There are notable similarities between the Iberian Peninsula and the promontory we name Italy: a love of cheese and cured hams, a deep dedication to wine tradition, and an unflagging sense that the realm’s meals will transport you to a area saturated in the richness of heritage. So maybe it’s not stunning that Brian Kingsford and Jennifer Matta — the chef-owners of Bacaro — would commit themselves to a translation of Barcelonian and Portuguese culinary life.
Located subsequent door to their first restaurant, Otra (which implies “other” or “another” in Spanish) is an altogether completely different area, although the 2 eating places share an adjoining parking zone. Where Bacaro sprawls by two flooring, Otra manifests an urbane intimacy. The renovation of its constructing — initially a nineteenth century firehouse — is an homage each to historical past and to Spain. Two immense arched home windows mimic the firehouse’s engine doorways, however the inside is a world unto itself. The eating room surrounds an expansive twenty-particular person bar minimize from white marble and centered round illuminated shelving. The burnt ochre-hued seating grounds the sky-high ceiling in an earthy aesthetic, nevertheless it’s the workers — mainly Bacaro veterans — who manifest Kingsford’s admiration for a delicacies that is as diverse as it’s exact.
Love of Italian meals is ubiquitous in Rhode Island; each city within the state has its Venetian, Roman or Neapolitan outpost. Even at Bacaro — with its exacting perspective on Italian fare — prospects want little steering discovering their area of interest. At Otra, however, servers and different workers settle for their accountability as tour guides with reverence for the mountains, the Mediterranean and the distinct confluence of cultures from Barcelona, the southern French Pyrenees area and Portugal.
Meals start with an evidence of the restaurant’s mom sauces: romesco (almond, tomato and pepper), lemon aioli, bravas (chili and vinegar-tinged tomato sauce) and piperade (tomato and piquillo pepper relish). They’re paired with the restaurant’s a la plancha dishes: a collection of shellfish choices, meats, fish and greens seared on a smoldering Spanish plancha, a chrome steel griddle. But the expertise of Otra typically begins earlier than something is ordered — as quickly as a assortment of home snacks that includes Spanish flavors is positioned down. A handful of garlic Marcona almonds, a number of olives and a small bowl of housemade lactonese, a lightweight aioli made with milk and garlic, arrive with freshly baked bread and it’s right here that the sauce takes middle stage. Everything concerning the stark white lactonese suggests innocuousness, nevertheless it delivers a declaration of heady garlic so rousing as to recall, in a single chunk, the Spanish solar and an array of European dinners that start hours after it’s gone down.
Otra provides cold and warm tapas in the identical method Bacaro does — patrons mark off orders on a paper menu — although the choices have been culled to principal dishes. Slices of jamon Serrano, salchichon de bellota Iberico, Manchego and Idiazabel are sufficient to entertain drinkers on the bar, which is a world unto itself. But the stunning factor about Otra is that the theatrics lie in its massive plates, reasonably than the revolving pintxos (tapas served on a stick), montaditos (served on toasted bread) and bocadillos (small sandwiches).
This can also be the place the serving workers proves invaluable, providing not solely earnest glee in the beginning of a meal (“I know what’s coming and I couldn’t be more excited for you!”) however a plan for the night that hits as many wide-ranging notes as potential. There are frequent threads that run by the menu — shellfish, rice, potatoes — however there are additionally dishes outlined by wild abandon. Housemade potato chips are plated with crystallized wildflower honey and a bathe of contemporary cracked black pepper ($8), a timeless rendition of scorching honey earlier than it turned vogue. Huevos cabreados (translation is smashed eggs, $12) — a plate of shoestring fries with spicy tomato sauce and a mushy fried egg — is a madman’s creation that interrupts the grandeur of the hovering area with unpretentious hedonism. Tossed tableside, it’s a memoried whiff of Tini’s scorching sauce and aioli fries, circa 2013. There’s nothing small about this plate, although; it’s a platter of what you may discover in a Granadan fridge at 2 a.m., and it’s so good that the host and several other servers will stroll by in sluggish movement to nod their head in approval. It’s additionally proof that, whereas Otra’s glamour is clear — in its hues of lush gray-black and polished white — Kingsford’s kitchen is ceaselessly hearth-oriented.
This is most evident within the restaurant’s massive plates, which vary from $30 to $45 however hit the desk just like the Ramsay’s tureen of beef daube: filled with evocation and the promise of an extended evening spent in dialog. Slabs of sirloin steak include rustic slices of potato or with roasted marrow ($40), every vying for the highest prize in indulgence. But the soul of this restaurant is available in a casserole: paella de marisco simmering in lobster stock ($40), duck confit nestled in white beans and jamon ($35), littlenecks sidling as much as Toulouse sausage and white wine ($35). Every pan arrives on the desk scorching from the fireplace and, if it appears easy, that’s a hoax of wafting smoke. These are stews created in layers that carry the historical past of a tradition reliant on such a variety of individuals and topography that nuance turns into the very spine of the dish. Casual, right here, is as complicated because it will get.
That’s to not say Otra doesn’t have a aspect that merely loves a celebration. Shimmying by a tight area of storytelling patrons, one indefatigable server mentioned, “Just call me Shakira! The drinks are coming through one way or another!” The straightforward possibility is simply to stay to the bar — its personal minute metropolis — consuming your means into dessert which additionally lingers in intoxication. Flan is topped with housemade burnt orange marmalade and, if you happen to’re filled with paella, the blood orange ice drenched in cava interprets a Venetian basic referred to as sgroppino, an Italian glowing white wine combined with contemporary lemon granita or lemon sorbetto. The palate cleanser is like a liquored-up slushie in a martini glass. Don’t be stunned in case your server provides one other wave of validation if you happen to select it: The tremendous line between debauchery and refinement is the one everybody at Otra is trying to stroll.
Perhaps the most important accomplishment right here is that this restaurant feels nothing like its older sibling, nor does it incite competitors. The area is singular, the inspiration distinctive, and even the diners are modified after a meal. Eventually the huge doorways will shut for the night, however Spain and Portugal linger within the thoughts lengthy after. So a lot so that you could be, quickly, overlook Italy altogether.
303 South Main St., Providence, 633-1313, otrarestaurant.com.
Open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday.
Wheelchair accessible. Parking lot adjoining to the constructing shared with Bacaro.
Cuisine: Spanish with Portuguese and southern French influences.
Vibe: Eating paella in a Balenciaga costume.
Prices: Tapas and small plates: $7–$23; massive plates: $30–$45; dessert: $12–$15.
Karen’s picks: Huevos cabreados, bife a casa, something stewed or simmered. The bar by no means will get outdated.