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Five Things: Asterisk Restaurant & Bar, Newport

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

 

They are famous for a reason, and still worth the the trip to Newport alone: Asterisk's Espresso Martinis. All photos: Asterisk.

Asterisk Restaurant & Bar has been a bit of a best-kept-secret for more than 10 years, tucked away on Newport's Lower Thames Street. Sean DeBobes thought it was high time to see how this local star was holding up. Here are the five things he wants you to know.

One. Espresso Martini.

The espresso martini has certainly been done and done… but any time a server tells me, “We are known for this,” I have to try it. I can see now why Asterisk is known for this one. The bar wouldn’t divulge the exact concoction, but it barely mattered. What I could tell, it had a frothy crema top, a rich flavor and a thick viscosity. The bitter, freshly-brewed notes from the espresso shone through to create a stately blend.

Two. Fritters and Chowder.

An order of these, mid-summer, from many clam shacks can be a great meal. Asterisk, however, has brought quite a bit of class to the famous Rhode Island duo. The fish chowder with a great hunk of crusty bread would in itself be a great meal. A light, creamy fish base was joined by subtle dill notes and smoky undertones. The addition of a sparse amount of caramelized chorizo really added to the layers of flavor.

The converted garage space that was startling and new more than 10 years ago is still a vibrant place for great cocktails and memorable food.

The only thing that improved on this culinary event was when the Lobster, Crab, and Shrimp fritters came steaming out of the kitchen. There were large chunks of the crustaceans throughout the fritters and a spicy aioli that had a great lemon pop. For when you need a quick dose of summer, no matter what the season.

Three. Greens.

The menu listed this salad simply as Artisan Greens but the flavor in these greens was anything but simple. The mix was adorned with roasted pumpkin, dried cranberries, toasted sunflower, feta cheese, and a white balsamic vinaigrette.  These ingredients melded wonderfully together to create a dynamic autumnal flavor that could make Thanksgiving jealous. In this dish, surprisingly, the star was the saline feta which helped to bridge all the other components.

Four. Seventeen-Year-Old Salmon.

Seafood fritters complement a chowder that makes any month a dose of Newport summer.

Menu items come and go, as they should, but one item at Asterisk has lasted for 17 years. The Crispy Salmon, the waitress informed me, cannot be removed from the menu without a riot. This salmon came out perfectly prepared. Delicate and crisp with a sweet and savory cabernet sauce. The salmon was incredibly flavorful, but I don’t want to glaze over the interesting side. Chef created an orzo risotto with asparagus and mushrooms. The earthy risotto had a unique and interesting texture from swapping the rice with pasta. Certainly something I’ll be on the lookout for.

Five. Braised.

Nothing welcomes the winter better than a braised dinner. Asterisk hit the mark with a wonderful braised lamb shank with heavily caramelized Cipollini onions.  The rich and incredibly tender shank was complimented with capers and orange that really helped to brighten up the dish. The kind of dish that warms you on a cold night with robust flavor combinations to keep the taste buds excited.

Would I go back? Yes. Thoughtful combinations and great service. Certainly worth another trip up Thames.

Hit “Save” Asterisk Restaurant and Bar. 599 Thames St, Newport. 401-841-8843.

Want to know more? Follow Sean DeBobes on the Five Things Facebook page, or on Twitter @SeanDeBobes.

 

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