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The Napa Valley Grille
Providence Place Mall
by Bob Mariani
The City of Providence is indeed lucky to have been chosen as one of six cities around the country to boast a Napa Valley Grille restaurant. This is not your typical franchise restaurant by any stretch of the imagination. Napa Valley’s menu is unique and based entirely on only the very best ingredients available locally. Add this dedication to fresh native foods to a very talented and engaged young chef, Jeffery Caroll, and you have a first-rate dining experience.
The décor and atmosphere at Napa Valley captures perfectly the hospitable mood and style of its West Coast name sake. In the front room which looks out on Providence’s changing cityscape, there is a warm, sun-splashed feeling, with earthy colors and mission-style detailing.
On Wednesday evenings, the Grille has instituted a great idea: California wine pairings with tasting dishes prepared spontaneously to go with the three-glass "flight of wines" offered. Along with our 2004 Pine Ridge, Chenin/Viogmier, our 2004 Robert Mondavi, Johannisburg Riesling, and our 2004 M. Trinchero, Sauvignon Blank Russian River Valley, we were served tidbits of grilled pear wrapped in prosciutto with a chestnut center; a Great Hill Blue cheese with strawberries; and some quickly seared Ahi tuna with a little fennel and bean salad.
From a list of tantalizing appetizers with items like beef tenderloin Carpaccio with grilled portabellas, and a balsamic drizzle; roasted Crab Cakes with baby green salad, toasted pumpkin seed oil and clove aioli; Steamed Maine Mussels and Littlenecks with chorizo, red onion and smoked tomato cream; Fresh Pt. Judith Calamari; and a selection of oysters, we chose three.
The first, a Confit of Long Island Duck was a marvelous blend of shredded duck with apricot purée and golden raisins for sweet notes throughout, topped with a cap of comforting cornbread.
The second starter was a smooth Green Apple and Butternut Bisque, memorable for its artful marriage of flavors that tasted a bit more like autumn than spring to me. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Our third appetizer was a very original Chef Carroll creation – sweet Roasted Garlic. It was a half head of white garlic roasted until soft and served in its skin with sensually soft, warm brie and sweet tomato chutney with a crisp crostini.
When it came to entrée’s, my wife ordered the Crab Crusted Loin of Local Cod. I’d had this at Napa before and it is quite a treat. The cod, flaky and white, is gently dusted with dry granules of crabmeat and served with an irresistible mélange of artichoke hearts that melt in your mouth, soft stewed tomatoes, braised dark greens, red onion slices and boiled potatoes, all drenched in a buttered ver jus.
My main dish was a simple slow-roasted chicken that fell from the bone at the touch of a fork. It was accompanied by some sautéed spinach and creamy whipped potatoes all soaked in a garlic jus. A very traditional dish just done to perfection.
Entrée’s at Napa, which range from $17.75 to $29.50, also include: Grilled Rare Ahi Tuna with mushroom-sage risotto; "Butcher’s Tenderloin" Hanger Steak with parsnip mashed potatoes and herb-roasted asparagus; Double Cut Pork Chop with root vegetable hash; Tea Crusted Atlantic Salmon with roasted cipollinis; Cinnamon Smoked Long Island Duck Breast with spaghetti squash, braising greens and basmati rice; and fresh Puerini’s Fetuccini with pomodoro, and house-made smoked mozzarella.
Napa also offers an Artisan Cheese Plate ($12.50); and a Harvest Platter ($16.50) of smoked salmon, lemon marinated tuna confit, roasted organic striped beets, shaved prosciutto, cheddar cheese, strawberries and chocolate goat cheese.
Desserts are all made here by Pastry Chef Corinne Tesson and feature things like Vanilla Bean Crème Brule (which I enjoyed immensely on a previous visit); Mint Chocolate Molten Cake with a melted chocolate center; Toasted Almond & Pear Napolean; a Chocolate Espresso Mousse wrapped in a striped almond sponge cake with toasted meringue and chocolate truffle.
We were feeling quite satiated and so we went for a simple dollop of Corinne’s own strawberry gelato and were very pleased with how naturally sweet and light it was. It was handsomely presented on a "bouquet" of thin chocolate wafer crackers.
Generations of experience in fine dining and hospitality have been transferred flawlessly from beautiful Napa Valley, California right here to Providence Place Mall. I dare say there is not another menu around quite like the one Chef Carroll puts together each day at The Napa Valley Grille. It is so good; I will even willingly brave the daunting maze of the Mall’s parking garage to dine here again.
The Napa Valley Grille is open for Lunch & Dinner Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 10:00pm; Friday and Saturday 11:30am - 10:30pm; Sunday 11:30am - 9:00pm. For more information call 401-270-6272 or visit theirwebsite.
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.