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Review: Chez Pascal

Regional fare, boundless pleasures
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  June 10, 2009

Everything about Chez Pascal, beginning with Monday Market Menus and ending with a gallery show for a Rhody painter, emphasizes co-owners Matt and Kristin Gennuso's support for local talent, be it farmers or artists. The lovely French bistro feel of the dining areas — buttery gold walls with painted tin ceilings and light fixtures that resemble a bouquet of calla lilies — is enhanced by the artwork, which couldn't be more local, since it was produced by a waiter, a hostess, and a bartender who work at Chez Pascal.

CHEZ PASCAL |401.421.4422 | 960 HOPE ST, PROVIDENCE | MON-THURS, 5:30-9:30 PM; FRI-SAT, 5:30-10 PM | MAJOR CREDIT CARDS | FULL BAR | NO SIDEWALK-LEVEL ACCESSIBLE

The Gennusos (he's the chef, she's the pastry chef) made a commitment to local foods when they took over Chez Pascal more than six years ago. They were at the cutting edge of Rhode Island restaurateurs making connections to local farmers, fishermen, vintners, cheesemakers, bakers, and other food producers. Based on the Winter Farmers' Market in Pawtucket this year, they began to create menu items for Monday evenings based solely on what they could get from the market or the farmers themselves.

Thus, on a recent Monday evening, oysters from Matunuck Oyster Farm were featured with Four Town Farm's radishes and rhubarb. Stoney Hill Cattle Co.'s pork sausage was the base for a ragout; Narragansett Creamery supplied feta and cream cheese; Blackbird Farm provided their homegrown beef; Wishing Stone and Red Planet farms supplied more veggies.

Chez Pascal's regular menu also highlights local products, so we ended up choosing an appetizer with Narragansett Bay squid ($12) and, from the Monday Menu, a salad of greens, radishes, feta, and hard-boiled eggs, the latter from Harmony Hill Farm ($8). The eggs were wonderfully fresh, the feta especially creamy, the greens nicely dressed.

The sautéed squid (not fried) was tender, its rings dolloped with sweet pepper relish and drizzled with a tasty aioli, accompanied by grilled potato bread (from Olga's) and mesclun greens.

Bill chose the Rhode Island-raised pork, house butchered and prepared three different ways ($31). There were slices of marinated grilled leg, marinated grilled loin (Bill found this less tender than the leg pieces), and house-made sausage. As if that weren't enough to thrill Bill, he also had a significant portion of flamiche, a Belgian tart stuffed with Gruyere, potatoes, and sauerkraut. We heard nothing but "mmmmms" from that side of the table once his dish was served.

I chose the chicken entrée ($25) and encouraged our friend Baiba to get the Bomster scallops ($25), since they are the flash-frozen-at-sea beauties from Stonington, Connecticut. My small half-chicken, delicately roasted and very flavorful, was accompanied by parsnip purée (a much lighter variation on mashed potatoes), braised greens (I'm picky, and these were cooked just right), and a savory/sweet Muscat grape sauce. Every-thing on the plate was memorably balanced.

Baiba found the same to be true of the scallops, pan-sautéed with a nice crust, plus a veggie potage, pommes Maxim, and a golden beet and raisin compote. The potage was a delightful parade of parsnips, celery, onions, turnips, and carrots, with the first two taking the lead. The pommes were very thinly-sliced potatoes, tossed in melted butter and baked in a slow oven. In a petal arrangement, they were quite chic atop the potage. The compote had an earthiness that deftly complemented the scallops.

Bill sipped a California Gewürztraminer, but we should have tried this from the Monday Menu: Greenvale Vineyards Vidal Blanc with strawberry puree, mint, and a splash of Yacht Club cream soda. We were too distracted by the nearby description of strawberry bread pudding with rhubarb compote and cream cheese mousse ($8). We pondered the other desserts, including a pear upside-down cake with Great Hill blue cheese, a cream cheese torte with local macerated strawberries, and the "chocolate in 3's" — chocolate pudding cake, molten cake with rhubarb compote, and chocolate chunk cheesecake — but we came back to the strawberry bread pudding. This was a hit for its slice of soft French toast-like "bread pudding," smothered in a strawberry-rhubarb sauce and the light-as-air cream cheese mousse on the side. The ice creams and sorbets are also house-made, so we tried the honey-thyme ice cream, but it was too sweet for my tastes, one slightly discordant note in an entire symphony of tastes.

It doesn't get any better than farm-fresh ingredients handled as skillfully as they are at Chez Pascal.

Johnette Rodriguez can be reached atjohnette.rodriguez@cox.net.

Related: Bond Restaurant and Lounge, Johnnie's on the Side, Review: Taam China Glatt Kosher Chinese Cuisine, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Cheese, Chez Pascal, Culture and Lifestyle,  More more >
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