Written by Ronni Edmonds | Photography: Patti Wohl on 28 January 2012
Feeling a tad under the weather the night I dined at The ROI, a new supper club located at 150 Chestnut Street in Providence. Nonetheless, it was my duty as a “foodie” to explore this new establishment and its culinary cuisine.
Upon entering The ROI, my friend Walter and I descended a shallow, slightly curved staircase that delivered us to a smiling hostess named Kendra who was patiently waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Kendra allowed us to choose a booth in a smaller room to the left of the stage area. As my companion and I settled in, I couldn’t help but take in the atmosphere of this subterranean restaurant. In keeping with the tradition of a supper club, the lighting was kept dim while contemporary jazz music cascaded through the room to enhance your dining experience. The sexy ambiance is created through the use of various styles of lighting. Pot lights are strategically placed along the ceiling, several decorative sconces adorn beams, and modern pendants hang as to cast a soft spotlight on the main attraction – the food, of course!
Just as I reached for my menu, Jessica our courteous server appeared tableside to greet us and to deliver a funnel filled with assorted breads and a yogurt riata dipping sauce. She asked us for our drink orders and as I was not feeling 100%, I opted for a decaf herbal tea to Walter’s Belvedere martini. As Jessica took her leave, head chef Paul Shire came over to introduce himself. Paul was quite personable and did not mind sharing some of his personal background and how The ROI came to be. He also suggested a couple of menu items he thought we might enjoy.
So, for starters we began our culinary quest with the Polenta Fries. This generous serving of four “steak fry” style, corn meal polenta fries was appetizing and cooked to a perfect golden brown. The outer crispness gave way to a soft, moist inside that maintained a delicate flavor which hinted at the olive oil it was lightly fried in. Gorgonzola cheese was crumbled on top and slightly melted. This was a clever touch to increase the flavor and went well with the spicy marinara sauce the fries were appropriately garnished with. As a bonus, Chef Shire sent over an appetizer of Pan Fried Mozzarella.
Four large, fresh mozzarella medallions were lightly breaded and fried in extra virgin olive oil till golden brown. They are served with a tasty plum tomato and basil puree. In general, I am not a fan of pan fried cheese of any kind. However, in defense of The ROI version, these weren’t your ordinary neighborhood pizza parlor kind. There was an extra mile gone here for good measure.
As our appetizer leftovers, all one of them, were taken to be boxed up for my guest to enjoy later, we decided on our entrees. Jessica appeared and took our orders. The Sautéed Chicken Cutlet in Lemon Wine Sauce for me, while my dining companion, on the other hand, pulled one of my numbers known as the “Sally Albright,” made famous from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” He chose the meatloaf but decided to sub sautéed spinach and fries, “on the side,” along with Tabasco sauce “on the side.” In addition, he asked for the Crab Cakes, but “on the side.” I am a supporter of the “on the side” policy. However, not one of the menu items that I chose was in need of any Tabasco sauce (but, to each his own).
I thoroughly enjoyed my moist, tender, all natural chicken cutlets with roasted artichoke hearts, peppers, olives and capers. The lemon wine sauce exhibited just the right flavor of seasonings and creaminess. I didn’t need to add basic ingredients such as salt or pepper, as I have had to with some other versions of this Italian classic. The sautéed green beans were al dente and the savory mashed potatoes were delicious. My only suggestion would be to make the portion a tad larger. But, that may be just because I enjoyed it so much. Walter was equally pleased with his meatloaf. I must admit that I also enjoyed the meatloaf. It was hearty without being too heavy or filling. I could cut my bite with a fork, that’s how tender the meatloaf was. The gravy that accompanied the dish was made with love, kind of like your mom would make at Thanksgiving. No lumps in this sauce. The sautéed spinach was silky and flavorful and seemed to just melt in your mouth. I am not partial to crab cakes so will only say that the flavors were there but I thought just a bit more crab meat would have sufficed. The sweet potato fries, on the other hand, were to my liking. They were large cut fries that had the right mix of crunch on the outside and the proper texture within. There was no heavy breading here, which I appreciated. My companion agreed.
Although there wasn’t much room to welcome dessert, we managed to indulge in the Tiramisu that Chef Shire delivered to our table. The Tiramisu was my request and I was pleasantly surprised by its simplicity. A round of moist white lady finger cake was topped with mascarpone cheese, mocha, and whipped cream. Each layer stood well on its own but as a medley of ingredients it provided the perfect balance of textures and taste. There was a rich chocolate sauce that adorned the plate which I made good use of with each bite of my dessert. I don’t particular care for desserts that are overly sweet, and in this regard, The ROI’s tiramisu was just right. The presentation was lovely, as well.
My dining experience was very enjoyable. The staff was courteous, the food delicious, and the décor and ambiance are to be appreciated. I would highly recommend that you include The ROI on your list of restaurants to try soon – before the buzz it will garner from not only its cuisine, but its musical line-ups, make it too difficult to get a table!