After last month’s visit to birch, it seemed timely to check in with Chef Sukle’s former haunt, The Dorrance. Housed in a turn-of-the-century bank building on the corner of Dorrance and Westminster streets in downtown Providence, The Dorrance’s high ceilings and ornate detailing provide a fitting backdrop for an equally elegant menu. The first step inside this opulent interior will prime even the most nonchalant diner for a sophisticated evening. In our case, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate spot to dine before a masquerade ball in the ballroom of the Biltmore.
You may have already heard that The Dorrance is known for its cocktails. Of course you can order them at the dinner table, but I think it’s more fun to start your night at the bar, watching the adept bartenders mix exotic concoctions off the creative, playful cocktail menu. On this visit, I ordered The Rosemary... Baby! ($12), a lemony gin drink with rosemary and dandelion bitters, perfectly foamy with egg white. My husband tried the Serious Business ($12), a complex rye-based lowball garnished with a seriously spiked fig. We were dining fairly early, so the restaurant was quiet when we arrived, giving us a chance to explore the old vault (now a small lounge), and the upstairs platform, which overlooks most of the restaurant.
When we took a post-cocktail look at the menu, it was difficult to choose. Luckily we had brought friends who were willing to share. We each started with an appetizer: my two favorites were the Rhode Island Crudo ($12) and the Taglierini Norcia ($16). The Crudo features seafood based on the day’s catch. On our visit, it was delicate slices of scallop, nestled in lime confit and sprinkled with togarashi, served alongside three accompaniments: local edamame, cucumber granita surrounded by pickled ginger and a house made ponzu sauce. The arrangement was beautifully contrasted with a maroon shiso leaf garnish. The Taglierini, a thin pasta, was tossed with a fragrant black truffle sauce. We all remarked that the pasta was cooked to absolute perfection. The Burrata ($13) and House Cured Sea Trout ($13) were also good choices.
For my entree, I ordered the Duck Breast ($28), medium-rare slices of duck brushed with an orange maple glaze and served alongside ricotta späetzle. My husband ordered the Wiener Schnitzel ($30), a traditional fried veal cutlet accompanied by blue and white fries and a small salad. Both entrées hint at the European provenance of The Dorrance’s new chef, Massimiliano Mariotta, who comes from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. During dinner, he appeared in the dining room often to check on diners during their meals. We enjoyed chatting with him - he was enthusiastic and eager to talk about the menu and his passion for fresh ingredients. Our dining companions had the Scallop Mattapoisett ($28) and Sirloin Tagliata ($30). With our entrées, we drank the Livio Felluga Vertigo, a Cabernet/Merlot blend that was well-balanced and full of dark fruit.
Our waitress certainly possessed the skills required by a fine restaurant - an impeccable memory, good timing and the uncanny ability to know when we were pining for more bread (which, by the way, is baked by Foremost Baking Company and is too good to refuse).
A pre-dessert cheese course was tempting, as we were having so much fun, we didn’t want to leave. We chose a British cave-aged cheddar, Great Hill Blue from Massachusetts and Wheyside. Wheyside, along with two other cheese selections on the menu, is produced especially for The Dorrance by Nobscot Artisan Cheese from milk from Jersey cows at their Framingham, Massachusetts farm (Eastleigh). Wheyside was a pungent, orange-rind soft cheese that was on the stinky end of the spectrum, which I love. Our cheeses were accompanied by crostini, honey, jams and a few adorably tiny ground cherries.
We shared two desserts. A chocolate soufflé was served alongside a glass of sour cream gelato topped with fruit compote. Our four spoons made quick work of the soufflé, which was not too small, just too delicious. The dessert du jour was a panna cotta laced with Chambord and topped with fruit.
Since we took our time with dinner, a band was starting to set up in the opposite corner of the restaurant as we finished the last bites of dessert. It would have been fun to stay and dance, but like a predictable ending to our storybook dinner, we were late for our ball.