Eats, Drinks & More: Anything but Neutral Swiss-inspired Rosmarin

 

Why do you love food so much? Have you always been this way?

This was a conversation piece a few years ago among my friends who were trying to deduce where my passion for food originated. You see, I grew up being called a “bird” for how little I ate. My, my, my, how the tables have turned.

The consensus to my food obsession: moving to New England, and traveling internationally. To truly experience a different culture involves sitting around the table. One place I have yet to visit, however, is Switzerland, so when I saw a restaurant here in RI serving Swiss-inspired cuisine, I was intrigued.

Rosmarin is the newest member of the downtown Providence scene, moving inside the ground floor of Hotel Providence and spreading its wings throughout that vast space. The restaurant is divided into three areas: the bar and casual dining lounge (where you can find Jazz at night and brunch on Sunday mornings), a catering/event hall, and the main draw: Rosmarin’s dining room.

My friend and I made reservations for a Sunday evening, which is typically a day they are closed. But when there is a PPAC show, they open their doors two hours before show time. We entered a dimly lit room with a bar, but once the server realized we had reservations, he led us around the corner, through the hallway, and into a small dining area – it holds just 26 people – that felt spacious due to its wall of windows. With the sun still hovering in the evening sky, this room filled with ambient light, and I could anticipate summer’s brightness here even at dusk.

We sat down in soft white chairs that contrasted the burgundy walls; the atmosphere was quiet – only two other tables were occupied when we arrived, but shortly after we sat down, we could hear them murmuring about how exceptional the food was. Always a good sign.

The server oriented us with the menu, explaining the various dining options: We could choose a three-course prix-fixe of seasonal selections chosen from the main menu; a five-course tasting option in which the chef would choose his presentation based on our preferences, sensitivities, and allergies; or the 10-course tasting menu, the only one of its kind. Jeremy and I deliberated for a long time – “But this menu looks good!” “I’d love to do a five-course, but would that be too much?” “Look at this option from the a la carte!” – and through it all, we were blessed with perhaps the most patient, knowledgeable, and generally awesome server I’ve ever had. His joy was contagious. We later learned that he is a JWU student, but his air of maturity and obvious passion for the job suggested someone who’s been at the restaurant for years.

In 20 minutes, we’d only gotten so far as telling Evan that I had an almond allergy. He brought us a basket of Zopf (pronounced like “soft”) bread, announcing, “I was about to say the only thing we don’t make in-house is our bread, but this one we do make in-house. It’s only served on Sundays, which means it’s typically only served at brunch. You two are lucky!”

We finally decided to order a three-course prix-fixe and three unique dishes from the a la carte menu (it began as just a main, but then we added an appetizer, and then a dessert). Our final decisions were the cocktails. Jeremy loves espresso martinis, and when I found one on the menu called “Lonesome Traveler,” he swiftly put all other drink ideas behind him. “This drink was made for you,” I said.

I chose “Ladder to the Moon,” a Damrak Gin martini with elderflower liqueur and lemon juice. But I’d recently given up sugar, and the St. Germaine tasted outstandingly sweet. Jeremy came to the rescue, drinking both martinis (not giving me the option to trade), while Evan came to the real rescue and brought me a perfectly dry Chardonnay.

Prior to the meal, we were given an Amuse Bouche, a small taste of duck with sweet potato puree to get our palate ready for the first course. And I’m just going to tell you up front that the entire meal was simply exquisite. Chef and owner Massimiliano Mariotta took the time to visit our table, explaining his history of opening twelve restaurants in almost as many countries, while his son, Stefano, is the Michelin-trained chef de cuisine, artistically preparing each dish. That’s the best way to describe the food here: artwork.

I mean that in the most pragmatic way: the Bomster Scallops transcended “delicious” to take on the appearance of abstract art: sharp lines, vivid colors, varying textures; squares of potatoes with crisp round scallops, red dollops of beets with whipped white cauliflower and bright yellow beurre blanc. That dish might have been my favorite, but it was a close second with the Squash Ravioli (seasonal, already off-menu), topped with crushed hazelnuts that gave texture to the smooth gruyere-and-ricotta filling.

From our post-appetizer fig sorbet (a “palate cleanser”) to our Chocolate Crèmeux and Apfelkeuchli desserts, we admired every dish with our eyes almost as much as with our tastebuds. I learned that Swiss-cuisine is a blend of German, French, and Italian foods, combining the best attributes of each. And the quality of ingredients (the herbs are grown on a rooftop garden), paired with the skill, expertise, and passion of the Mariottas and their staff, make this restaurant a world class capture in the heart of RI.

311 Westminster Street, PVD
rosmarin-ri.com

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