Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chez Pascal Brings French Chic to Providence

Who needs Paris when Chez Pascal, a cozy French-influenced bistro and wine bar, is a much closer dining destination? Nearing its ten-year anniversary (the restaurant opened in March, 2003), Chez Pasal – like a fine French wine – seems to have only gotten better with age. The bistro utilizes local, seasonal produce in its cuisine. The menu, while small in stature (selection-wise), provides dishes that are hugely creative and flavorful. And you know you’ve discovered a serious culinary restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by both its servers decked out in jeans and its menus playfully inserted underneath many of its platings.

The bistro is divided into two intimate rooms, with a cozy bar to the side. We’re seated in the back room, with its yellow-splashed walls, that are decorated with a local artist’s (Anthony Salemme) jungle-themed paintings, a perfect complement to the leopard cushion seating. Tables are situated side-by-side, perhaps a bit too close if one does not want to hear an arrogant 21-year old Brown graduate endlessly boast about all of his knowledge on all things political and wordly. Fortunately, Chez Pascal’s extremely polished, yet casual waitstaff comes to our rescue. Multiple servers cater to every empty water glass while politely, unintrusively inquiring about how each course is.

And is each course ever delightful. For starters, we order the chacuterie ($18). With the exception of a couple of cured meats (which are made at nearby Daniel’s Catering), all other meats and pates – including a silky smooth, heavenly duck liver mousse topped with sweet onion relish – are produced in-house. This beautifully plated dish is sinfully good. Traditional escargot a la bourguingnonne ($12.50) are anything but, as six giant snails soak in an aromatic, warm garlic sauce, perfect for spreading on parsley-scented brioche. Pork of the day ($34) – which our server is nice enough to split into two plates – is a generous portion of tender meat prepared three ways, accompanied by sauerkraut and fingerling potatoes.

Desserts provide an immensely satisfying conclusion to the evening. Chez Pascal’s seasonal sorbets ($8) include a trio of blood orange, green apple, and lemon flavors that are light and refreshing. A tasting of three French custards ($10) was sensational, including a mocha pot de crème (the last of which, while quite good, was the weakest of the trio, as the mocha flavor was barely discernable amongst the dense, bitter dark chocolate flavor), a unique eggnog crème brulee, and a ridiculously good, silky maple scented crème caramel.

Providence might be more renowned for its Italian cuisine in Federal Hill, but if you head a shade beyond the Pawtucket border into Providence, Chez Pascal’s romantic ambience, attentive service, and creative French cuisine will make foodies forget Paris.

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