Locale Profile: Bridge Over the River Quay

IMG_1103In the heart of downtown, just below the network of bridges along the Woonasquatucket River, on the riverwalk of Waterplace Park lies the newest Mediterranean tapas restaurant and cocktail lounge: Quay.

I first learned about Quay (pronounced “Key”) from a friend who attended the restaurant’s soft opening. She ate grilled halloumi and lamb-and-beef meatballs and told me I needed to get there ASAP because the chefs were Greek. I later found out the chefs are Cypriot, and I’m thankful I didn’t barge into the kitchen proclaiming accolades about Greece, but they did appreciate my message conveyed through our waitress that everything was nostimo (delicious). Let me back up, though, to the beginning.

As soon as I heard about Quay, I informed my best food friend, Jeremy, that I found a new place for us to visit. His reaction was standard: “Mediterranean food, you say? What a surprise.” But he immediately followed this with, “I’m in,” so we scheduled our dinner for the upcoming Sunday night, which happened to be a WaterFire night. They recommended we get reservations, particularly since we’d be in prime viewing location for the event.

Quay offers complementary valet parking except during WaterFire, at which point there is a fee, but I live close enough to walk, so Jeremy braved the crowds with me, fighting against them like salmon swimming upstream. We arrived to a courteous hostess who took us inside to our high-top window seat, dropped off menus and allowed us to settle in.

IMG_1421To describe the interior of Quay: modern and metallic. The restaurant is narrow, with a long white-top bar to the right — shelves of liquor extending the entire length — and all high-top tables to the left. There are only two tables that are not high-top and not beside a window, with a handful of tables outside facing the river.

Quay offers a thoughtful selection of cocktails, with classic Mediterranean ingredients like Aperitivo and Campari, but we felt like it was a wine and beer night. I immediately spied a Catena Malbec and Jeremy ordered a bottle of Dogfish Pumpkin. The waitress returned to tell him they were out of Dogfish, so he ordered a different beer, this time a draught. Also gone. He offered a third choice. Gone. He finally opted for a glass of wine. “It’s been crazy with WaterFire,” they explained apologetically.

Having spent an hour studying the menu online, I knew that I wanted to save room for dessert, so we modestly chose baked feta cheese (a “small plate”), Middle Eastern mezze for two (a “board with house-made accompaniments”) and margarita pizza with chorizo (a flatbread). True to tapas style, the food came out as it was ready as opposed to a staggering method, which was not a problem except that we had to employ Tetris skills to allow everything to fit on the table at once.

IMG_1110The baked feta was served in a skillet in a sea of roasted tomato sauce, along with crispy pita bread. We devoured it quickly, and I scooped up the remaining tomato sauce with a spoon. The mezze board — hummus, cannellini dip, halloumi cheese, meatballs, tabbouleh and cut vegetables — was modest in size, with a small sample of each of the offerings. The meatballs were perfectly seasoned and savory, and receiving two seemed like far too few. We discussed ordering it next time as a separate plate. And here is my greatest advice to you: Try the halloumi, either as part of the mezze board, or the halloumi salad, or the fruit and cheese dessert plate. It is the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten.

The margarita pizza, a small flatbread with San Marzano tomato, fresh mozzarella and chorizo (which was an add-on), was sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and served on a black slate. It was gone in a matter of minutes. I easily could have eaten the entire thing by myself, but since I didn’t, Jeremy and I had plenty of room for dessert!

We couldn’t decide on just two, so we ordered three. We were so moved by the halloumi, we got the grilled halloumi cheese with lavender honey and fresh seasonal fruit, as well as the orange olive oil cake with triple sec cream (our waitress’s favorite) and the honey walnut cake with vanilla ice cream. I unfortunately had to turn down the salted chocolate mousse with chocolate fudge (our waitress’ second favorite, which she described as being “very chocolate-y. If you like chocolate, you’ll love it. If you don’t like chocolate…well, you probably shouldn’t order it”), but I was so intrigued by the two harder-to-find cakes.

IMG_1413The honey walnut cake reminded me of dessert in Greece, a dark cake soaked through with sweet honey syrup, but the orange olive oil cake was like nothing I’d ever had before. Both Jeremy and I were intrigued and pleasantly surprised. The triple sec cream, which topped the cake like Hershey’s kiss-shaped marshmallows, added the perfect amount of sweetness and texture to offset the thicker, smooth-tasting cake. It would be the perfect choice for someone who wants a dessert finish, but one that’s not overbearingly sweet.

When I asked the waitress to convey the message to the chefs that the food was nostimo, she returned bearing a message of her own from them.

“They were so excited,” she said. “They replied, ‘efharisto.’”

I smiled, because that’s the next thing I would have said.

What does that mean?” she asked.

It means thank you.

200 Exchange Street (Riverwalk Level), PVD

Tue – Sun from 5pm, weekend brunch 11-2:30

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