When La Laiterie (Farmstead) owners Matt and Kate Jennings closed their popular Wayland Square restaurant and cheese shop last year, one thing was certain: Providence would have high expectations for the space’s next restaurant tenant. In less than two months, a light-handed, practical renovation combined the former cheese shop and restaurant into a larger dining space and The Salted Slate was born. Chef owner Ben Lloyd isn’t new to Providence, having spent time with the Chow Fun Food Group and most recently at Tazza.
The Salted Slate describes itself as “an agri-driven American restaurant with global influences.” At first glance, the menu and concept seems to echo that of many other restaurants that have opened in the last five years: local food, creative, nose to tail, vegetable-forward. For some restaurants, it’s sadly little more than a marketing ploy. But as we found, The Salted Slate has the concept deep in its heart and executes it incredibly well.
The cool summer’s end provided a gorgeous evening to sit on Wayland Avenue and slowly enjoy a cocktail. I ordered the Apricot Spritz ($9), apricot eau de vie with the pleasant bubble of seltzer and cremant. Passersby admired my champagne flute with expertly cut lemon twist. My husband had the Stormy Sour ($10), a sophisticated, less-sweet cousin of a dark and stormy made with Medford blackstrap rum, ginger and lime, shaken with egg white. While we looked over the menu, our waitress brought a lovely amuse-bouche, a spoonful of pepper-studded quinoa salad on a palm sized piece of smooth bamboo.
To start, we ordered the Cured Salmon and Blackbird Farm Tartare (both $10). The cured salmon was served in three portions over cubes of miso-infused watermelon. Thin slices of radish and a citrus crème decorated the plate. It was a light and pleasant bite, the saltiness of the salmon pairing well with an almost candied melon.
We found the Blackbird Farm Tartare to be an especially good value for the price. Not only is it local beef with fantastic flavor, but also a good appetizer
portion. It was topped with two small sunchoke chips and an adorable sunny side up quail egg; we eagerly cut through the yolk and watched it spill into the middle of the tartare. Two oversized potato crisps were good for scooping. Taking our time, we shared a Field Salad ($6). Besides my mom’s salads, which always include healthy handfuls of garden herbs, I rarely encounter salads that use herbs so liberally: they are a welcome burst of flavor. Decorating the greens were wide slices of cucumber, thinly sliced sunchoke and cherry tomatoes, all dressed with a simple, well-balanced vinaigrette.
The wine list has a good representation of unusual varietals. I had the Pascal Bouchard Petit Chablis ($11/glass) and my husband, the Soave Classico from Inama ($10/glass). The Soave was my favorite of the two, displaying a crisp zesty minerality that made it a natural for food.
For my entrée, I chose the Roasted Potato Gnocchi ($25). This dish paired butter-poached lobster with lobster mushroom, a combination that was not only playful on paper but also tasty. Both had a rich salty sweetness I wanted to hold onto like the last days of summer. The gnocchi were large and cooked nicely, served in a thick-walled bowl with the lobster duo, greens and a green sauce. My husband had the Heirloom Pork Chop ($28), a large chop sliced on top of smoked spaetzle, finely shredded cabbage with pancetta, and a delicate, flavorful carrot purée described as a “fondue.”
Usually I like to share, but this time we each greedily pulled our dessert away from the center. I had the Chocolate Souffle ($9), brought out at just the right moment to perforate and drizzle blood orange anglaise into its center. My husband had Nanny’s Pineapple Cake ($8) with creamy burnt sugar ice cream melting into the top, complemented by chunks of candied ginger and rhubarb chutney.
The Salted Slate has a calmness that makes me long to return. It doesn’t (yet!) have the frenzied reservations or national buzz of its predecessor, so it’s possible to have a leisurely meal, a good fit for the walkable and relaxed Wayland Square neighborhood. The staff operates with a steady confidence that makes everything seem effortless, but it’s obvious a lot of effort went into every dish. The portions were just right, the plating attractive but not fussy, every bite full of flavor and at the right temperature. This attention to detail minimizes distractions, allowing the ingredients to shine and advocate Rhode Island’s bounty.
*ONE MORE BITE: Don't miss weekend brunch at the Salted Slate, with dishes like the Chubby Duckling (two sunnyside Pat's Pastured duck eggs, herbed confit duck leg and poutine
The Salted Slate | 186 Wayland Ave. | 270-3737