Review: Tierra Restaurant & Lounge

Covering lots of ethnic ground
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 6, 2010

Here's a welcome addition to the ongoing revitalization of Pawtucket. Earlier this year Tierra Restaurant & Lounge opened an upscale but moderately-priced place to go after catching a show at the Gamm or taking a romantic stroll through Slater Park. It's quite a change from, and not to be confused with, the noisy Tabu Restaurant & Lounge that used to be in the building.

The exterior is elegant, with peach trim on cream stucco. And the interior is quite attractive, with the bar lit to glow like sunset, etched-glass windows to let in light but not traffic views, and black leather seating in alcoves, for those who have to wait. A sports bar with a couple of pool tables is downstairs, in case you just want to eat instead of dine and your team is playing.

Tierra | 401.722.8800 | 15 Exchange St, Pawtucket | Tues-Fri, 11:30 am-3:30 pm, 4:30-9:30 pm; Sat-Sun, 12-9:30 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Access

The menu is primarily Mediterranean, as in Spanish and Italian, with a few Colombian and Guatemalan dishes supplied by chef Jaime Kozusco to make sure that the owner, Rudy Hernandez, remains an enthusiastic customer. Their house wine is Concha y Toro, and north of a dozen more, heavy on California labels, are available by the glass — what looks like a generous six ounces. The elaborateness of some of the specialty martinis is indicated by the rococo name of one of them, the five-ingredient "Bacardi Dragon Berry Grotto Martini." I went for their simple Mediterranean Martini, just pomegranate vodka and pomegranate liqueur. Highly recommendable.

The appetizers ($7-$9) give an accurate survey of the rest of the menu's ethnic variety. There is shrimp in garlic sauce, a Portuguese restaurant mainstay, and Italian clams zuppa, as well as mussels and clams in a garlic and white wine sauce. Spanish chorizo pops up frequently on this menu, including grilled as a starter. And there is grilled pizza, in both margarita and chorizo versions.

We started with the calamari ($7). Johnnie was relieved that there wasn't even one tentacle to avert her eyes from. The tender rings were fried golden and greaseless and served with an unusual variation on the usual accompaniment: hot peppers — hot as in heated in a vinegary sauce, a welcome change, plentiful in a gravy boat.

Before our main dishes, we also shared a cold seafood salad ($9) and enjoyed that even more. It could have been a hearty meal for one person, a pile of fresh mixed greens on the platter, from baby spinach to frisee. It was tossed with a sweetly tangy vinaigrette, heavy on the red onions and celery and even heavier on the shrimp and scallops, plus mussels and cherrystone clams, the latter two in-shell.

I wanted the chuletas de cerdo al Arriero ($15), two 6-ounce pork chops under a garlic and herb sauce — but they were out. Sigh. There were two sirloin and two filet mignon offerings, but I switched to their signature chicken marsala ($14). Good choice. The sauce was thick rather than the runny version I don't like, and the chicken was tender. There were plenty of fresh mushrooms on top. It was accompanied by green beans and carrots that were pestoed up a bit. The mashed potatoes were tasty but a semi-solid lump rather than fluffed for serving. The lime-tart fried plantains? Mmmm.

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