ARTFUL Hourglass offers a multitude of culinary feats.
Providence Restaurant Weeks (which continue through July 21; view the list at goprovidence.com/RW) is a sweet deal for several reasons: it extends beyond Providence, down to East Greenwich and Bristol; it gives you a chance to visit favorite places at a bargain rate ($14.95 three-course lunches and $29.95 three-course dinners); and it opens opportunities to visit restaurants you might not otherwise feel you can afford.
After careful study of the possibilities (only a few have lunch as well as dinner), we chose Hourglass Brasserie, in Bristol, and we were happy we did. Envision French cuisine with local twists, under the expert hand of Chef Rizwan Ahmed, who is half-English/half-Pakistani and has cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants in London and Bermuda. Picture a yellow-striped awning with red geraniums below it, the perfect ambiance for a Parisian cafe. Top it off with luxurious ivory-colored suede dining chairs and very attentive service. The result is that you'll feel pampered, from beginning to end.
At Hourglass, there are not only three courses for the Restaurant Weeks dinner but small touches in between: a tiny cup of red pepper gazpacho with a swirl of basil oil, a dried basil leaf chip, and a thin bread stick with bits of anchovies embedded in it. And that was just the "amuse-bouche" — to wake up your mouth! There was a choice of two appetizers, and we ordered different ones. Bill had the turnip veloute, a puréed soup that surrounded a tiny crab croquette, bits of pickled Granny Smith apple, and various herbed greenery.
I had the heirloom tomato salad, with a lovely lemon vinaigrette complementing the baked feta cubes that had been dipped in powdered sumac, also slightly lemony. There were crispy shallot rings and basil chips, but the tomatoes were just grape and cherry tomatoes; it's not yet the season for true heirlooms. There was also an intense "tomato snow" with threads of chili draped over it. Next came another "treat" — a palate cleanser of chilled watermelon consommé topped with a thin layer of honeydew foam.
From the three entrée items, we chose salmon and duck (the veggie option was pea risotto, with edamame and fava beans). My salmon pavé (referring to the square shape) sat atop Israeli couscous in a red wine sauce, garnished with frisée. Zucchini and yellow squash chunks nestled in the couscous, nicely al dente.
Bill's duck plate had a multitude of culinary feats going on: a foie gras pate that had a sweet hazelnut taste to it, Bill reported; a duck confit wrapped in puff pastry; slices of duck meat, plus poached cherries, pea pods, baby carrots, all in a chocolate jus. Bill proclaimed it a "work of art" just to look at (I think his palate responded in kind).
Our two desserts were "berries & crumbles" and crème brûlée. The latter was Tahitian vanilla topped with prune compote and blueberries (it all worked quite wonderfully). The former was a repeat of the duck plate artistry: here a brick wall of strawberry slices, there a tiny meringue cap; here a vertical piece of shortbread, there a tiny dollop of almond butter cream. Carefully arranged throughout the scene were blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and poured over it all was a terrific strawberry consommé.