A world of subtle sophistication
by Dawn Keable
39 Pike Street, Providence, 751-3000
Open Sun and Tues-Thurs, 5-11 p.m., Fri and Sat until midnight
Major credit cards
No handicapped access
If you were working in the kitchen of L'imaj on a recent Tuesday and saw a
football player-type dressed in a black leather jacket peering in the window,
no need to feel alarmed. That was just my fiancé Andre, who was thrilled
to find out he could get a sneak peak into the innards of the restaurant on the
walk from the parking lot.
Of course, if you have your car valet parked you'll miss the show. Regardless,
don't linger outside too long -- the main attraction, the food, is definitely
The interior of L'imaj has been modeled into a world of subtle sophistication.
The dining area is a small, narrow room with dark mahogany wood accents, mocha
colored walls, rich paintings and beautiful hand-blown glass plates. The
atmosphere is great for intimate conversations. But be forewarned: because of
the size, as we learned with Andre's accidental belching incident, the
acoustics carry (and carry and carry).
To go with our glasses of wine, chardonnay ($5.75) for me and white zin
($4.75) for Andre, we ordered "Spring Roll Americaine" ($7.95) from the
extensive list of tapas. The roll was perfectly crispy on the outside, but
that was only the start. Cut in equal halves for optimum sharing and easy
dipping into the accompanying fruit salsa and piquant sesame sauce, the inside
was stuffed with tasty marinated chicken, bok choy, bean sprouts and bell
And that was only the start of our perfect beginning. Our new friend, Todd the
Excellent Waiter, talked us into sharing a spinach salad ($7.95). It was a
delicious blend of simple yet non-standard ingredients: walnuts, pine nuts,
creamy goat cheese and perfect baby spinach greens tossed in a sweet
honey-dijon sauce. I could have eaten two more as my entree.
The magic didn't end when the main course came. After we cleansed our palates
with complimentary lemon sorbet, our meals arrived. Andre selected the shrimp
and scallop special ($22.95). His festival of huge jumbo shrimp and extra-large
scallops was served with handmade gnocci, bits of roasted garlic, spinach and
sun-dried tomatoes in a rich, buttery cream sauce. Andre was pretty excited
that there was enough seafood to match a bite with each and every mouthful of
pasta. He was equally impressed by the presentation -- the dish was draped with
long strands of scallions for a hint of color.
My pick, filet mignon ($21.95), was a creative interpretation of a standard
favorite. The beef, served atop a slice of polenta and with wild mushroom
duxelle and madeira oyster sauce, was garnished with a fresh, poached oyster
along with thinly sliced fried onion rings. Accompanying the tender meat were
slices of wood-grilled zucchini with a rich woodsy flavor, and a pillow of
potatoes au gratin with alternating layers of goat cheese. While the dish was a
testament to the non-traditional spirit of the chef, my taste buds didn't fall
in love with the oyster sauce, and there was no escaping it.
Until, that is, dessert. Andre went with the "L'imaj tower" ($8.95). Tied
together with a yellow bow, the delicate ladyfingers surrounded a subtly
flavored white-chocolate mousse topped with gigantic blackberries, raspberries
and tangerine slices. It was a perfect pick to end the meal on a light note.
I was sold on the "Mudslide Cheesecake" ($7.95) on the name alone. Luckily, it
lived up to my hyper-inflated expectations. The cake, on an Oreo cookie crust,
had a lusciously creamy texture with a coffee flavor that was of the perfect
intensity. And as an added bonus, a coffee-bean on top.
So start counting your pennies. Dining at L'imaj is on the pricey side, but
well worth the dining experience if you want to treat yourself to something
fabulous. The small lounge is also an option to soak in the atmosphere without
breaking the bank account. And if you're really short on cash, there's always a
spot right beside Andre in the parking lot next to the window.