If you have ever been to downtown Providence, you know there are many restaurants to choose from. With so many choices, it’s hard to make a decision. We had heard from a friend about the restaurant Oberlin and put it on our ever growing must-try list. Do yourself a favor and put Oberlin at the top of your list.
To begin, this restaurant does not take any reservations so show up at least a half hour early as you will be waiting. Even if you don’t like waiting, trust us. The food is worth it! Oberlin has a casual atmosphere and Mediterranean inspired décor. The area is small and softly lit, making it the perfect intimate place for a date night. Walking into the restaurant, there are Italian lights on the ceiling but to add a creative element, they played Quentin Tarantino’s Deathproof on the wall for those waiting.
If your wait is a little long, step up to the bar where a sampling of unusual and original cocktails, amazing wine list and oddly, a ton of sake options awaits. Additionally, you can start sampling some of the appetizers which are amazing. We tried the cheese plate and sourdough bread dish. The cheese plate features locally sourced cheeses that range from sharp and firm to subtle and creamy. With some blueberry jam for a little fruity pop, this appetizer speaks for itself. The sourdough bread is served warm with some piping hot roasted garlic sprinkled with sea salt as well as olive oil to dip. Both of these were perfectly sized to string us along onto our next courses.
We were seated right next to the window which was open so that we could take in the Saturday night Providence crowd. The premise of this restaurant, like many contemporary restaurants of our day, utilizes small dish sizes. Feel free to order two or three dishes because you will not fill up on just one. The cuisine here is considered “American”, but given that America was founded by immigrants it’s hard to really guess what American cuisine really is. Oberlin chose to interpret this by featuring mainly seafood in their dishes. Our first dishes were the raw albacore tuna with lemon and olive oil drizzle as well as the grilled squid. The tuna tasted of fresh citrus and fell apart in your mouth. The grilled squid sat atop a bed of yogurt, chermoulah and cucumber, which resembled a deconstructed tzatziki sauce. The squid was perfectly cooked and was complemented by a fresh herb and citrus flavor.
We took a small breather to order a little wine before sampling some of Oberlin’s highly recommended pasta. All of their pastas are handmade, which is just better. My wonderful wife ordered the potato gnocchi tossed with little neck clams. The sauce for this pasta is a thicker clam broth with a hint of citrus that perfectly pairs with the clams. Fresh parmesan adorns nearly every piece of gnocchi and I will also add that my wife was scraping the bottom of the bowl. I could swear she would have licked the bowl had it been socially acceptable. I decided on a simpler dish but no less delicious, the Chitarra Cacio e Pepe. The best I can describe this dish is a lightly cheesy peppery pasta dish. It is extremely simple and extremely delicious.
We saved the best for the last; the whole roasted Black Sea Bass. Mind you, we waited for about twenty to thirty minutes before ordering this but we were in that go-big-or-go-home mood. This fish is served atop a bed of marinated heirloom tomatoes accented with jalapenos and fresh herbs. When they mean whole fish, it is really a whole baked fish that’s the perfect size to share. Cooked to tender perfection, dig into the succulent meat and crunchy, salty skin. After being thoroughly satisfied, we decided to skip dessert – not that it wasn’t tempting. I mean seafood dishes for sharing along with a wonderful wine selection will make any date night a complete and utter success.