Walk into any restaurant and there’s a prevailing mood. Sometimes, both patrons and wait staff are hurried and harried. I found the opposite at Berrí, where the staff seem unusually happy, calmly preparing, plating, and delivering dishes with a smile. Every dish seems part wild and part meticulously crafted. The space is peaceful, white-walled with light wood accents, and has minimalist art work.
Berrí’s menu changes often, built around local and seasonal ingredients. Owner Siobhan Chavarría and her staff bring a diverse mix of influences and flavors. She was born in Costa Rica; Chef Esteban Quijada Link was born in France with Venezuelan and German parents. Their distinct culinary vocabulary results in dishes that surprise your palate and never seem clichéd.
On our last visit, we had beets and Toscano Fresco cheese, garnished with little sprigs of saltwort, a coastal plant. Our dish of pattypan and turnip greens was so bright with lemon flavor, it seemed more like a magic spell than squeezed fruit. The kale with lime and peanuts was similarly citrusy, well-balanced by the warm kale and roasted peanuts. I’m fond of kale, yet this was the first time I’ve ever fought over a plate.
One of my favorite dishes, the Carne Cruda, is finely cubed raw beef, crunchy with dried fava beans and enhanced by the subtly warm spice of árbol chilis. The Mussels Escabeche, marinated and accompanied by tiny potato chips made from multicolored fingerling potatoes, reminds me that Siobhan used to co-run the best tapas restaurant in Providence.
The tortillas are a must, whether ordered a la carte or as part of a dish (on our first visit, they were on the menu, served with fresh cheese). Red, white, or blue heirloom corn kernels are hand-ground at the restaurant before being shaped in a tortilla press. The warm, chestnut-brown bread is similarly compelling and so are the papas fritas (fries), which are heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and served with an onion-dusted aioli.
For a second time, we ordered the pork loin with tamarind and preserved lemon. It’s marinated in tepache, a fermented pineapple juice, and grilled over hot coals.
Berrí has a selection of natural wines, including so-called “orange” wines made from white grapes naturally fermented with their skins. I had a glass of the Rubén Díaz Fiorel-la. Made from Albillo Real grapes, it had a cider-like funk and light carbonation.
Berrí’s Panna Cotta is remarkable, a silky dessert topped with honey and a pinch of chipotle. I have to rely on my memory from a previous meal, because this time my 18-month-old ate the entire dessert himself. I’m very proud – and planning to order my own next time.
187 Mathewson Street • 919-5587