Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to the East Side: Chez Pascal

CHEZ PASCAL (960 Hope St, Providence  401-421-4422) aims to be a modern French bistro - doing what's popular (in-house charcuterie and relishes) and maintaining the traditional (classic escargot; mussels with pernod; duck). Sometimes it all works, sometimes it doesn't. Even after several visits I still find it tricky to assess the place. 

As owner of  Hewtin's Dogs Mobile and the terrific hot dog stand across the street in Lippitt Park, Chez Pascal is obviously committed to meats - cured, in casings, locally raised, etc. And they do their bit for regional growers, featuring cheeses,  produce and scallops from nearby farms and waters. On Monday nights, year-round, there's a totally local Market Menu (this does seems redundant) where origins are printed alongside offerings so you know the provenance of the Beef Cheek Roulade and the Root Vegetable Pottage. A special $30 three-course bistro menu, new every week, is available Tuesday through Thursday. From these, and the central menu, I have enjoyed beautiful salads and earthy pates and, in June, an elegant little rhubarb tart with house-made ice cream, topped with a tiny sprig of sugared lavender. I sampled my friend's Tasting of Three French Custards (a row of small pots - lemon souffle pudding, creme brulee and banana creme caramel) and enjoyed that too.
It's with the main courses where I think they run into trouble. Twice, one person in our party ordered a trio of porks only to be disappointed by dry, not-so-flavorful meat. And I'm not a fan of the sauces which appear in a few dishes (specifically, duck and beef); they seem old-fashioned to me, spoilers of fresh tastes. The beef, by the way, is delicious.

Service is slow. The waitstaff isn't slow; it's the kitchen. I'm not a fan of super-speedy delivery (at the Boat House in Tiverton one night our orders arrived so fast we felt like we were on an arrive-order-eat-leave assembly line with instructions not to linger) but Chez Pascal pushes it with the long pauses.

And I think it's time to redecorate.

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