By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
Friture de calamars, fried squid, might not seem at first to be French, but Provence is very much influenced by its neighbor to the east. At the Grill they do Italy one better. Encased in a crisp, light batter, these squid rings and legs were tender enough to be mistaken for pasta. A chunky marinara sauce rife with basil was good enough to rival that dished up by the Italian restaurants in this budding downtown dining area. As an added treat, seasonal vegetables arebattered and thrown in with the squid; in our terra cotta serving dish, we got nuggets of zucchini and thin-sliced summer squash.
The squid appeared again in one of the four pasta choices, along with clams, mussels, and shrimp atop a huge mound of linguine. Each morsel of seafood was supple and aromatic. A light, garlicky tomato sauce was mixed in with the long noodles and seafood juices to create a filling -- and fulfilling -- main course.
A dolphin entree, a special on the evening we visited, was not as successful. The white wine-lemon sauce was far too buttery, as if to make up for the fact that the fish was not terribly fresh. Next time I'd consider the sauteed snapper with tomatoes, olives, and capers, or the grilled salmon on a bed of leeks. In any event, the side dishes that accompanied all fish and meat main courses were of no help: A grilled tomato was limp and dull, while green beans were overcooked and practically attacked by too much garlic. Two long roasted potato wedges did their best to counteract the beans but wound up absorbing their garlicky juice. Provence Grill can do better here.
Grilled lamb chops, four of them, were a hefty size and cooked a pleasing medium-rare. Barely dusted with herbes de Provence, the chops were juicy but could have used a bit more flavor than that provided by the traditional mix of thyme, rosemary, sage, fennel, and mint. Flank steak, on the other hand, was practically bursting with flavor. Sliced and fanned on the plate, the medium-rare beef was tickled with a brown shallot sauce, vibrant and savory.
Appetizers were big; main courses too. But desserts quite literally took the cake. Delicious though it was, a wonderful chocolate mousse served in a broad, flat terra cotta bowl was nearly unfinishable. Profiteroles, a house specialty, turned out to be three pastries stuffed with vanilla ice cream and laced with bittersweet chocolate sauce. Dynamite.
We could relate to Peter Mayle and his wife: After one of their first meals in Provence, the couple "walked home pushing [their] stomachs before [them], oblivious to the cold, incapable of speech, and slept like the dead." We didn't have the cold to deal with, but the drive home certainly was quiet. As Eric Cormouls-Houles says, Provence Grill's French food may not be something to be scared of, but it's certainly wise to schedule a nap after eating it.
1001 S Miami Ave; 373-1940. Lunch Monday -- Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner nightly from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m.
Smoked duck salad
Linguine with seafood
Flank steak with shallot sauce