Locale Profile: Hope Village Kitchen

I remember the day I walked by the corner of Hope Street and Burlington, where the restaurant formerly known as Blaze used to stand, and it was no longer there. I was  overcome with melancholy at the realization that I didn’t spend enough time there — sipping their infamous mojitos (motifri.com/goldilocks) and enjoying their pizzas — and I was struck by the fact that I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

But luckily for me, Blaze moved. It continued in Hope Artiste Village, and a few months ago the space came under new management, with much of the same staff but a new menu. You can now find Hope Village Kitchen inside of Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket (beside The Met). I feel like a true Rhode Islander because I can explain its location by saying, “It’s where the Bread Lab used to be.”

The first thing you’ll notice is its size (… that’s what she said) — the space inside of Hope Artiste Village is massive. The vibe is more industrial and open, and I love that it’s full of light. The hardwood floors shine, as do the wooden tables, and the bar is visually separated from the dining room by a fabric screen. The brick walls and overhead pipes serve as reminders that it’s inside a converted mill, in a past-meets-present sort of ambiance.

I was so busy eyeing the depths of the restaurant in search of the person I was meeting that it took a solid minute before I realized he was sitting at a booth directly to my right. “I’ve never been here before,” he said when I sat down, “but it’s very nice inside. I like it.”

It was a quiet Thursday, and even though there were other people dining, it almost felt like we were the only ones there. The menu was full of intriguing plates, and it took deliberate focus to decide on our meals.  Even though Hope Village Kitchen is not a tapas restaurant, they have enough small plates to order exclusively from them, and we might have done so if the entrees and pizzas didn’t look so tempting. (Please note: They have a great selection of gluten-free and vegan items.) In the end, we decided to share only one small plate, the cauliflower 65 (GF), and added to it the paella (GF) and the North Indian vegetable curry brick oven pizza (a vegan dish, as described on the menu, but we opted for mozzarella instead of vegan cheese).

The cauliflower turned out to be a surprise. When I read, “crispy florets,” I wasn’t envisioning cauliflower battered and fried, but they came out resembling sweet-and-spicy shrimp, and tasting almost identical (quite an impressive feat, actually). I knew there’d be a glaze of sweet and spicy, but my attention had focused on the menu’s description of the “pickled onion and jalapeno,” which ended up being a garnish more than a flavor profile. Final verdict: It’s more sweet than spicy, and perhaps not as healthy as I had hoped. But we devoured them just the same, and the portion size was ideal. My friend commented that, “With small plates, you never know if you’re only going to get four pieces of cauliflower, but this is perfect for sharing.”

Next came the paella: shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo and chicken mixed with saffron rice. I’ve eaten paella only once before, and it came out on a dish that was larger than my head. This one, however, was served in a deceptively small bowl — I almost felt sad to think how quickly I would eat my half. But I was wrong; we had enough to take home leftovers. The rice was packed with chicken and chorizo and, in the words of my late grandmother, it tasted “smooth like butter.” It had a great, rich flavor with a slight kick to it (keep in mind I’m from the southwest, so my gauge of spicy might be higher than that of most New Englanders). It was my favorite dish of the night.

Lastly, the North Indian Vegetable Curry pizza arrived, with cashew curry cream, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomato and cheese. It was, perhaps, a bit ambitious to tackle a pizza after a starter and an entrée. There was a hearty crust and a thick layer of veggies, so after two slices, I could eat no more. I enjoyed the flavor of the curry, but in the end, it was a bit odd as a pizza sauce. It seemed to get cold rather quickly, (or maybe I was too busy shoveling in paella), and unlike traditional pizza sauce, the curry really ought to be consumed while still warm.

Despite wrapping up another day’s worth of food to take home, when we were asked about dessert, we had to say yes. Decaf coffees and a chocolate torte with raspberry sauce were calling our names.

I didn’t read the description of the dessert (I stopped at “torte”), but I assumed it would be flourless. This one, however, had a layer of chocolate cake and ganache, topped with a healthy coating of almonds. I think just that Belgian ganache would have been enough — it was the standout layer.

Hope Village Kitchen is a space and a menu well worth visiting, especially if you’re planning to visit anything else in this giant giant complex, home to farmers markets, a bowling alley, The Met (for live shows) and a plentiful selection of galleries and places to shop.

Hope Village Kitchen, (inside Hope Artiste Village, Unit 1113), 999 Main St, Pawtucket

Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story did not recognize that Hope Village Kitchen has a different head chef than Blaze did. We apologize for the error.

 

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