Centro Martini restaurant and lounge looks like something from the future, with its glass wall panels, stunningly white seating and blue lighting that makes the entire dining room glow. The food is pretty far out, too, and that’s in a good way – a very good way.
Get ready for a trip around the world. First stop, Japan where you can munch on edamame while you sip on an exotic martini, perhaps the SakeTini made with vodka and sake. Other stops in this global menu include New England, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, California, Mexico, and the Caribbean, with each location offering up its classic fare – from Point Judith calamari to sautéed pesto chicken.
We began our journey with the Chicken Quesadilla ($10) and the Jerk Chicken Skewers ($10). As an appetizer, the quesadilla provides four servings, enough for two to four people. It also could be a light dinner for one, along with one of the salads ($5 to $12). The tortillas are filled with a blend of Jack and Colby cheeses and chunks of boneless chicken, presented attractively on a modern white platter. Shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes are strewn across the top. Small pots of salsa, sour cream and guacamole stand ready to be added to each serving of quesadilla. I poured all three additions on top of the piping hot quesadilla and dug in. This is messy eating, but so good.
The jerk chicken was plump and tender: three skewers on another modern platter, along with a small bowl of hot sauce. But be prepared – this is a very hot and spicy dipping sauce.
Our next course helped quell the fire on my lips. We shared the creamy Bacon Mac and Cheese ($12), an outstanding pasta dish. The penne pasta was cooked al dente and then tossed in a five-cheese cream sauce. Finely crumbled applewood bacon was sprinkled over the top for another layer of pure indulgence. I doubt if I could ever go back to Centro Martini and not order this dish.
This ultra lounge and restaurant is really all about sipping and sharing, having a martini or two – perhaps a glass of wine or a beer – and then grazing on all sorts of finger foods and sandwiches while enjoying music played via their high end sound system. So that explains why there are only six entrees on the menu (with rotating specials), plus four big burgers. I went the burger route, while Brian ordered a full dinner.
My Cajun Bleu Burger ($10) was so hefty, it really did take two hands to handle it. The thick burger was stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and Cajun spices, topped with lettuce and tomato, all in a oversized toasted roll. An excellent burger – I only wish it had carried a bit more Gorgonzola and Cajun spice flavor into my mouth. Kudos to the chef, for serving beautifully red, ripe tomatoes even at this time of the year. That chef popped out of his kitchen, probably to see who had ordered so much food for a table of two, and asked if everything was to our liking. With our mouths full, we gave him a big thumbs up.
Brian was as pleased as I was with his New York Strip Steak ($22), cooked to a medium state of doneness as requested. Filet mignon may be more tender, but you can’t beat the meaty flavor that a strip steak has to offer, especially when nicely charred around the edges. Roasted potatoes and colorful carrots completed the plate. The restaurant now serves a Steak Frites dish worth trying, too.
There are four desserts on the menu including vanilla bean ice cream, New York-style cheesecake and the recently introduced Red Velvet Cake. The best of the bunch is the Brownie Stacker ($7), a mini tower of three dense brownies with vanilla ice cream between each layer and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Brian never met a brownie he didn’t like, and this one he loved.
A visit to Centro Martini is a totally futuristic experience – visually, acoustically and flavorfully, with its ultramodern fare.
Linda Beaulieu is the author of The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook, available at stores throughout the state.