Wisely, a new addition to the Newport dining scene is starting off modestly; it's little more than a pub, but enough more that it shows good promise and even some adventurousness. Malt opened this summer with little fanfare but soon earned a growing fan base.
It's in the Broadway space that housed the popular Tucker's for 16 years; the decor has been simplified. The owners are a young Irish couple, Chelynn and Tom Sheehan, who worked in restaurants around town before taking a deep breath and plunging in. The tasteful black-and-white photographs on the walls are hers.
Wanting to start off as a go-to pub, they offer no fewer than 43 single malt Scotches and 15 bourbons in addition to nearly 30 beers on draft and 55 bottled, with more to come. Their wine list isn't correspondingly ambitious, with a dozen reds and fewer whites.
Since this is Rhode Island, fried calamari ($12) is among the half-dozen appetizers. The rest are more imaginative, such as BBQ peach spareribs ($12) and a spicy pumpkin risotto ($8) with oyster mushrooms and chorizo, though you may have it vegetarian style.
We were quite pleased with our two shared choices. The Thai shrimp nachos ($12) were crispy wontons rather than corn chips, under five medium shrimp that were topped with scallions, leeks, and sweet red peppers. But the beauty part was the thin but richly flavored sauce, light on the red curry and rich with coconut milk. Our server asked if we wanted extra wontons, apparently a frequent request, and we enjoyed the sauce with the crispy bonus.
Fortunately, we also ordered the duck confit spring rolls ($10), four large, crispy pieces on a bed of watercress, the meat leavened with cabbage and spiced up with garlic, ginger, and restraint. Our dining companion considers herself a confit maven and pronounced them quite worthy.
Since the nominal offering here is pub food, there are a couple of burgers ($8 and $11) and two sandwiches: grilled vegetable panino ($8) and a Cuban sandwich ($9) with its requisite roasted pork, ham, and Swiss, but with a spicy aioli. We noticed that a couple at a nearby table had fish and chips ($13) and, assured by them that the batter was thin, Johnnie considered indulging. It was accompanied by an interesting sounding celery root and fennel slaw as well as fries.
We went on to peruse and consider their half-dozen entrées, which range from a seasonal vegetable plate ($14) to a Black Angus ribeye steak ($27). More interesting was the slow-roasted Scottish salmon ($21), but for something to share we opted for the housemade tagliatelle ($17). Good decision. It contained plenty of small pieces of roasted chicken, and the wide noodles were brightened with tart and tangy oven-dried tomatoes, bolstered with Swiss chard and oyster mushrooms. The pile of Pecorino Romano on top was embellished with a drizzle of parsley infused oil. We loved it.
The cheese plate, which is available as an appetizer, is also popular ($12, $16) as a meal-ender. There also are sorbets to choose from and, inevitably, malted milk ice cream (all $6). But Johnnie went for the chocolate mousse bomb ($8), topped with malted milk balls and accompanied by a scoop of ice cream and a decorative caramel drizzle. Her companions sampled and approved.