Five Things: Circe Restaurant, Providence

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


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At Circe, the action gathers at the bar over big cocktails and small plates.

When Providence's Downcity Restaurant closed its doors last year, the city waited and watched. Carefully, Circe Restaurant bloomed on Weybosset Street, helmed by chef Simon Keating who'd made a splash at XO Cafe. Would Circe deliver? Sean DeBobes has the word, and the five things you need to know about one of Downcity's newest outings. 

One. Bookend Drinks.

Since a meal is all about the coursing, I decided to start and finish with a curated selection from owner Carlo Carlozzi. I started off with a Shiso Martini. Fundamentally this is a cucumber-lovers drink. The bar muddles a restrained portion of fresh Shiso leaves before blending in cucumber-infused vodka and finishing with simple syrup and lemon juice. It’s a simple but perfectly executed modified classic. On the other end of dinner I tried (and am presuming Carlo liked the eponymous) Carlo’s Coffee. If you are looking for something sweet and tempered with a bite, this will do it. Dark roast coffee spiked with hazelnut, espresso and vanilla liquor. If you want a sweet drink, what’s not to love?

Two. Cappuccino… Soup.

Sometimes you just want to play with your food. I’m glad chef Simon Keating can put out some delicious fare, while still having a little fun with it. Chef steamed and frothed a soup of tomato and assorted local winter vegetables, serving in a familiar cappuccino glass with tomato foam on top. I can’t call something this delicious a gimmick. The flavor was robust and dynamic. The homogenous appearance gave way on the palate and somehow allowed vegetables to come through independently--tomato forward with eggplant in the middle and a pepper finish.

Three. Raw.

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Chef Simon Keating takes full advantage of Bomster scallops, whether in a scallop ceviche or seared on house-made fettucini, shown here.

There is also the time that a chef needs to know when not to cook. Keating provides two great examples in his menu. The Bomster scallop ceviche started it off. This delicate dish consisted of thinly sliced morsels of the renowned bivalve ‘cooked’ in a citrus vinaigrette and served on fresh pea greens. This preparation was undemanding but refreshing. Next up was the savory Hereford beef tartare, a favorite preparation of mine. This rendition was memorable. Flavored with truffles and Dijon and topped with an open-topped quail egg, this was a beautiful and flavorsome plate.

Four. Grilled Oyster.

A restaurant like Circe hardly lets you get to a main dish, what with all the small plates that you will want to try. A grilled oyster small plate, featuring what the waitress called a "Big Easy preparation", should not be missed. Shuck oyster, put right on the grill and add a treatment of herbed butter and cheese. This dish was all about the flame flavor and the slow spice. You’ll be able to catch me at the bar sometime soon, slurping down a plate of these gems.

Five. Polenta Crisp.

This is a dessert worth repeating. Steere Orchard apples and ginger were topped with polenta and baked into an already delicious mix. This was crowned by scoops of frozen Creme Anglaise as well as finished with it as a sauce. That's what I call decadent perfection.

Would I go back? Yes. Small plates and thoughtful preparations will bring me back very soon.

Hit “Save” Circe. 50 Weybosset Street, Providence, 401-437-8991.

Love food? Follow Sean DeBobes + Five Things on Facebook, here, and on Twitter @SeanDebobes. 


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