Food

January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Bob Kinkead's jazzy, relaxed seafood dining room.

No. 17: Kinkead’s

Come winter, lots of Modern American chefs try some Italian cooking—often with average results. Then you dig into the pumpkin ravioli here—melted brown butter, a drizzle of pumpkin oil, salty-chewy pancetta, and delicate ravioli. Or the lamb steak with its rosemary-garlic confit and Merlot sauce, which delivers a complex savor many steak dishes lack.

Just two reminders that this purring machine of a restaurant is a good place to go for a lot more than first-rate chowders, excellent crab cakes, and simple, elegant preparations of seafood and fish. Of course, it shouldn’t take reminding: Bob Kinkead has been serving up his signature brand of unfussy Modern American cooking since many of its current practitioners were in grade school.

The crowds still come for seafood, and the kitchen, helmed by executive chef Todd Schiller, is as adept with such classics as fried Ipswich clams and crab cakes, which get house-made embellishments like tartar sauce and corn relish, as with contemporary plates like a crispy black flounder with baby artichokes and potatoes, tasso ham, and crayfish—the rare example of a dish in which more is more. Also worth a visit are Newport seafood chowder with shrimp and house-made chowder crackers, butter-poached lobster with shell-bean succotash, and grilled whole dorade with crispy zucchini Parmesan.

The new pastry chef, Hichem Lahreche, has gotten national attention for his fine pineapple tart embellished with vanilla lemon chibouste (a pastry cream), coconut ice cream, and banana rum sauce. A hazelnut cake with crunchy waffle and praline ice cream is just as good. Regulars know that downstairs at the large raw bar, where jazz piano fills the air nightly, is where the most fun is.

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