Tucker's Bistro has always held a kind of enchantment for us, as for many other customers. The tree outside the restaurant wrapped in tiny white lights is only the beginning. Inside there are large chandeliers created from wired ribbon and multi-colored lights; the walls are a rich scarlet with deep green accents; they are comfortably crowded with an eclectic collection of oil paintings, sconces, and mirrors.
Each linen-draped table has a different lamp and salt-and-pepper combo. This time our lamp looked like a slave holding an Art Deco globe on his head; the s&p were tiny German steins. If all of this sounds a bit baroque, it is, but in a fascinating, transported-to-a-European-bistro kind of way.
Tucker's Bistro | 401.846.3449 | 150 Broadway, Newport | Mon-Sun, 6-10 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Access
The food descriptions might seem similarly overdone but, trust me, everything that's promised is in a given dish, and everything works wonderfully well together. Chef Richard Allaire and owner Tucker Harris are both interested in local and seasonal ingredients, and one of the specials that night was Rhode Island tautog.
Reading through both sides of the menu and trying to balance what we might indulge in, I was drawn to the Delicata squash and maitake risotto with mascarpone cheese and a sage-tinged brown butter ($9.95). But I also loved the sound of Thai shrimp nachos and knew it would thrill Bill ($12.95).
The shrimp were farm-raised in Mexico (I'm not sure if that qualifies them for sustainability and chemical-free status, but I took a chance). The five large shrimp were sautéed with scallions, leeks, and sweet red peppers and then tossed with a coconut red curry broth, along with crisp-fried wontons to serve as the "chip" in these nachos. Although a bit spicier than I expected, I could easily hie myself weekly to Tucker's just to eat it again. Bill was, indeed, thrilled.
The risotto was, unfortunately, undercooked, but the chef admitted his mistake and gave it another round before packing it up for our take-home bag. I didn't pick up the squash taste, but the mushrooms and sage gave it a wonderful fall earthiness.
From the salmon, rib eye, spinach fettuccini, chicken breast, scallops, and duck dishes on the entrée list, we chose the latter two. The duck is from Long Island's Crescent Farm and is served as a trio of preparations ($28.95); the scallops are from George's Bank ($27.95).
The seared scallops were accompanied by pomegranate spaetzle (curly homemade noodles) and sautéed salsify in a sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) sauce. There was a hint of the curry oil in the seared edges of the scallops, and the plate was decoratively sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. The accompaniments to the scallops were a perfect foil for their ocean sweetness.
Bill's triad of duck was astounding. Slices of medium-rare duck breast were draped over a "risotto" made from sunflower seeds instead of rice; a confit of the dark meat had a small egg yolk-like circle of mango-and-ginger sauce perched on it; house-made duck prosciutto was tossed with a bit of beets and greens in a Grand Marnier-almond vinaigrette. "I haven't had better duck," Bill exclaimed.