With that said, a restaurant would have to provide me an extraordinarily bad experience to verbally dress it down in a review. Yes, a time or two it was warranted and yes, a time or two I indulged myself the opportunity; albeit, in a somewhat bridled delivery that could be easily discerned by reading between no more than a line or two.
But that is a rare occasion. Rather, my style is to critique the restaurant's shortcomings in an intelligent and logical manner, which hopefully, will be viewed by the establishment as constructive criticism and induce positive changes. Yet, make no mistake, it is criticism all the same. My credibility is on the line here, folks, so I call it as I see it, regardless of whose feelings I may hurt.
Chef Miguel DeBride was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and shortly thereafter, moved to Belize. His youth spent amidst a family of fisherman and farmers gave him a unique set of insights in regards to food that he would carry well into adulthood.
Walking into Ravi, we were immediately greeted by a charming young woman named, Tiffany. Professional, courteous, and friendly, Tiffany checked our coats and without haste, led us past a long, sleek wood bar in an elegantly lit area, and on toward our table.
As it was a relatively early reservation, 6:00 PM, the dining room was still quiet, with perhaps a table or two of other patrons present. I was glad for this, as it gave me a moment to absorb my environs.
Within a few moments our server approached our table and warmly introduced himself as “Joseph”, offering a wine list that was comprehensive, yet appreciatively manageable. Our choice was Ironstone Red Zinfandel at $29.
Within moments, Joseph returned with the wine and poured a sample for tasting. Finding its subtle peppery richness with concentrated hints of blackberry, plums and red raspberries much to our liking, he poured our glasses with complete professionalism and briefly retired, offering us ample time to peruse the menu.
He returned with a basket of warm rolls, coupled with a beautiful garlic butter that hinted of a faint sweetness, not unlike honey or brown sugar. The butter's smooth, sweet texture was the perfect foil for the rolls which had a dark and savory, snappy toastiness to the outer crust.
The appetizers arrived shortly thereafter and there were two observations I was immediately struck by – the presentation, which was absolutely breath-taking, and the portion sizes, which were quite generous. And those two observations immediately led to two further impressions:
One - I've learned along the way that a masterful presentation is usually the sign of a chef who takes an immense amount of pride in his offerings, which usually equates to a terrific culinary experience.
The Prince Edward Island Mussels ($11.95) arrived in a large steaming bowl with a presentation that was nothing short of stunning. The mussels were served within a saffron tomato broth filled with chorizo, chopped tomato, confit garlic, basil and fennel. For me, the hardest about being a culinary journalist is when your mind prepares you for one flavor profile and your mouth is delivered another. In this case, the surprise was purely sensational. Served with four crostini toasted to textural perfection, the delectable mussels swam in a mouth-watering broth that invited me to grab a loaf of crusty French bread, and consider it a meal in and of itself. As for the portion size, if shared with another appetizer, this was enough for a party of four.
The Pork Belly di Feijoada ($13.95) was one of the evening's menu specials and was nothing short of exquisite. The confit seasoned cured pork belly was served on a bacon and cannelloni bean compote, and drizzled with a scallion infused aioli was one of the evening's standouts. Cutting open the crispy outer layer (a mouth-feast of it's own) revealed moist, flavorful pork, that when coupled with the bean compote, was succulently divine. Again, the portion was over-sized for an appetizer and easily enough for two (although I warn you - if you did share, you'd be sorry you ordered just one!). This is a remarkable appetizer that should be elevated from special to steady menu item.
Following the appetizers, we were served a wonderfully fresh salad with a splendid Balsamic and White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette dressing that seemed to reinvigorate the palate in anticipation of the coming entree.
Before the entree was served, Chef Miguel approached our table to offer his greetings and checked to see if our visit was being enjoyed. It was a gesture that far too often gets overlooked in the world of “eat, greet and go”, but one that is appreciated and truly elevates the dining experience to another level.
As choice of entree, we had chosen the Long Island Duck and the Orecchiette Rustica.
I also noticed that somewhere between the appetizers and the salads, the dining room had seemed to fill to capacity. Another sure sign that I wasn't off base in regards to the esteem I was building for this establishment.
In fact, and I say this without the slightest bit of hesitation - “The very first forkful of Chef Miguel's Long Island Duck that entered my mouth, was the single greatest forkful of duck I have ever experienced.”
The lamb flavor, subtly permeated the dish and added a new element to familiar flavors of old. Again, the portion size leaned toward very generous, but even more impressive was the generosity of shrimp – seven or eight large shrimp graced the top of the plate! Yet, the shrimp being the most impressive visual element of the dish, was unfortunately, the only shortcoming of the dish as well, for they were slightly overcooked which made them texturally tougher than preferred. A more tender shrimp would have elevated this dish from excellent to exceptional.
I am ashamed to say I have nothing to offer in terms of Ravi's dessert menu. I will save that for my next visit, which will not be long in coming.
I try to find good in every restaurant and that was not hard to do in this case. I have many favorites, but Ravi is absolutely near the top of that list. After visits to literally hundreds of restaurants, there is indeed a method I use to gauge my favorites. I simply ask myself, “if I had friends or family coming into town for a visit and I wanted to take them to a restaurant I know they would talk about when they returned home, where would I take them?” Ravi fits that criteria.
In retrospect, the food is inventive and creative and unforgettably delicious. Chef Miguel's talent is beyond reproach and he is as warm as he is masterful. It is upscale, friendly, affordable. The staff is courteous and attentive - our server, Joe DeStefano, in particular, was the model of professionalism and did his best to ensure the experience would be memorable. I assure you it was, in large part to him and I thank him for it.
As we headed to the coat check, I pondered the overall experience and tried to put my finger on what made this restaurant a standout. There are many restaurants which serve terrific food, but this establishment really left a striking impression on me and I couldn't exactly pinpoint why. And then, with a few short words, Tiffany said it all.
As I slid on my overcoat, I shared my pleasure with the establishment. Without the slightest hesitation to consider the impact of her words, she responded, “We try hard here. Chef Miguel has owned the restaurant for about a year now and he's great. We really pull together as a team to make this place a success.”
That says it all. You've succeeded, Tiffany. And thank you.