I've dined at Cav restaurant in Providence two or three times now and I struggle to describe it to others. I'll start with its location. It's tucked away in a back corner of a Imperial Place, which is a renovated mill building in the Jewelry District in Providence. The entrance of the restaurant lies in the back of a courtyard with trees, tables, chairs, and a whole lot of brick surrounding you. When you walk into the courtyard, it's like being transported somewhere different, and it makes for a much different feeling than an entrance from the street.
Upon entering the front of the restaurant, your attention is immediately drawn across a wide array of African art for sale, and decoration that matches in theme. They have everything from small trinkets and jewelry to large sculptures. Its like being in a restaurant that was crossed with an African art gallery and museum. The lighting comes from big glass beaded chandoliers, a giant wreath of lights, and the showcases that display art. It's a low yellow light that sets a nice atmosphere.
Our server was very polite and soft spoken, however not shy about handing out recommendations. There were no specials the night we were in, but he was happy to make a few recommendations from the menu, and the martini list. Usually we're not martini drinkers, but the waiter made it sound so good, we both made a selection. The thing that I find hardest to describe about Cav is the menu. Its difficult to identify a theme that runs through it, but definitely not in a bad way. It's somewhat heavy on seafood, the language and ingredients indicate fine dining, and the thought and creation of unique dishes make it unlike anywhere else.
We started with a Bruschetta for two. And to be honest, I think it may have been the best Bruschetta Amy and I have ever had. It consisted of tomatoes, artichokes, feta and crusty herb garlic bread, balsamic vinaigrette. I'm not sure what exactly made it so good. Its hard to pinpoint, but I think it was just a perfect balance of ingredients. The tomatoes were fresh and delicious. Its easy to overdo balsamic vinegar, and it was just the perfect amount. I'm willing to bet that it is a variety of balsamic vinegar carefully selected by the chef just for the Bruschetta. I am convinced that it is a different variety than the very dark balsamic that came with my entree of scallops.
There are so many fantastic entree options. They feature familiar staples like salmon, scallops, filet, tuna, and chicken, but they include interesting and unfamiliar accompaniments like Lychee beurre blanc, blood orange reduction, fresh mint emulsion, and ginger pear sauce. I know I've said this before but it really was difficult to decide. One of my choices was pan seared U-ten diver scallops with shrimp garnish, finished with lobster butter and balsamic reduction, served over lemon zest risotto with julienned snowpeas. The other was duck confit with Grand Marnier demi-glace, drizzled with blood orange reduction, served with brandied caramelized onion, sweet potato mash. I'm not a huge duck person and this would have been a little riskier choice, but when asked, the waiter said that the scallop dish is hands down the best thing on the menu. Sold. With a little less effort, Amy settled on Filet Mignon in a bordelaise sauce, served with potatoes two ways; extra virgin olive oil pomme puree, truffled potato batons and butter poached asparagus.
The scallop dish didn't disappoint. Not to be outdone by the Bruschetta, the risotto that came with my entree is pretty close to the best I've ever had also. I didn't get much lemon zest from it, but it was thick, creamy, and perfectly cooked. The scallops were seared perfectly on the outside and inside it was nice and soft. The middle of the scallop did walk a line that was dangerously close to being on the rare side and and underdone. Someone that prefers things a little more well done and firm may not have agreed with the scallops. Amy's entree was done very well. The steak was cooked to perfect a temperature, and the sides were fantastic.
Cav has gone out of their way to provide an experience that is a more unique and different than other restaurants. From the location and atmosphere, to the menu and food, the whole affair is a complete departure from the mundane similarities from restaurant to restaurant. If my advice isn't enough, the "Reviews" tab of their website sites quotes sources both local and national singing the praises of Cav. The price of the meal is quite fair for what you get. Amy and I had two entrees, an appetizer, and three drinks between the two of us, and the cost was $110 before gratuity.