Last night we had the pleasure of filming – and eating – at Mill’s Tavern, in downtown Providence, for our upcoming “Elevated In Down City” episode. Like all the other spots we’ve filmed for this episode, the food was out of this world. Billing themselves as “modern American meets classic French technique”, the menu is more of an ecclectic assortment of classic meals with modern, exotic twists, or what Executive Chef Edward Bolus says is “a reflection of the diverse backgrounds and influences of our cooking team.” Edward himself is of German and Lebanese descent, and he brings these influences into dishes such as their phenomenal Tandoori grilled rack of lamb, which is marinated in yogurt and spices in a Lebanese style, then dusted with Tandoori before grilling and served with beet hummus, chick peas, Israeli couscous, and a tatziki sauce made with thick Lebanese “labheh” yoghurt. Needless to say, the dish is sublime, with subtle and not-so-subtle flavors and textures blending into one of the most interesting and delicious dishes we’ve had anywhere in the past year.
Mill’s Tavern sits at the base of college hill in downtown Providence, and is surrounded by lovely old historic buildings lined with cobblestone streets and mature trees. While they try to evoke a cozy, rustic, tavern feel, the space is also stylish and sophisticated, a great blend of comfortable and elegant, with dark wood and burnished steel accents and subdued lighting. Along the back wall is the open kitchen, and in the corner of the kitchen is the wood-fired oven, the “heart and soul” of the restaurant, which castes a warm flickering light over the dining area. Some of the mouth-watering specialties coming out of the oven on the current autumn menu are pizza with with smoked chicken, buttermilk chive crema, spaghetti squash, crisp bacon and fontina; harissa dusted Atlantic swordfish with black sesame caramelized turnips and yellow pepper ketchup; and seared Long Island duck breast with parsnip mash, sweet and sour cabbage, pickled cherries and orange duck demi glace. We did try the pizza, and it was fantastic: rich and tangy, and similar to Edward’s description of it as a “really really good ranch chicken pizza.” The spaghetti squash on top was a great touch, adding a unique texture and savory sweetness.
Mill’s Tavern also has a beautiful raw bar, with fat sweet littlenecks and Walrus and Carpenter oysters along with house-made smoked bluefish pate and other delicacies from the sea. The charcuterie platter was phenomenal as well, the star of this show being the house-made pheasant and pork terrine with pistachio and fig, which was delicous along with touches of fig jam, mustard, house-smoked blue cheese and other house-cured meats.
We also tried a wonderful autumn mushroom risotto, laden with truffle-flecked cheese and cured forest mushrooms and topped with crispy puffed rice that added a nice crunchy texture. And although not technically a “steak house”, the steaks here are famous throughout town and are gorgeous: thick cuts basted with a herb-seasoned butter, sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper then grilled to perfection on the wood-fires grill. All the food here looks amazing, and the chefs, mostly graduates from Johnson and Wales culinary program, know their stuff and push the flavor envelope well past what most timid palates would expect. But the superlatives don’t stop at the kitchen; Mill’s Tavern has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence five years running, and have a fantastic wine selection to pair along with the dishes. And this is just the kind of elegant, flavorful food that begs for the right wine, be it a muscular cab, a buttery chardonnay, or a bright pinot for the more delicate dishes. And they also have an amazing seasonal, creative craft cocktail menu that is delicious. This rustically elegant tavern is serving up some seriously extraordinary food and drinks. Stay tuned as we add more photos and video, and check out the episode “Elevated In Down City” when it hits PBS in mid-winter.
For more info go to the Mill’s Tavern website: www.millstavernrestaurant.com