[Sidebar] December 14 - 21, 2000
[Food Reviews]
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Green Onion

A winner for many occasions

by Bill Rodriguez

909 East Main Rd. (Rt. 138), Middletown, 848-5153
Open Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m-9 p.m., Fri-Sat, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Major credit cards
No handicapped access

Many out-of-state visitors may think of Providence as the New England food mecca, but for us fortunate residents, recognition came long ago that there are terrific restaurants all over Rhode Island. It's especially nice to find one tucked away in the middle of Middletown.

When we first visited the eatery (Andrew's) that used to be where the three-year-old Glass Onion is now (I've been in Vo Dilun too long!), we were very pleased with our meals and our service. On a recent visit, we discovered from our helpful waitress, Amanda, that she and the head chef, Chris Maitland, have been in this spot for nine years, so quality in both the kitchen and the dining room has been carried over.

The dining room is a high-ceilinged barn-like space, made cozy with booths along the edges, a tree in a planter in the middle of the room and a wall-sized fieldstone hearth, with two fireplaces and a long mantelpiece. Two seven-foot dividers that screen the bar and the entryway provide more shelves for green hanging plants (and, at this time of year, poinsettias). The dark flowered tablecloths and a shifting display of Marcelle Casavant's paintings enhance the warmth.

A large painted onion, with a twinkle on its bulge, hangs over the mantel, and the theme is carried through the menu. There's onion soup, onion jam, a fried onion blossom and, on the lunch menu, an onion omelette and onion quiche. We began with the jam ($4.25), actually a warm compote of carmelized shallots and onions, with red and green peppers, served with pumpernickel toast points and salad greens. Sweet, savory and yummy, the onion juice on the salad, as well as the sauteed veggies on toast, was enjoyed.

Chris Maitland (he's assisted by Kenny Wosczyna) still highlights several pastas on the menu, and there are also many seafood, steak and chicken dishes that are served with potatoes, rice or French-fried sweet potatoes. The pastas give star billing to seafood, including a shrimp and scallop fettucine, steamed mussels and littlenecks over capellini and Glass Onion Alfredo, with lobster, shrimp and scallops. All entrees are served with a generous salad.

Heading for the house strength, I chose the "chef's penne" ($14.95), with sauteed chicken, roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts and fresh basil in a sharp provolone cream sauce. As delicious as it was, I could have used more basil or even artichokes to cut through the richness of the cheese.

Bill was enticed by the surf `n turf special: in this case, two pork tenderloins and two baked stuffed shrimp ($19.95). The shrimp were filled with a seafood and crumb stuffing, and set into a lobster cream sauce. The tenderloins were pan-seared and finished with apples and onions. The main attractions were ably accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Judging from the intense concentration on that side of the table, I could easily conclude that my counterpart's meal was a hit.

Except for the sorbets and ice creams, Glass Onion desserts are house-made, and we had a tough time making a decision. For Bill, the lemon-blueberry tart ($4.25) won out over the bread pudding with apricot raisin sauce; for me, the apple crisp with vanilla ice cream ($3.50) triumphed over the bourbon pecan pie. The tart was like a cheesecake-lemon pie hybrid, very dense and lemony. The apple crisp (despite our initial skepticism over its Macintosh apples) was delicately spiced, with still-crunchy apple slices, a rarity.

The Glass Onion successfully manages to be both a family restaurant, frequented by locals (there's an early dinner club, Monday through Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.), and a special place to take a date. The food is delicious, the portions are generous, there are real bargains on the menu and, hey, if you're only in the mood for a burger or a Caesar salad, that's there, too -- all the earmarks of a favorite for Rhode Islanders.

But, alas, another Rhode Islandism exists: When will restaurants learn that a policy of smoking "only at the bar," or in a side room, still does nothing to contain the smoke to those areas? And, lastly, two questions for readers (and food fans): What's your personal standard for "al dente" pasta? And, what kind of apples do you like in pie or crisp?

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