99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Providence

photo by Anne Fishbein

While much of the attention given to Michael Cimarusti this year was for his new, much more casual seafood spot, Connie & Ted’s, Providence remains the chef’s crowning achievement. This is modern fine dining at its best: service that is formal but relaxed and engaged, a wine list to swoon over, cooking that is precise and elegant. Tasting menus here begin with a flurry of small bites — a Dark and Stormy in gelee form, which bursts on the tongue and channels the drink perfectly; a nasturtium leaf fashioned into a taco, holding delicate, raw scallops and puffed rice; a cracker made of salmon skin, served with a smoked salmon dip dotted with bright orange roe. From there you move on to anywhere from three to 16 courses, most of them quietly creative odes to the sea. It’s a dining room that’s regularly perfumed with black truffles, where waiters excavate Santa Barbara spot prawns from hot salt and plate them tableside, where a German-engineered cheese cart glides around silently — it’s a place for quiet decadence. If the theater of a full tasting menu is too spendy for you, many things are available à la carte at the cozy bar, where — unsurprisingly — some of the city’s most coddled and delicious cocktails are being served.

-- Besha Rodell