Monday, July 19, 2010

Thee Red Fez and Firehouse XIII: A Night Out in Providence

A constellation of red Christmas lights dot the ceiling above the bar, giving the room a vivid crimson cast. The walls are covered with an odd assortment of old ads, abstract art, an animal head or two, and of course, a selection of red fez-adorned creepy/whimsical monkeys with cymbals. Darker than a cave and much more cozy, Thee Red Fez feels welcoming from the moment you step through the door.

We were in Providence for the evening because Joel's band, the Somerville Symphony Orkestar, had a gig closing for Humanwine at a performance space in town on the outskirts of town, Firehouse XIII. We had eaten at Red Fez about a year before and really liked it, and we tried to return a few weeks ago but sadly found it closed for vacation, so we were excited to finally return.

A booth was almost ready, so we waited at the bar for a bit, let our eyes adjust, and ordered drinks: a gin rickey for Joel and a mojito for me (of course.) The mojito had cacha├ža, making it more caipirinha than mojito, a welcome touch of bitterness. A welcome touch of oblivion. Mojito tipsy is the best kind of tipsy. The menu proclaimed that their mojitos are amazing (or awesome or great; I don't remember the adjective) and I was not disappointed. The bartender had really put effort into the muddling of the mint, sending ice flying everywhere, and it paid off. Joel's drink was great as well.
hello mo(ji)to
We scanned the menu while waiting at the bar, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were offering a three-course prix fixe Restaurant Week menu. There were three choices each for appetizers and entrees and two shared dessert options.

First Course
For our appetizers, we nixed the salad, the boring third choice, and went for the Rhode Island corn fritters with sweet chile sauce and the mussels in Portuguese-style broth with charred tomatoes, garlic, wine, and chourico (served with grilled bread).
Local corn fritters with tasty dipping sauce
The fritters were fried little nuggets of deliciousness with actual pieces of corn in them. The sweet chile dipping sauce added a bit of Thai flair.

Mussels...but where's the chourico?
Sadly the expected chourico seemed to be absent from this dish, but the tomato broth was still hearty and flavorful. Grilled bread is so simple and so wonderful (for a Boston grilled bread fix, try East Coast Grill, and be sure to get it with the roasted garlic!) While I enjoyed this dish very much, my mussel loyalties will always be with Publick House's moules frites.

Second Course
We decided against the "famous" macaroni and cheese, which I had tried last year, because although it's good, mac and cheese is just ridiculously heavy. We were in the mood for something lighter so Joel could dance around on stage later and I could dance around in the crowd. (Ok, that's a lie. I just stood there with a camcorder when I wasn't playing with Humanwine's adorable dog.) We got the pulled pork plate (slow cooked pulled pork shoulder with bbq beans and garlicky kale) and local bluefish and chips (cornmeal-coated, pan-fried bluefish with Tabasco remoulade, slaw, and Old Bay fries). Joel is obsessed with the idea of Old Bay fries, so it was a given that we'd order that. (I'm using "we" because we pretty much shared everything. Restaurant Week menus are awesome for sharing!)
A bowl of pork 'n' beans. And slaw and kale.
In the dark, it was hard to tell what I was eating. (This photo is illuminated with Joel's iPhone, but in real life, it was impossible to differentiate between pork and beans.) The pork was perfectly tender, the kale was refreshing, and the slaw was even decent; typically I avoid slaw because I hate mayonnaise more than anything in the world, but this one wasn't mayo-y. Joel said the beans were prepared perfectly; I liked the flavor but I just don't like beans no matter how hard I try. The texture bothers me. Overall, definitely a solid dish.
RI bluefish and magical Old Bay fries
A lighter option than a typical fish 'n' chips, the cornmeal-coated bluefish was very satisfying, and the fries were wonderful, as expected. Old Bay is sort of like fairy dust: a little sprinkle, and magical things happen.

Third Course
The choices were a strawberry shortcake or a brownie with bourbon-roasted peaches. Strawberry shortcake is easy to find, and I was intrigued by the chocolate/peach pairing, so we chose the latter. Unfortunately, right before ours was made, they ran out of peaches. The substitute was Chambord-soaked strawberries - still good, but man, I really wanted to try those peaches. I was a little irritated by this because when we ordered the first two courses, we also ordered this one, but our waitress must have forgotten and asked us for the dessert order again after we finished the meal, so theoretically, we might have been able to get the peaches had the order gone in the first time. Oh well, still good! (Plus, the service was otherwise flawless and extremely friendly, so I hate to dwell on a fruit substitution, especially when it still tasted great.)
Brownie with bourbon-roasted peaches Chambord-soaked strawberries and a whole lot of whipped cream
Joel wasn't into the brownie's texture, but I enjoyed it.

Providence Restaurant Week > Boston Restaurant Week
The bill came; it was surprisingly low. Turns out our entrees - two courses each, plus a shared dessert! - were just $15 each. (The price hadn't been listed on the menu, so this was a very nice surprise.) Our drinks made up nearly half the bill (Boston prices, but larger portions). Providence Restaurant Week's official prices are $12.95 for a three-course lunch and $29.95 for a three-course dinner, but Thee Red Fez decided to be extra awesome and offer the dinner as a 2-for-1. Compare this to Boston's official Restaurant Week prices: two-course lunch for $15.10, three-course lunch for $20.10, three-course dinner for $33.10. I'll take a $13 three-course lunch over a $20 three course-lunch any day. (Actually, no, I wouldn't take either - that's a lot of food for mid-day! - but you can see the huge difference in price.)

On to the show!
As we left the restaurant, we saw this fantastic vehicle in the parking lot:
Later, I'll update this post to include some photos and video from the show, which was awesome. Due to some minor technical difficulties (read: 10 hours of blood, sweat, and tears yesterday upon realizing that my four-year-old laptop can't handle the beautiful 1080p footage I shot with my new camcorder), the videos aren't ready to go yet, but I think I found a reasonable solution involving converting the files to MPEG-4, reattaching the audio (it doesn't come through with the conversion), and then editing and posting. Some quality might be lost, but I'm not buying a new computer for a very long time. (Any suggestions for a better solution? In short, I have a standard Toshiba Satellite without any extra bells, whistles, or fancy graphics cards, and I'm using a free open source video editing program. The footage was shot at 1080p on an Insignia HDcam.)

To be continued... (dun dun dunnn)

Red Fez on Urbanspoon

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