would imagine those adjustments will be an on-going thing as downtown Providence sprawls and actually encompasses this landmark old brick building, exposing it to a wider audience with more varied tastes. Meanwhile, it’s just a handsome, comfortable place to spend an evening listening to groups like Mac Odom and Chill, The Eastside Horns with John Allmark, the Greg Abate Quartet, or Diane Blue and the Explorers to name just a few of the upcoming artists. For more information visit theirwebsite or call 401-453-6500.
Bob Mariani is a Southeastern New England freelance author. Besides his "Your Table is Ready" restaurant reviews found here, he also writes jazz articles on allaboutjazz.com.