We’d heard that Sting and family had stopped by the week before, and we saw the Mayor chatting with the staff as we settled in at our table, so it felt like we were part of the “in-crowd” when we recently dined at Bravo. Many of the people, including us, were grabbing a bite before the show at Trinity Rep, just across the street.
The polished wood surfaces, the rough brick walls, and the burgundy banquettes provide a warm, homey feel to Bravo. The dark colors are lightened by the large windows lining two sides of the L-shaped space, and mirrors on the other two sides of the main dining room reflect the glow of chandeliers and small wall lamps.
The staff at Bravo is just as welcoming, making you feel that no question is silly and that a special request for speedy service is all in a day’s work. The latter was particularly crucial when the friends whom we were meeting before the theater were delayed by babysitter issues.
Not wanting to rush ourselves, we started our meal without them. We watched steamed mussels (with pommes frites), steamed littlenecks, and calamari (Provençal-style with tomatoes, olives and capers) float by on trays to other tables. We smelled the burgers (in several variations) being served. We noted the generous size of the salads, but our professional duties called us to peruse the entrées.
There were slightly larger portions of the moules frites (mussels with fries) and Bravo mussels (with chorizo and charred onions), along with skirt steak, tenderloins, rack of lamb, and de rigeuer in Rhode Island, two pasta dishes. Bill chose a special that night of veal scallopini ($18), which was served over a bed of greens, just perfect for his attempts at avoiding carbs. He was very pleased with the wine sauce, the tenderness of the paillards, and the generous amount of mushrooms, “one for every bite.”
I considered the seafood dishes — sal¬mon, scallops, or sole — and settled on the less sibilant cod, indeed pan-roasted cod Basquaise ($16), with Espelette peppers (from the town of Espelette in the Pyrenees). The peppers, along with tomatoes, parsley, white wine, and capers, gave the sauce around the fish a distinct taste, similar to Portuguese cuisine and quite delicious.
Though we had already tucked into these main dishes when our dinner companions arrived, we had also enjoyed two opening items, the roasted beet salad for me ($8) and the French onion soup for Bill ($5). The salad was tasty, with orange vinaigrette tossed over the beets, cara¬melized fennel, and goat cheese crostini. Bill’s soup had that sharp nutty taste of Gruyère melted on top.
Enter the latecomers, who made quick decisions for the crab cake ($11), Niçoise salad ($9), and scallops ($18). The crab cake was almost large enough for a meal, served with a nice Asian slaw and a chipotle aioli.
Any of the salads can be ordered with grilled chicken or shrimp or seared tuna, but since a Niçoise is usually includes tuna, none of us noticed that it’s served naked here if not specified. A generous portion of mixed greens, baby potatoes, green beans, and tiny black Niçoise olives was tossed in a sherry Dijon vinaigrette, but, alas, no tuna.
The other half of the couple, however, was chowing down on a plate heaped with mashed potatoes, some wilted spinach, and over it all, a shallot tarragon cream sauce and pan-seared scallops. He was quite pleased.
We all shared a portion of flourless chocolate cake that was very good, and on a subsequent visit, I had a bowl of passionfruit sorbet, which was a wonderful blend of tart, sweet and cold.
The indoor scene at Bravo is built around the long bar area, with a good wine list, some striking cocktails, a raw bar, and some inventive sandwiches (though any menu item can be ordered there).
On warm summer nights, Bravo is even more of a place to see and be seen because there’s service at outdoor tables on Empire Street. Lighter items are often ordered outside or at the bar, including the burgers ($8/$9, with fries) or sandwiches ($10-$14), such as a lobster club, grilled chicken, or steak sandwich, the latter with tenderloin tips, mushrooms, onions and Gruyère.
Unlike its predecessors in this same location, Bravo seems to have really adapted to the neighborhood and made itself a place for all seasons, all appetites — and all those demands of “get me to the show on time!”
Bravo Brasserie | 123 Empire St, Providence | Kitchen: 11 am-11:30 pm; bar: 11 am-1 am, Fri + Sat till 2 am | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access | 401.490.5112
On the Web
Bravo Brasserie: www.bravobrasserie.com