Arts & Culture

Federal Hill’s The Grange forgoes meat but still packs a punch

Self-proclaimed ‘vegetable restaurant’ prepares no-frills farm-to-table fare for dinner and brunch

By and
Arts and Culture Editors
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Grange's risotto tastes fresh and full-flavored with goat cheese, portobello and crispy Brussels sprout leaves.

Even early on a Sunday evening, the bar at The Grange is energetic. Friends drink cocktails out of Mason jars and share bowls of Brussels sprouts and quinoa. There’s no meat in the kitchen, but no one seems to notice or care.

Federal Hill’s newcomer to the vegetarian farm-to-table scene is housed in an uncluttered space at the corner of Broadway and Dean. This latest installment in owners Rob and Uschi Yaffe’s network of vegetarian eateries in the area joins Garden Grille Cafe and Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar, both in Pawtucket.

Inside, metallic accents mingle with rustic furniture. Warm metal light fixtures loom over a heavy plank serving as a communal table. In a quiet corner, a hanging bench swings beneath potted plants. The furniture looks as if assembled from the forgotten parts of old houses — industrial farmhouse chic, one might say.

Interior aside, the vegetables are the raison d’etre at The Grange. Sourced from local farmers and prepared with sensitivity, the produce is revelatory, and plate-licking is probably inevitable. The menu is organized into “small(ish),” “medium” and “large(r)” plates, but the boundaries are fluid, and, really, everything ought to be shared.

Begin with the cauliflower. It’s served roasted with green onions, peanuts and cilantro ginger aioli and sets the tenor of the evening — simple preparation but exceedingly well-done.

Collard green fritters distill a wide palette of textures into one stellar dish. The four crispy fritters are perched atop a bed of creamed collard greens and served with a spicy habanero aioli. The crunchy batter, earthy greens and intense heat of the sauce are surprising and sensational.

Scallion pancake rolls filled with sweet potato puree and Chinese black beans are the sole misstep, the pancakes tough and resistant to cutting. The few melted leeks scattered on the surface of the pancakes offset the bland filling, but the gesture is still unsuccessful.

The main courses pack an even bigger punch. Risotto made with portobellos, crispy Brussels sprout leaves and butternut squash-romesco puree comes served with goat cheese for a small surcharge. But it’s only nominally “optional” — the cheese’s tang cuts through the mild mushrooms and charred sprouts with verve.

Purple potato croquettes are assembled with grilled escarole, white bean hummus and a turnip-beet hash. The play between winter vegetables and earthy flavors is perfectly mediated by a sturdy maple mustard, which the restaurant ­should start selling by the jar.

Desserts appear mundane at first glance. A blackboard in one corner simply reads, “carrot cheesecake, tapioca pudding trifle, brownie sundae.” But suppress the urge to duck out after dinner.

A gluten-free brownie sundae — really, you’d never guess — combines dense, rich fudge with a scoop of melty peanut butter ice cream, a salted caramel glaze and a smattering of caramel corn. Whipped cream is swirled with dark chocolate sauce. A few simple maneuvers reclaim the T.G.I. Friday’s standard as haute cuisine.

The Grange forgoes the fuss of its compatriot restaurants in favor of clean, locally sourced ingredients presented honestly. Dishes are bright and colorful, and you are unlikely to find any culinary foams. The portions are generous but not absurd. Like the food, the servers are friendly and down to earth.

The Grange opens in the mornings as Chicory, a juice bar and cafe, and there’s live music every Wednesday at 9 p.m. The menu is seasonal, but don’t expect a new one every day. It’s not cheap, but it’s not Al Forno. Unfussy and comfortable, the Grange serves serious food for adventurous eaters. We’ll be back for brunch.

 

The Grange. 166 Broadway St. Open Wednesday through Monday 11:00 a.m. – midnight. Saturday and Sunday brunch 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Reservations accepted for parties of 6-12.