This is, in a sense, a restaurant review. I have been going to Chez Pascal, a small French restaurant on the East Side of Providence, RI for the past 9 years. In fact, I spent two summers selling gourmet hot dogs, sausages, and sandwiches for them (yeah they do that too). My family is quite close to the owners. We love them. Really love them. They make the restaurant a special place, somewhere that feels like home, for everyone that walks through the doors.
Everyone is so gosh darned friendly. There are smiles and jokes everywhere, letting you know that you should feel comfortable in this place. It doesn’t hurt that there is a pig picture in every bathroom and even more pig paraphernalia strewn about the dining room. This is not a stuffy French restaurant, but rather a warm and inviting home, somewhere you’ll want to spend an evening with friends chatting, eating, and drinking.
We went here for dinner last Saturday. There were six of us and we arrived at seven. So lets assume the kitchen is “in the weeds” as they say.
Kristin, the hostess, Matt’s wife, and an owner, greets us, takes our coats and spends some time catching up with my father. Who is a talkative fellow.
We sit. And order wine.
Now, at most restaurants, you can find a wonderful bottle of wine somewhere hiding on the wine list. For some reason, at Chez Pascal, every single bottle is incredible. For my birthday a couple of months ago, we had a Swiss red wine. It was from their list of unique and interesting wines. A Swiss red wine. The Swiss barely export a single bottle of wine because they know that if they did the entire world would lap them up and the Swiss wouldn’t be able to get drunk anymore. I have no idea how Kristin snagged this bottle… But it was the perfect birthday wine.
On Saturday we had an Italian wine. A beautiful Italian red that was spicy and fruity and full bodied and whatever else people who can understand wine better than I would say about a delectable wine. I do not know wine. I just like it. And this one was great.
There are perks to knowing the chef. We received a free appetizer. A “hot dog” (I’m assuming their kielbasa sausage but I could be wrong) with mustard and sauerkraut. I love sauerkraut so I was happy. Everyone else was too because anyone who knows anything knows that sauerkraut is great.
Then, the appetizers. I had the steamed mussels. I love the mussels. They come with this wonderful garlicky broth and I spent quite a bit of time dipping bread into it after I finished all the seafood.
There was also a special lobster stew on the menu. This lobster stew had lobster, kaffir lime, and saffron. Also scallops. Lets just say its one of those dishes you can neither describe nor recreate but you should eat at some point in your life.
Of course, someone had the warm red cabbage salad with a blue cheese flan (its really good) and there were a few other appetizers further down the table that I did not get to try. To be fair, I was stingy with my mussels.
Now, onto the main course. I ordered the duck.
I don’t know what Matt did to that duck. It was perfect. Cooked medium rare, it melted in your mouth (I’m sorry I have no other way to describe it). There was some sort of sweet fig sauce with it. And brussel sprouts. They were cooked at a high heat so that the edges were crunchy and caramelized. Their bitterness offset the sweetness of the fig sauce perfectly, keeping all of the flavors balanced.
There was also a secret risotto cake underneath the duck. The dish definitely needed a creamy component but I found the risotto to be the weak link on the plate. Honestly, it just wasn’t creamy enough and felt a bit gummy.
On to dessert.
I’ve got a gripe with dessert at restaurants. So many times, I have a great meal, and we go to order dessert, expecting something innovative and, well, tasty, but frequently the desserts are terrible. Maybe not terrible, but terrible in comparison to the meal we just ate, which makes me sad. Because dessert is just as important a component as the appetizer. Or the main course. Its what people leave thinking about. And so many chefs seem not to care.
Not Matt. The man must have a sweet tooth. And an interesting one at that. I have had every dessert on the menu. I love them all, although I have had the upside down pear caramel cake with blue cheese and creme fraiche a few too many times.
This time, we ordered the trio of custards and the apple gratin with candy cap mushroom ice cream. Yes mushroom ice cream. It tastes kinda mapley.
These were two wonderful desserts and they show just how much Matt and Kristin care about the quality of their restaurant. There was no detail of these desserts that was lacking. The ice cream was creamy and smooth, as ice cream should be. The custards were flavorful and interesting. These aren’t michelin starred desserts, but for a chef with no pastry training (and no pastry chef) Matt sure does a good job at finishing the excellence of the meal with beautiful sweet dishes.
960 Hope Street
Open Monday-Saturday 5:30-10ish
401 421 4422
Human tested, Siegfried approved.