We recently needed to travel to Newport, RI for a quick weekend trip. Whenever we're in Newport, we try to eat at what was then Stoneacre Pantry (now re-named Stoneacre Tapas) on Thames Street. We've been there too many times to count, and the food and service have always been amazing. One of our favorite Newport experiences was when the staff prepared us an 8-course black and white truffle dinner. So fresh. So delicious. Gorgeous food. So, it was no surprise to find that the Stoneacre team had now expanded to open Stoneacre Brasserie just off of Broadway.
A word on the space itself--while Stoneacre Pantry's space could be described as "intimate," Stoneacre Brasserie set up shop in the former Naval Officer's club (which housed Yesterday's for years). The space is HUGE, with lots of tables, a bar as long as an aircraft carrier, a huge multi-station open kitchen with wood-fired oven, and a gorgeous build-out. Owners Chris and David certainly did it right when planning for this new concept. And, despite only being open 2 months, it seems that the entire Island was there for dinner on Saturday night. A really good problem to have!
Thanks to their sister wine store--Stoneacre Wine & Spirits--the Brasserie has access to a healthy wine list with plenty of diversity, including nice Rhone offerings. We went with a bottle of 2014 Christophe Semaska Saint Joseph, which was full of big red fruit, meat, and clarity from tannins that were actually starting to resolve themselves earlier than expected. Not their fanciest bottle, by far, but a very satisfying Northern Rhone offering in a town where it's hard to find anything from that region.
Now to the fun part: the food. Stoneacre has always offered diners an amuse-bouche or two prior to dinner, and this trip was no different. A spoon filled with slightly-sweetened wood-roasted red beet puree, with a dollop of creme fraiche and a few chives sprinkled on top to add spice and a bit of crunch. Admittedly simple, it was tasty, with good contrasting flavors and textures. Just what you want to excite your palate for what was to come.
Now, as we often do at these types of restaurants, we decided to create our own form of "tasting menu" based on what Stoneacre has on its regular menu. It is worth noting, however, that Stoneacre now offers a form of prix fixe menu (they call it their "good times" menu option) that allows the chef (meaning everyone that works in the restaurant--everyone helps out in the kitchen) to make selections for you throughout the evening based on your likings and/or dietary restrictions. At $58 / person, it's a good deal, and probably one we'll take them up on next time.
The first course we ordered was a holdover from the old restaurant: their smoked trout deviled eggs, with a bit of trout roe, some creme fraiche, and chives. This time around, the trout gave off a little less smokey essence than we've experienced before, but the deviled eggs were still delicious! Just a classic pairing when you add in smoked paprika. Makes you ask why Grandma never put smoked trout in her deviled eggs!
Next came a new dish--full shell wood-fired oysters with lemon-thyme butter, served over a bed of steamed and smoked seaweed. These were really the perfect mixture of oceany-brine, sweet-yet-smoky oyster essence, and a nice pop of acidity, freshness, and a little bit of buttery richness from the lemon-thyme butter. And, did we mention they were gorgeous? Presented similarly to how Roister (in Chicago) serves their wood-fired oysters, the smoky-steamed seaweed really gives you the full oceanic experience.
After we were finished with the oysters, the staff was nice enough to quickly bring out their flash-seared yellowfin tuna, served with a beurre noisette (brown butter) and soy sauce, with a lovely little microgreen salad and crispy shallots added on top. A great mixture of salty (the sauce) and slightly sweet (the tuna), with crunch coming from the shallots, and nice freshness coming from the salad, this dish really had a balance hard to find at most restaurants. You can tell it was well thought-through and perfectly executed. With just enough sear to color the outside and provide a bit of char, the succulent rare center was a play on sushi that still worked with the French-centric theme of the menu, thanks to the sauce and the shallots. Coming out as a very generous serving, we enjoyed this one for quite a while!
The fifth course (counting the amuse bouche) was Stoneacre's signature French Onion soup. So cheesy, so rich. Just like every great French Onion soup you've ever had. Except better. You know why? Because Stoneacre doesn't just sautee their onions. They don't just brown their onions. They practically incinerate them. There is so much char on these babies, it's almost scary. How gutsy to go WAY past where other restaurants stop to produce a flavor that is just exquisite! As David told us "you can't be afraid when you're cooking." Well, that mantra worked for them. Because it's the best French Onion soup we've ever had--and we just got back from 10 days in Paris! We will definitely be copying their lead from now on when we make this at home. Genius idea.
Our sixth course was wood-fired bone marrow with an Asian-style pickled raw vegetable salad on top. Very creative for sure, and a nicer looking presentation than the normal marrow course provides. While the marrow was just a bit under, the vinegar-based acidity offered a tremendous counterpoint to the richness of the marrow. Nice dish for sure. We'll definitely order it again.
Finally, we were ready for our entree. We chose the steak frites with black truffle butter and caramelized shallots, except that we subbed-in pan-roasted cinnamon cap mushrooms for the traditional fries. Because, why not? The steak came out neatly sliced, with a good black-truffle essence from the butter that had melted on top. The mushrooms soaked up a bit of the truffle butter as well, and that really complimented their nutty flavor. While we wish the shallots would have been diced just a bit smaller (so that there would be more to go around), the fact is the dish was a real winner. It was a delicious and well-balanced entree that was perfect for a crisp evening.
At this point in the evening, we found that our wine had run low. Not wanting to die of thirst or pass out from dehydration, we decided a second bottle was in order. We chose a bottle of 2015 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone-Brezeme. A nice follow up to the Saint Joseph we had earlier, this wine offered a bit less finesse, a bit more big, bright red fruit, and good steely acidity that you'd expect out of a young Northern Rhone offering. Far from bitter or overly tannic, this actually was lighter than expected, and a good choice to finish the meal.
Dessert finished out the meal for us, and was another stunning choice. Rather than a traditional sugar bomb, the hazelnut chocolate mousse we ordered still had a great balance of sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy. Because, unlike a traditional chocolate mousse, Stoneacre puts a layer of crunchy hazelnut salted caramel at the bottom of the jar they serve this out of (without telling you), and sprinkle some crunchy toasted hazelnuts on top for good measure. The chocolate mousse, as expected, is rich, creamy and delicious. The hazelnuts sprinkled on top offer a nice crunch. Then, you dig deep and hit the crunchy caramel layer. Wow! Unexpected. Salty. Crunchy. So different. And so absolutely delicious! The caramel really elevates this dish to 11. Maybe even 12. We're huge fans of savory desserts, and this was just the perfect option to finish a wonderful dinner.
In short, we're really excited for Chris and David and the rest of the Stoneacre crew. They took what worked for them at Stoneacre Pantry, expanded on the menu options, multiplied their concept to fill about 5x the space, and have succeeded! Fantastic food, fantastic and personalized service. From a downtown Newport perspective, we think this is a top 2-3 restaurant for sure. If you're ever anywhere near Newport, this is worth a trip.