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Providence for a First-Timer

Two questions for you Providence veterans:

1. Is it a bad move to go on a Sunday evening (as opposed to Saturday)? I tried to find out who's in the kitchen on Sundays, but the restaurant wouldn't say.

2. We were thinking of doing the 5-course, then supplementing with a cheese course and maybe something else. Is this a decent plan, and if so, what would you suggest for the "something else"?


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  1. Yes the five course is a great way to start. You are in for a wonderful meal. Plenty to eat. I've been on Sundays and the kitchen was great. Sunday is a little mellower that Saturdays. Great service too. They also serve a six course dessert tasting menu if you have room left. Enjoy.

    1. You'll fine on Sunday. A restaurant like this is not dependent on any one chef for execution. I've been there when Mr. Ciramusti is there and when he isn't and find no difference.

      I'd suggest going for one of the bigger tasting menus. There's a greater chance of being delightfully overwhelmed - which is always nice. .

      1. My only other thoughts are that I personally like to show up a bit early to have a cocktail and chat with the bartender to set the mood! Their drinks really are great and there is no better way to zero in on the right one then to talk to the person making them.

        Secondly, Providence does have 2 main rooms (not including the kitchen table and the special event wine cellar room behind the bar). Although I think you'll be fine on a Sunday, if you were going at a more peak day/time I'd try and avoid the second 'overflow' room that feels a bit disconnected to me. If that's something you care about maybe give them a ring. If you want to get extra pushy, they have 2 x four person tables with booth seating for two of the people. Those are my favorite for 4 people.

        Also, there is a single 2 top in the bar which can be fun on a more casual night, but for a first time with the tasting I'd say go with the main room.

        edit- lastly maybe some others can chime in here, but you might want to mention prior to arrival that you'll be doing the tasting? Not sure if it matters.

        1. I've only been once, when Chef Cimarusti (nice spoonerism, foodiemahoodie <g>) was out of town, so I can't give an actual comparison vs. when he was there, but the food I had (at lunch on a Friday) was excellent. I had the five-course tasting menu, but I wish I had gone with one of the bigger tasting menus (like foodiemahoodie said). However, if you have a main course in mind but also want to sample, I'd get the five-course and the additional entree. That way you get the best of both worlds, as the portions in the tasting menu weren't very big.

          1. In my experience, the 5 course is fine if you supplement with the salt baked prawns, the sea urchin hiding under scrambled eggs (part of larger tastings but not 5 course), the very delicious ugly bunch which is raw santa Barbara prawns, sea urchin, abalone, mirugai on top of smoked panna cotta, and/or the chitarra pasta with truffles (ups the cost significantly).

            1. My friend and I went two weeks ago, and had a fantastic time. We ordered the 5 course tasting menu, added a couple of extra courses, and threw in a few drinks. It was the Friday before the ridiculous foie ban...so Chef Cimarusti added a foie ravioli to the menu. We also added the saute foie and the "ugly bunch" to our meal. Hoang took care of us that night, and offered exceptional service, he made suggestions or drinks (Moscow mule, I can't remember what my friend had but it was finished with a dash of cinnamon...both were excellent). The meal started with the Japanese kampachi...and got progressively better as it went on. I think by far, the foie and the "ugly bunch" dishes were the highlights of our meal. We each had a glass of wine to accompany the meal (Hoang suggested a Hamon Chard for me, and red for my friend). The mignardises that night were a foie macaron, a banana caramel, and chamomile pate gelee. We were even treated to a look into the kitchen to see the chef's table and were lucky enough to be greeted by Chef Cimarusti. It was the best meal we both had ever had.

              1. 1. The food quality will be great no matter which day of the week you go. Having said that, Sundays and Mondays are Chef Cimarusti's days off, so he won't be in the kitchen.

                2. I've done the 9 course twice and 5 course once with additional supplements. Since they are running the special on the 5 course right now, i would say that's the way to go and add whatever sounds good to you that night.

                3 Replies
                1. re: TailbackU

                  Are they still running that special? I thought it was only for the month of June.

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    Got extended through the month of July

                2. Just reporting back.

                  We did the 5-course ($75) tasting, and added a cheese course. This was plenty of food for us. We did not do the wine tasting, but each had a glass of white with the first 3 courses and a glass of red with the veal and cheese.

                  We were originally shown a table in the "overflow" room, and politely asked to be moved to the main room. The hostess said it was no problem, and showed us to a different table.

                  I won't go through the details of the food, as I think it's all been posted before. Yes, it was delicious, with my favorite being the scallop (nectarine curry which had me wanting to lick the plate). Oh, and the cheese course was pure heaven.

                  I will say, however, that I thought the service was a bit sub-par for a restaurant of this calibre. The servers bringing our food did not do a great job of describing the dishes. We could overhear descriptions of courses going on at other tables, and only then did we learn what we had eaten a couple of courses earlier. Obviously, they told us what the protein was, but they seemed to forget some of the sauces and other ingredients. The bread guy came by at the start of our meal, never to be seen again. Had I known, I would have taken more than just one piece of bacon brioche. I really wanted to try something else from the bread basket! We also had to ask to have our water glasses refilled. None of this is the end of the world, but I did expect more when spending $300+ for a meal.

                  I think I'd like to go back and order a la carte next time.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: WestsideLisa

                    I'm very surprised at your description of the service. I've been there several times and always found it to be top notch. You might send a note to Donatello at the restaurant. I'm sure he'd like to know about it. It really is a place that prides itself on serving the customer.

                    1. re: perk

                      I didn't have a problem getting decent descriptions of the dishes from the waitstaff, but I did find that I had to be proactive about the water and bread service too when I went. I speculated at the time that perhaps the waitstaff errs on the side of interrupting the diners as little as possible, but I definitely had to ask for more bread and for my water to be refilled.

                    2. re: WestsideLisa

                      I second perk's suggestion to contact Donato. I've eaten at Providence a half-dozen times from 2008-2011. The front-of-house was always middling, especially when compared to three-star Michelin restaurants in the Bay Area and New York. After a comically awful experience last June, I finally decided to speak with Donato. He was apologetic and said if we ever decided to visit again--we haven't--he would take care of us.

                      1. re: degustingdiary

                        Have also eaten at Providence at least a half dozen times, last visit around Feburary of this year. Service has always been fine. Not as polished as NYC but definitely no worse than my SF experiences.

                        Shocked to hear of so many poor service complaints actually.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Me too. Have always have very professional service. But they know me, so maybe that makes a difference.

                          I've had sloppy service on the east coast (Jean Georges even), so I'd say it's about even.

                          Best service I've ever had was at Alinea - the server (whose native tongue was English - which is always a help) - presented each meal with great drama and import. He delivered each course like a great college professor, or a preacher. When it's smartly-done like that - it enhances the experience, and in turn enchances the food.

                          Another great pro in L.A. is "Jeff" at n/naka - his enthusiasm, presentation and knowledge sets a great culinary stage.

                          1. re: foodiemahoodie

                            i have found the "native tongue" of a server at a restaurant totally irrelevant to how good they are at their job.

                            1. re: linus

                              Agreed, with the exception that occasionally I will have difficulty understanding the description of dishes if the server is not a native speaker. It's not tied to a particular accent or cuisine or whatever, just depends on the individual, how heavy his or her accent is, and how well I can parse the speech. But that also happens with English-speaking servers who may speak too fast or mumble.

                              1. re: linus

                                Ah, let me clairty that Linus - when a course is brought to your table, the description of what's on the plate is a crucial part of the servers job and your dining experience. I think the most thorough explanation helps sell the food your about to it. It even provides a little structure to meal - and gets you excited before o plow into the plate. If he/she simply describes the protein as WestsideLisa said - then you're not really getting the full presentation. "Swordfish in a butter sauce" won't set you up for a delectable payoff. If their command of the language is weak and they can't pronounce certain foods, or sauces, or ingredients, you being short-changed on the full experience. "The egg was prepared sous vide at 63 degrees, then tthe eggshell topped, the egg remved, the white seperated, then the perfectly cooked yolk was returned to the shell to which the chef added a layer of hairy crab dashi mouselline, then a layer of creme fraiche and with a hint of lemon zest and yuzu..." And so on - I can't wait to eat it!

                                The experience at Alinea was so well-composed it reminded my of (way past) as a salesman - and how you would present at item you want to tell by placing it carefully on the counter as if they precious. You opened the box and made a presentation, the graceful way you moved your hands and fingers, keeping your eyes on the item at all times, the mellifluous tone in your voice - all set the stage of a item that got a glorious presentation. Then, for comparison. you bring out the next item (which you didn't want to tell) you place it on the counter casually and opened it up like a box of cereal, not even looking at it. You know, that sort of thing.

                                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                  there are plenty of "native speakers" whose "command of the language is weak and they can't pronounce certain foods, or sauces or ingredients."

                                  Burns: careful, he's an r-e-d
                                  Hawkeye: frank, the r-e-d speaks better english than y-o-u.

                          2. re: degustingdiary

                            Maybe I'll drop them an email, just as an FYI. We really did enjoy our meal, so I don't want to complain, per se. But maybe feedback would be helpful for them?

                            1. re: WestsideLisa

                              I would say just that. You had a lovely meal...and really enjoyed it. But just wanted them to know..... since you'd been told by regular customers that they value comments and care about service.