Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Nick's on  Broadway (500 Broadway, Providence  401-421-0286) is across 95 - terra incognita for many locals who travel to Federal Hill for ravioli but never set foot on Broadway. Not that Nick's suffers for this. You think, it's Wednesday, 7:00 p.m., how crowded could it be, we'll get a table. Think again. It's full-up and you're dining at the bar (which works for up to three).

The bar and dining room are side-by-side but separated. Dining in the bar is quieter even when full. The main dining room has the clattering noises of the open kitchen but it's not off-putting and you can even sit at a long bar facing the chef and assistants while you eat their fare. The reason the bar is quieter is because the crowd is mostly made up of parties ranging from one person to four.

Check out the menu on line (www.nicksonbroadway.com). On any given night there are five entrées - say, beef, chicken, two fish and a vegetable, each one featuring what's local. Fish is big at Nick's which participates in Wild Rhody seafood (www.wildrhodyseafood.com) so local catch like Point Judith skate or calamari are usually on the menu. It is hard to go wrong and I'm almost happy Nick's is not right around the corner from me.

One night, with friends, we did the six-course tasting menu and because there was a problem with our reservation (it was Saturday night, on the late side, and a couple of early tables settled into longggggggg post-dinner conversations involving cappuccinos and dessert wines) we eventually enjoyed nine courses, the first three as gifts from the chef. The staff was anxious to make amends and they did. We had a kind of reverse Portlandia experience, amusing to us who were, mostly, in receptive mode. Our waiter-person described each course and each wine in the flight with enough detail to write a novel. We learned about wineries, farms, the sea, and, of course, the preparation. Too much. We wanted to enjoy and to talk. Maybe the Portlandia diners (http://www.hulu.com/watch/208808/portlandia-ordering-the-chicken-part-1) should try Nick's.

We reserved for the tasting menu and got the sense that the restaurant is flexible, that Nick's will accommodate some of your food issues. But we were a group of four with no allergy issues or major aversions, so we gave the chef free rein/reign.

What we ate? 1) a tiny herbed biscuit; 2) a mini-bowl of potato and white bean soup; 3) two Rhode Island oysters on feathery greens; 4) a plate of tiny fish ceviche with citrus; 5) a plate of charcuterie bites with fresh liver pâtés and grilled buttered toast; 6) a single razor clam in broth accompanied by mussels; 7) a slightly bigger dish of a firm white fish on vegetables; 8) a piece of rare lamb on fava beans; and 9) small scoops of peanut butter ice cream with sponge cake.

It was excellent (and beautiful), beginning to end. The fish was outstanding and the charcuterie plate was delicious. And it was fun. We did think, however, that our dinner deserved a finer atmosphere. Not different decoration or lightening, just a bit less chaotic. We were feet away from a table of six - is there anything louder than a table of six all the in same conversation? Not Nick's fault.

Decor? It's sleek, modern with softened edges. What you should know? It pays to reserve  - you can't count on getting a seat at the bar.

Nick's is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday. Go.


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