Review: Cook & Brown Public House

A special culinary experience on Hope Street
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  September 29, 2010

When a restaurant moves into a location that has seen several eatery incarnations, it must work doubly hard to establish its reputation, both around the state and in the neighborhood. Cook & Brown Public House seems to be accomplishing both with aplomb.

On a recent week night, an East Side bicycler doffed helmet, fluffed out her hair, and joined a friend at C&B's comfortable bar; an elegantly-attired gentleman driving an Infiniti complimented the server on the food and the wine; two colleagues caught up on work frustrations over a wedge of chocolate tarte; and a young couple leaned toward one another, out on a special date.

And so were we. We'd looked forward to dinner at C&B after friends' recommendations and after Bill had enjoyed a drink there. So our first task was to pore over the fascinating list of cocktails: unusual combinations of citrus fruits, herbs, various gins, and liqueurs.

Cook & Brown | 401.273.7275 | 959 Hope St, Providence | Sun, Tues + 5:30-9:30 pm, Thurs-Sat, 5:30- 10 pm; Sat + Sun Brunch, 10 am-2 pm; Sun Family Dinner, 8:30 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar
Bill chose the French Pearl, listed as "a contemporary classic by Audrey Saunders" (a noted Manhattan mixologist), with mint, Plymouth gin, absinthe, lime, and simple syrup. He loved it; I'm not an absinthe fan — I was pleased with my fresh limeade (non-spiked).

Cook and Brown's menu is equally inventive. Committed to local sourcing, their menu changes depending on the produce, seafood, and meat they are able to procure on any given day, reaching over to New Bedford for fresh catches and fruit and veggies. The evening we were there, the host was thrilled that silver hake (a cod-like fish) was offered ($23), and the sirloin tip was from Boyden Farm, Vermont ($25). Other entrée possibilities were: Maine mussels, Narragansett Creamery ricotta gnocchi, a duck ragu on hand-cut noodles, and a C&B burger, a la Reuben, with pastrami, cheese, and Russian dressing.

Matching the six entrée items were six starters: two salads, tomato soup, whipped ricotta with heirloom tomatoes, chicken liver pate, and smoked bluefish fritters. We settled on the arugula/dandelion green salad ($9) and the fritters ($7). The latter were a marvelous takeoff on New England fish cakes: the bluefish was combined with mashed potatoes, shaped into small balls, and expertly deep-fried. Served with a horseradish mayo, these were downright addictive.

The greens in the salad were a bright and zingy contrast, with a poached egg perched atop them, creating another flavor with the red wine vinaigrette. I requested that the bacon lardons be served on the side so that Bill could enjoy those, and I the egg. The lardons' salty, smoky essence was an excellent foil to the sharp greens.

My generous portion of roasted hake was served amidst a fennel-and-thyme-tinged corn chowder, another wonderful New England twist. Diced potatoes and onions plus corn niblets mingled in the delicious broth and the fish was sweet and delicate.

Bill's sirloin tip steak was artfully arranged: a rack of slices, set on braised Romano beans and alongside rainbow Swiss chard, with sautéed radish slices draped across it. Bill commented on the careful cooking (medium rare) of the steak and repeatedly enthused about the delectable veggies.

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