When a successful restaurant opens another location, the easiest thing is to clone the original, or at least the menu that was its claim to fame. While Hemenway's, the seafood restaurant in Providence, has been open for 25 years, only this year, after being bought by Newport Restaurant Group, did its brand expand. Well, the East Greenwich location certainly hasn't been rubber-stamped.
Of course, there are plenty of the old-crowd pleasers offered, to not shock regulars who venture that far south. If you forgo the raw bar, there are the bacon and scallion wrapped scallops ($12) and the assorted seafood platter ($29) to start with, and their signature clam chowder ($4/$6). You can cap things off with their Key lime pie ($7). But the middle of the menu is different, apart from the obligatory fresh catch plates — and even those fillets and fish steaks are differentiated, available "Oscar style," with lump crab, asparagus spears, and Hollandaise sauce.
Though the place has been open only seven months, they are on their third menu, deleting and retaining on the basis of diner feedback. If every new restaurant did this, there wouldn't be such a dire survival rate.
Hemenway's Dockside | 401.336.3920 | 28 Water St, East Greenwich | Tues-Thurs, 5-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 5-10 pm; Sun, 4-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
Many of the main course dishes sound intriguing. Ginger pecan tuna and sweet potato encrusted sea scallops (both $26). Even the Block Island swordfish steak ($24) is done with imagination: with wild mushroom risotto cake and fennel-leek ragout accompaniments.
There are a couple of burgers, a steak sandwich, and fish and chips for those who want less than an elaborate meal at the downstairs bar. Splitting that seafood platter is another good idea for lighter appetites.
We showed up on a day where we could take advantage of the Sunday-Thursday seasonal prix-fixe special — three courses for $19.95. It was too good to pass up, considering the offerings. The prosciutto and goat cheese-stuffed chicken with blackberry demi-glaze is the only one of the five selections that is also on the regular menu, at $19, and I was drawn to it; asparagus and smashed potatoes containing caramelized shallots and roasted garlic, umm . . . hmm. There was also baked scrod and grilled salmon, besides the two we finally chose.
My starter was the Hemenway's clam chowder, an especially creamy version that goes for the gusto instead of the heart health points. Lots of clams, too, so why not name it for the restaurant instead of giving credit to New England, its usual designation. Johnnie's mixed green salad lacked the vegetables that the menu and our waitress said should have been there, for which she was apologetic.
I also ordered separately an appetizer, or "Savory Beginning" as the menu would have it, that sparked my curiosity. Duck wings ($10) were the temptation, and I wanted to see how they compared to the omnipresent chicken variety. Unfortunately, the five pieces were scrawny rather than meaty, which was exacerbated by being fried far too crisply.