Review: Local 121

Sincerely tethered
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  January 18, 2011

Local 121 isn't a locabore about their commitment to "locally harvested food and drink." The restaurant just places a list of some of their "local resources" at the bottom of their menu: Matunuck Oyster Farm, Prima Pasta, Sakonnet Vineyards, and so on.

But someone should blow their horn for them, since their commitment is as praiseworthy as their food. The lists of large plates ($16-$28) and small plates ($9-$15) usually headline sources: roasted Giannone Farm chicken breast, Wolf Neck Farm ribeye, bacon-wrapped grilled Bomster scallops, a Northeastern artisinal cheese trio. And, of course, fried calamari from Point Judith. (Prepared not the usual way, tossed with tart pepper rings, but rather with pepper relish, a feta rémoulade, and a sumac vinaigrette.) They do, however, wander out of New England to Long Island for their pan-roasted duck breast, but let's forgive them. Their mission statement online declares that in addition to giving their business to area suppliers, the animals that provide their needs are raised "with no inhumane confinement, antibiotics or growth hormones — ever."

Local 121 | 401.274.2121 | 121 Washington St, Providence | Mon-Thurs 12-10 pm; Fri-Sat 12-11 pm; Sun, 5-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible

Local 121 is the creation of restaurateurs Joshua and Nancy Miller. They also own the nearby Trinity Brewhouse, a bastion of burgers and beers, so apparently they are staking out both ends of the culinary spectrum, and perhaps we can expect them to fill in the middle as time goes on. The restaurant is in the former Dreyfus Hotel, purchased by the AS220 artist collective to provide studios and cheap living quarters for local artists.

Step in, and there's plenty to attract your eye as well as appetite. To the right is the bar room, with stained glass windows to beckon you in. The main dining area spans architectural eras, with acanthus leaf molding reminiscent of Greek columns and a circle pattern on the backs of chairs echoing the concentric circles of drop lights. On the walls are art photographs and other works from around here, showing a commitment to buying local that extends past farm goods.

Dining early, as we happened to be doing, has the advantage of a $30 prix fixe menu, Sunday through Friday from 5 to 6 pm — not just through Thursday, mind you. It's quite a deal for three courses, so we grabbed it.

The appetizer choice was a seasonal soup or a "teenaged" lettuce salad from Arcadian Fields in Hope Valley, with Green Goddess dressing (loved the Mother Earth joke). The soup of the day sounded too appealing to pass up, though. It was a purée of parsnip and apples. This root vegetable is oddly neglected, though it is appealingly sweet. Thinned out a bit, to keep us from thinking applesauce, the flavors remained separate. It was imaginatively finished with a touch of olive oil, which contributed an ineffable fullness. All quite delicious.

There were three entrées offered, starting with baked haddock alla puttanesca, with cannellini beans, Bright Lights Swiss chard, and — brilliant touch — "melted" fennel, for an anise undertaste. Imaginative design.

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