Address: 200 Washington St, Providence, RI 02903
Telephone: (401) 272-3105
This is an update post (September’s main review here).
birch is currently at the top of my list of restaurants in Providence, there is no other restaurant in Providence I would rather eat my weekend meals at. I’ve eaten there a couple more times and tried a few more dishes. By way of a short write-up, here’s an update on what the kitchen has created in recent weeks.
Birch beer, from Pennsylvania.
What the restaurant is named after! It tastes like a zestier root beer, somewhat like the Southeast Asian drink Sarsi.
Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Heirloom Apples, Cointreau and Peychaud’s Bitters
Roasted Carrots (5/5)
Grilled Quahog Clam, Toasted Seeds, Yarrow and Almond
Better than I remembered it. The carrot had a deep rich smell, akin to caramelised baked sweet potato. Grilled clam was salted perfectly, with an interesting bed of seeds in the space between the two roast carrots. The clam sauce added to a little taste of the sea – I asked for a spoon to scoop up the remainder.
Roasted Cauliflower (4.75/5)
Heirloom Apple, Crispy Rye, Tarragon, and Rose Hips
Charred cauliflower (AKA Romanesco broccoli) with a bed of something like mashed potato, and a sauce made from rose hips, the fruit of the rose plant. Delicious and a bright idea to highlight the interesting spiral/fractal geometric nature of the cauliflower by crisping it – just as making kale chips highlights the frills of kale leaves.
Rhode Island Suckling Pork (5/5)
Roasted Sunchokes, Bosc Pear and Lemon Verbena
This fantastic new dish was finalised only earlier today, and consists of the chopped parts of a young pig (excluding the loin) braised and pressed together into 3 strips. The sauce from braising is saved and combined with a lemon-verbena oil, which gives the interesting green oil visual effect on the “ripple” plate. Small roasted jerusalem artichokes had the look and texture of slightly mashed fingerling potatoes (which was what I mistook them for initially). A savory soil made this dish a hearty one.
Sweet Grain Cereal (5/5)
Apple Butter, Johnny Cake, and Toasted Grain Milk
birch’s tribute to breakfast consists of whipped grain milk, on top of apple sauce and a cornmeal johnnycake, mixed with the kitchen sink: honeycomb, puffed rice, oat snaps, and a few other things that are delicious. Eating this is like eating the best bowl of breakfast cereal ever. The mix of textures is complex, with at least four different kinds of crunchiness: thin, oaty crunchiness from the oat snaps, hollow crunchiness from the rice, and sweet dense crunchiness from the honeycomb, and what I think are airy cylinders of dried apple. One of the best desserts I have ever tried anywhere.
I think the cooking at birch, already being some of the best in Providence when I first ate there in early September, has only gotten stronger since. What is impressive is the sheer number of ideas coming out of this small kitchen team (not more than 4(?), including Ben and Alec). If you’re in Providence, make an appointment to eat at birch: you will not regret it.