When you think “dinner on Federal Hill,” there are plenty of things that come to mind: cheesy chicken parm, piles of prosciutto, delicious pizza, and pasta for days, right? Well, hold onto your burrata – there’s a new restaurant in town bringing a paradigm shift to fine dining on the Hill. Saint opened in the spring and is making an impression on a street where it can be hard to compete. Think New Orleans-inspired seafood risotto, Venezuelan arepas, Calabrian lamb chops – and Southern-style chicken and waffles. That’s right, in the land of late-night cocktails and antipasto, now you can brunch among the best.
Divided in two distinct sections, Saint invites patrons to choose between heaven and hell – with a black and red motif of tarot card depictions painted over the brick walls on the right side, and opposite it is “heaven,” with a decidedly lighter mood, displaying a trio of faux stained-glass windows behind the bar. In my experience, themed restaurants can feel gimmicky and often belie a menu that’s lacking, but my cautious optimism soon gave way to joyful enthusiasm – and it started with the hash browns.
When you’ve been writing about food for as long as some of us in the industry have, there are certain things you pick up on; one is that brunch is rarely done right. Even great restaurants can be reduced to the boring fatal foursome of eggs, bacon, toast, and home fries. The latter are hard to manage as they have to be pre-cooked and kept warm throughout service, resulting in dried-out, unappetizing nuggets. On a Sunday morning at Saint, however, the Arepas Benedict I ordered arrived with the most velvety, buttery, and tender potatoes I’ve ever had at brunch. Along with the delectable sweet corn cake topped with poached eggs and smoked chili hollandaise, it was my first sign that this kitchen knows what it’s doing.
Saint is the latest restaurant opened by Alex Tomasso, who also operates The George on Washington Street in downtown Providence – a downtown piano lounge and dining room. The idea at Saint, according to manager (and Johnson & Wales grad) Pablo Grave, is to create harmony in dining; the heaven and hell theme is more about balance, showcasing two sides of the same coin, according to Grave. Hell’s menu features a selection of fusion dishes, some fiery, inspired by global trends. Asian Carnitas Sliders play up sweet and spicy flavors of soy-glazed pork, sriracha, and apple. The Latin Stuffed Chicken Breast features chorizo and cheese alongside Chofán fried rice and sweet plantains.
The heaven menu is a bit more traditional to appease diners who, while appreciative of the fusion menu items, might also be looking for something more typical of Federal Hill. Here you’ll find perfectly
executed renditions of classics: Point Judith Calamari with garlic butter, cherry peppers, and marinara, alongside Tuscan Ribollita Soup and mains like Chicken Francese or steaks in the form of a 16-ounce Heaven Striploin with adobo and chili and fig balsamic glaze. The Saints Cioppino brims with Maine lobster tail scallops and squid in a tomato broth served over polenta.
But it’s the Sinners Chicken and Waffles where Saint’s chef Raul Ibarra really strikes a sense of balance. An absolute highlight, the sweet cream waffle is topped with a big Shio Koji fried chicken breast and a chili-roasted apple glaze – a more decadent chicken dish than you’d expect. Ibarra’s deft touch and creative abilities are reason alone to come to Saint. He honed his skills in the city at The Dorrance and Mediterraneo, but here he really shines – you could say he’s an angel in the kitchen.
289 Atwells Avenue
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