Friday, April 30, 2010

What’s the best seafood in Providence, Rhode Island?

Ask just about any local and the same name will be spoken time and time again: Hemenway’s, located near the historic district and overlooking the Providence River.

The walk to Hemenway’s was an experience unto itself as I crossed the waterway into the historic district of Providence and followed the water down to the restaurant. This civilian walk, which includes parks, statues, restaurants and scenic views, is a place I could see myself spending a great deal of time.

I imagine sitting on the waterfront with a good book and a glass of wine as the sun goes down. And for those seeking a romantic place to spend some time with a loved one, you will not be disappointed.

Finding Hemenway’s was a bit more of a problem than anticipated, as it’s located in a glass deco building which reflects a good deal of the sun and detracts from the visibility of their signs. However, once inside, you understand why the glass is worth the trouble as you look around and see views of the surrounding city from almost every seat in the house. The views are breathtaking!

Another thing of note upon entering is how visually pleasing the restaurant itself was as I was walked to the table by the warm, friendly staff and took note of the elegant table settings and attention to fine details.

What about the food and wine?

With a large and diverse menu that was obviously centered on seafood, I had no problem picking out a number of dishes I wanted to try but, in the end, I chose to start with the crab cakes (touted as a customer favorite) and, for an entree, the Hemenway’s Seafood Broil.

So let’s talk crab cakes. I find crab cakes to be something I order often because I can almost always judge a restaurant’s devotion to freshness by the meat they choose to put in their crab cakes. In this case it was very fresh and even had a mix of lobster meat, which was perceptible to the palate and really took the flavors home. The one bad thing, and the only bad part of my entire experience, as you can see from the pictures, was that the crab cakes were overdone while being fried and it made it through the pass. However, this would not stop me from giving them another chance and ordering this dish again. Every restaurant kitchen makes a mistake from time to time, and if they claim they don’t, they’re lying. The cakes were perfectly seasoned and succulent, a real winner.
As a side note, the crab cakes were served with a corn, onion and bell pepper salsa, which was really good. So simple yet so fresh and with tangy flavors that sang on my palate.

Then it was time for my entrée and, as it was set down in front of me, I could already tell it was love at first sight. Hemenway’s Seafood Broil is a mix of shrimp, scallops, and scrod topped with buttery, seasoned breadcrumbs. The smell of toasty, buttery goodness that emanated from this dish was intoxicating. It was perfectly cooked seafood with a slight crispy exterior followed by smooth, velvety meat. The ingredients were at the peak of freshness, perfectly seasoned and with a hint of cracked pepper, which added a little spicy flair. Amazing!
The wine list was a very interesting mix of current drinking and value wines, with a few high profile bottles mixed in, which provides a good balance. I’m always a little saddened to see a lack of any aged bottles for those special occasions, but there’s no lack of diversity on their list with just about every major region covered and an affordable list of 26 wines by the glass. I decided to go for a glass of the Ferrari Carano, Fume Blanc 2009 and I couldn’t have been happier.

Ferrari Carano, Fume Blanc 2009 showed floral, citrusy nose with lemon rind and a hint of butter. On the palate I found orange peel, lemon drops, and a bit of slate with brisk acidity and a citrusy fresh finish that was incredibly long.

In the end, I can see why Hemenway’s is said to have the best seafood in Providence. I know I’ll be going back on my next trip through.

To check out the website for Hemenway's, click here.

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