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May 20, 2010 06:46 PM

Birthday Dinner - Tasting menu at Providence or Dining Room at the Langham?

There's a birthday coming up in a couple weeks, and I didn't know at which restaurant I should choose to celebrate. I discovered that Providence is having a special in June, where they are charging $65 for their 5 course tasting menu, which normally runs $85pp, I believe. Dining Room at the Langham has a 4 course tasting menu for $79pp, but it looks like one can choose from a list of dishes, so two people could potentially order completely separate things, thereby creating an 8 course menu if shared.

I have actually been to Providence once before, last year for Valentine's Day. It was fine, but I wasn't too impressed given the cost. Although I didn't know if I should write that off as the near universal "valentines mediocrity," so I thought I'd someday give it another chance on just a regular day. And a $65 tasting menu seems too good to pass up. I have never, on the other hand, been to Dining Room at the Langham, but have always wanted to try Michael Voltaggio's dishes, even before he won Top Chef, and don't really know another opportunity I'll be able to justify going.

Has anybody tried both menus and can definitively say which is better? Thanks!

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  1. I've never been to Providence, but we had our anniversary dinner at the Dining Room in April and I've gotta say that I was impressed. It actually exceeded my expectations, to be honest. It was fun, interesting, thoughtful food...all of what you'd expect from having seen M. Voltaggio on Top Chef, but ultimately what mattered most - and what made it worth the price - was that it all tasted good. It was good food that I would want to eat again.

    The menu changes quite frequently, so I don't know if they're serving what we had, but we each did a 4-course thing and did not repeat any dishes. The servings are small, but there's enough to offer your dining companion a taste, albeit a small one, of everything.

    In all honesty, I wanted to go for the larger menu but they require it for the whole table, and that was just too many coursed for her.

    1. Been to both. I've done the chef's tasting at both as well as the smaller tasting menus (5 course and 9 course at Providence). You really can't go wrong either way. Cimarusti and Voltaggio seem to have somewhat different approaches to food (they're both creative but make use of the molecular gastromony techniques to varying degrees and to difference effect) - so it's somewhat apples and oranges to compare the two.

      The ambience at the dining room at the Langham is somewhat stuffy but the food is inventive and well-executed. The night I went he did a really interesting dish that was a deconstructed pastrami sandwich using cured squab and a cube of sauerkraut flavored gelee. But his cooking isn't completely off the wall; our final meat course was a perfectly executed cut of wagyu beef. I would say that if your palate is up for an adventure and if you're open to unusual/neat things, I would go with the Dining Room at the Langham since you've already been to Providence (and didn't seem too impressed by it - but I completely agree, Valentine's night is a tough night to judge a restaurant).