All in all I have spent 8 years of my life in Providence. (crazy!) I have seen it go under drastic changes from being a somewhat ghetto and dangerous downtown to populated and flourishing. With the revitalization of the downtown there has been a culinary awakening. AS220 tacos, Alfornos‘s small counter restaurant Tini (now closed) , La Laiterie‘s sandwich and cheese shop (a place I loved to go but sadly closed), Eno, a wine shop of such incredible caliber it would put most of NYC wine shops to shame both in design and product.(still open, thank god!) Seriously the quality of stuff back in 2007-10 (the grad student days) was far superior to providence I remembered back during the undergrad days. 1998-2003. Since having left for NYC even more amazing stuff happened, The Dorrance opened up in one of the most beautiful buildings in all of providence and from what I was told, by many, was turning out some pretty progressive grub, far more creative than anything Providence has seen before. (It is probably for the best that I left before for I think my thesis might have suffered from food related distractions.) Given all the hype Jose and I decided that we had to make the road trip to check it out and reminisce about the three years of stress that consumed our relationship while at grad school. Thankfully all the stress seemed to melt away with each bite. Yes some of the dishes were transporting.
Lets talk a bit about the mastermind behind this wonderful dining destination: So as I mentioned before I loved P-Towns dining scene. In fact this is where Jose and I began to explore food and cooking. One of our favorite places for simple but good food was La Laiterie. The reason why I mention this is that the chef of The Dorrance, Ben Sukle has had a hand in the success of that establishment. We are still trying to figure out whether or not he was cooking there when we were eating there…At any rate since those days at La Laiterie Ben has been busy exploring the culinary horizons, so naturally it is not surprising that he ended up at Noma. Where else would an ambitious chef turn. It is clear that Ben’s time at Noma has had a positive influence on his cooking.
So how about the food you might ask…Yes, it was fantastic. The ingredient forward menu was well paced and started light with creative veggies leading up to the wonderful dry aged proteins. The dishes were beautifully composed and could hold their own on a visual level at any Risd art crit. (which is a feat unto itself) The entirety of the menu was great but there were a few dishes that blew our minds. Probably the biggest surprise of the night was the crispy kale and carrots with a whey and Parmesan sauce. Wow! The favors were absolutely incredible and quite rich given the fact that the plate was filled primarily with veggies. From there on each dish was deserving of a pause for contemplation. The Fish and mushrooms were lovely and delicate and both meats were phenomenal. Our savory dishes were to end with the beef but we had heard wonderful things about the duck so we decided to give it a try. (Probably to much food in hindsight but worth it :))
So the only aspect of the meal that we saw vulnerable was the desserts. Don’t get me wrong they were both wonderfully unique and well crafted but we both felt they had a hard time competing with the highs of the rest of the meal.
A quick note on the interior. The first thing you notice upon arriving at the restaurant is the architecture. The space is majestic and full of insight into the grandeur of the old providence. There is no doubt that the space has more character than 80% of all the restaurant interiors I have been to. The only thing I would say as a criticism is that the space should be made more quaint. It is so grand in its embellishments and it’s square footage that, when not full, it feels a bit empty. This indeed is a hard puzzle to solve for you do not want to tamper with the beauty of the space.
One other pet peeve is the website….From a branding standpoint the website is completely off brand and doesn’t give Ben and his food the level of design and refinement that it deserves. Would it be so hard to show upfront some beautiful food pics with the space as a backdrop? The Dorrance site needs to feel elegant and modern with a whisper of history. Ill I know is that there are a ton of incredibly talented designers in a .5 mile radius that would love to and would be more than capable of doing a stellar job. hint hint… redesign it…
Overall we deeply enjoyed our experience at The Dorrance. Ben has elevated Providence well beyond its well know Italian food roots. Now I can honestly say that Providence is a city worth visiting from a food standpoint. Really you must go. If you do go you will most likely stay for the night so in the next day or so I will included a few other places (both food and cultural) to check out during your mini excursion.
A slice of my Providence Coming soon..
60 Dorrance Street
Providence, RI 02903