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Five Things: XO Cafe, Providence

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Sean DeBobes, GoLocalProv Dining Critic (www.golocalprov.com)

Many RI diners mourned the day XO Cafe closed its doors, but now it's back, revived and freshened up. Sean DeBobes stopped in this week to see what was up on Providence's Main Street. Here are the five things he wants you to know.

One. A Splash

XO came back hard with a great cocktail list. I was able to try a few of these concoctions, but two of them really stood out for me. The Metro Martini was thoughtful and interesting. Start with a base of Luksusowa potato vodka, add a splash of cherry cider and a dash of triple sec and you have a drink with serious body, a tart bite and a refreshing finish. I also discovered (an instant favorite) the Tiger’s Blood martini, Absolut Ruby Red and lime blended with prickly pear juice before entering a sugar-rimmed glass.

Two. Goat-Cheese-Cake

I was delighted to see a goat cheese-cheese cake on the menu. It was practically a cheese plate in one bite. The black-pepper-infused creamy mixture was chased by a fig jam and candied walnuts. The dish was sharp and sweet and I really enjoyed the fig jam. The plate was garnished with a drop of balsamic reduction… a drop… I could have used more.

Three. Tartare

Cheers to a blissfully executed tartare. Finely minced Black Bird Farm beef was wonderfully seasoned. Fresh, rich and peppery. I thoroughly enjoyed a subtle mustardy flavor that permeated the dish. White anchovies and a raw quail egg provided a great salty and creamy bite, respectively.

Four. Seafood Entrees

I was so pleased to try two great seafood entrees. I confess to being both curious and concerned when I saw a salmon lasagna on the menu. It seemed like one of those dishes that could take a wrong turn too easily. Chef Simon Keating masterfully prepared this dish. Seared salmon, creamy leeks and bacon all combined to create a peppery/sweet flavor profile. The salmon was perfect – moist, a little flaky and wonderfully flavorful. Cheers indeed. On the simpler side I also tasted the caramelized Bomster scallops. This dish really proved that an expert chef turns just a few ingredients into a truly special dish. Plump scallops were treated to a perfect crisp outside, salty notes prevailed. To balance, chef set the scallops atop a creamy asparagus risotto. For a lover of new foods, this dish gives me reason to order the same thing over again.

Five. A Study in Chocolate

Wow! It doesn’t get more decadent, or more Chow Fun Food Group, than the pièce de résistance of all desserts - a platter of chocolate five ways. Chocolate ice cream in a sugar bowl, a chocolate pecan brownie, chocolate enrobed cranberries, white chocolate crème brulee and my favorite of the five, a chocolate marquis. Does it get any better than chocolate folded into whipped cream and frozen? This fun and flirty dessert is alone worth the trip.

Would I go back? Yes. The old guard of the Providence culinary scene is back… and means business.

Hit “Save”: XO Café, 125 North Main Street, Providence, 273-9090. Reservations encouraged.

Like food? Follow Sean's reviews and get behind-the-scenes postings on Facebook, here.