Five Things: DeWolf Tavern, Bristol

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Culinary insiders had excellent things to say about DeWolf Tavern, the waterfront Bristol establishment, and a number made special trips from Providence, Cranston... even Newport... to dine there. With the glow of summer still on the docks, Sean DeBobes went to the East Bay to see if all the buzz was warranted. Here are the five things he wants you to know.

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One. Sticker Shock special.

Served with an herbed butter and an exquisite braised white peach with Maytag Blue Cheese, a delicious grass-fed, dry-aged NY strip steak was masterfully cooked and I couldn't have been happier. The sour note (perhaps the only of the evening) came with the bill - $42 is a little steep for even the best steak. Be sure to ask the price before ordering a special.

Two. Thoughtful cocktails.

It is abundantly clear that special attention was paid by DeWolf when its bar menu - just quirky enough - was crafted. I tried a sip of my date's Maine Margarita, and had trouble giving it back. Pair Cuervo Gold with house-made sour mix, throw in some spiced wild blueberry syrup and you have a great regional twist on a perpetual people pleaser. If possible, though, I enjoyed my drink - a decadent coconut martini - even more. Rich, sweet, in a glass dusted with toasted coconut, it was a sexy balancing act.

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Three. Lobster popover.

How often is lobster prepared in a tandoor, the cylindrical clay oven used in Indian cooking and baking? Not enough. Or perhaps just enough, in the creative, sure hands of Chef Sai Viswanath. Emerging from the tandoor, giant chunks of crustacean possessed incredible texture, slightly firmer than their boiled brethren, and held up famously in the popover which was their vehicle. Finished in a sweet sherry and cream sauce, this one appetizer alone can bring a diner back to Bristol.

Four. Creative apps.

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While Viswanath (right) may not be interested in reinventing the wheel, he certainly is a master at spinning it. A naan pizza, served warm but with cold toppings - smoked salmon, sour cream with capers, mustard oil and cilantro - is a tasty case in point. Confident and creative, this was fusion that both surprised and worked. And finding another way to enjoy the soft, fresh bread beyond its traditional setting is always a fun affair.

Five. Chutney.

Chef Viswanath really knows how to dress up a dish, and his brilliant chutneys informed me of this all night. A piece of sole with poblano and corn hash, and stuffed with pancetta and crab, was truly elevated by a savory ginger and tomato chutney. While a roasted lamb chop found its way to my list of favorites with its intensely flavored sweet tamarind chutney. Complementing fine mains, these chutneys enhance without overpowering.

Would I go back? Yes. I can't wait to sample every bite of this skillfully designed and delivered menu.

Hit "Save": DeWolf Tavern, 259 Thames St, Bristol, 254-2005. Mon-Sat 4:30-10pm, Sun 4:30-9:30pm, reservations strongly encouraged.


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