Archive for August, 2010

Province: it’s a good thing.

I think Province never had a chance in hell of making it into the “omg this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten” category, strictly because it came directly after our kickass L2O dining victory of champions. FDL was still humming from that decadence, and quite honestly everything I’ve eaten since that meal has paled in comparison. Clearly it’s unfair to compare; it would be like comparing 1994 Michael Jordan to 2010 Hanes-hawkin’ wife-cheatin’ bald head-rubbin’ Michael Jordan. Or something.

Was Province good? Absolutely. Would I go back again? Mehh…hrmm..probably not. I think part of it has to do with the location;  on Jefferson a few blocks north of Randolph. Not that it’s a bad location by any means, but there’s something about that area of the city that feels industrial and empty and totally devoid of charm. 5:00 hits and everyone vanishes. There’s no one on the streets, and it’s slightly creepy. Part of what I love about dining out is the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood and being able to sit and watch people come and go and maybe talk some smack about tragic outfits. The location of Province afforded none of that, and outside of the people also dining in the restaurant, I’m not sure I even saw anyone else on the street that night.

All that aside, Province is really a beautiful-looking space. It’s mainly neutrally-gray painted save for a few accent walls that pop with bright magenta and a cluster of upside-down hanging trees. There’s a private dining area partially sequestered behind a wall of wine bottles and a glass door, and a wide, open, covered outdoor patio. We opted to eat inside due to J. feeling under the weather and also to get a better sense of the nature of the service. M. rushed to check out the bathroom and reported bamboo counters and fancy toilets, and our server handed us menus affixed to brightly-colored clipboards. I have to deduct cool points for the puzzle-like nature of the menu. It’s divided up into way too many sections (seven altogether, not including dessert), based mostly on the size of the dish, and while I understand it’s meant to inspire sharing we just wound up having to ask our server to explain the way most people utilized the menu. It did provide an option for half portions though, which I found convenient.

Province’s food is ostensibly American with Latin-infused elements, but I felt the menu lacked a certain cohesion. Some dishes were a direct reflection of the combination of American and Latin influences; like the softshell crab  bisque with sweet peppers and piquillos, or the house cured & smoked Arctic char ceviche with olives, preserved lemons, and fried capers. On the other hand, there were items on the menu with Asian inflections such as the seared Hawaiian tuna with baby bok choy.  In fact, that’s what I went with for my dinner selection. The tuna was cooked perfectly, with that light crunchy sear on the outer edges but buttery and nearly raw on the inside.

The other dishes on our table that night ranged from a heavy, nearly wintery filet paired with velvety blue cheese mashed potatoes to a sweet, tangy mis0-glazed salmon. I think on the whole we were all satisfied with our dishes, but no one was completely floored. The standout for me was an appetizer we all shared; a lightly crisp softshell crab, sweet and crunchy.

I totally dig Province’s vibe. They’re big on eco-friendly, sustainable shit, locally farmed ingredients, the whole shebang. I’m into it. However, there was a certain….soul that I felt was lacking from the operation. The menu didn’t exactly align with the sparse, clean decor of the interior, nor did the menu even correlate with itself in many respects.

Onward and upward. Province is in my rearview mirror and I’m looking forward to our next adventure, a meal at Top Cheftestant Stephanie Izzard’s Girl and the Goat

 Stay hungry my friends.