A whimsical blend of nouveau chic with traditional New England
by Johnette Rodriguez
4 Richmond Square, Providence, 521-9229
Open Mon-Fri for lunch, 12-2:30 p.m.
Mon-Sun for dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Sun brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access (bathrooms not accessible)
There's something magical about light reflected on water, be it a harvest moon
over Narragansett Bay, bonfires on the Providence River, or just city lights on
the Seekonk, as seen from the windows of the Gatehouse Restaurant.
A corner fireplace with burning logs in the outer dining room adds another
touch of primal pleasure. But, wait a second: one of the diners is a Segal-like
plaster-of-Paris figure in a light-green housedress, slumped in her chair. And
near her on the wall is another eye-catching molded sculpture: a chef's outfit,
complete with white coat, toque and red kerchief.
That's the Gatehouse style: a whimsical blend of nouveau chic with traditional
New England, a mix of contemporary sculpture with primitive art pieces,
nouvelle and regional cuisine with old New England favorites. Thus, the
appetizers here include New Orleans shrimp and a risotto with a Creole tomato
sauce -- but also pan-roasted littlenecks and Rhode Island lobster jonnycakes.
Similarly, entrées with a bayou or Continental flair, such as blackened
tuna and catfish meunière, are balanced by a rib-eye steak with a
four-pepper crust, a roast rack of lamb or a hearty roast duck.
On a recent birthday occasion, our Boston-residing daughter and her boyfriend
surprised her dad by joining us at the Gatehouse, delighting us with their
company and giving this reviewer more dishes to describe. We started out by
splitting two asparagus and arugula salads ($7.95 each), which our waiter
thoughtfully plated into four portions in the kitchen. The tastes of dusky
asparagus and smoky arugula were nicely sparked by a balsamic vinaigrette. And
the moderately priced Pinot Grigio we shared was a pleasant accompaniment.
Now on to the heft of the meal. After considerable contemplation and a
multitude of questions for our patient waiter, we made the following choices:
blackened tuna for Sabrina ($26.95), boneless duck for Stefan ($25.95), grilled
boneless chicken breast for me ($21.95) and the rib-eye steak for the birthday
The vegetable embellishments for each of these entrées helped sway our
decisions -- mashed (and herbed) Yukon gold potatoes for the three who didn't
eat duck, praline sweet potatoes for the guy who did. The medium-seared tuna
was served atop a mâche salad with a lemon vinaigrette. The peppers were
cooked in a wonderful balsamic golden-raisin sauce with a bit of thyme, giving
it a sweet/sour twist that resembled chutney. The nutty flavor of the
mâche, a small-leafed green also called corn salad, made it a good
compliment to the tuna, which was carefully prepared and quite delicious.
My chicken, Bell and Evans free-range from Pennsylvania Dutch farms, was
tender and tasty, although it was all but outshone by the array of vegetables
surrounding it. On one corner of the plate were julienned carrots, zucchini,
summer squash and broccoli rabe, sautéed together with a bit of butter.
On the bottom edge were the Yukon golds, their creamy color flecked with green
from a mixture of fresh herbs. Finally, at the top of the plate were three
small crescents of delicata, acorn and spaghetti squashes -- someone in the
kitchen must have intuited my love of vegetables!
Our evening at the Gatehouse was made special by the elegant but low-key
atmosphere, the careful preparation of our meals, the attentiveness of the
staff, the golden glow of lights along the river and the charming presence of
our dining companions. You can catch four of these five yourself -- seven
nights a week at the Gatehouse!