[Sidebar] October 7 - 14, 1999
[Food Reviews]
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Fire + Ice

Fun fare in a millennial setting

by Johnette Rodriguez

42 Providence Place, Providence, 270-4040
Open daily for lunch, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m; dinner 4-11:30 p.m.
Bar open Sun.-Thurs. till 1 a.m., Fri.-Sat. till 2 a.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

Walk into the cavernous space of Providence Place's Fire + Ice and you might think you've stumbled into a disco club at Mardi Gras. The music is not pumping out that floor-throbbing beat, but the riot of colors and shapes is retro-'70s and the effect is as loud as a parade of costumed Crescent City denizens.

The industrial-tech ceiling is completely overwhelmed by huge geometric shapes, here a chartreuse Mobius strip, there a black-and-white spiral; here an oversized ruler of circles, squares and equilateral triangles, like a stencil pattern; there a multi-colored, multi-layered, elongated lamp. Adding to these elements are metal antennae sprouting from the junctions of booths or spewing out like fireworks, their ends tipped with colored light bulbs, from the semi-circular salad bar. Very George Lucas. Very new millenium.

It's fitting that the idea for an "improvisational grill" should come from Boston, springboard for grill-chef extraordinaire Chris Schlesinger. On our recent visit, Fire + Ice seemed to attract students looking for a bargain, young professionals looking for something quick, and young families looking for something different.

Come to think of it, we don't fit any of those categories, though we are always looking for something cheap, expedient and out of the ordinary. The friendly staff at Fire + Ice take you to a table (though I'd recommend a booth for more privacy) and give you a tour of the procedure: pile a large cereal bowl full of meat, fish and/or veggies; ladle one of 14 sauces into a smaller bowl; carry both to the 25-foot bar running around the large, round grill (10 feet in diameter) and wait your turn for one of the grill cooks.

He or she will dump out your bowl of chosen goodies, meat or fish always spilling toward the center of the grill, veggies toward the edges. Then the cook will line up your meal as one of 15 or 20 spokes radiating out on the grill (a total of 40-50 portions would fit all the way around). With long-handled spatulas, the cooks shape these spokes and flip the food, so it gets evenly cooked before they reach out for your chosen sauce, pour it over the grilling food and heap the whole thing onto an attractive black oblong plate.

For the first 35 or 40 times they went through this routine, I didn't see anyone end up with the wrong food or the wrong sauce. But I looked up once to see a perplexed couple shaking their heads about the sauces the cook intended for their grilling food -- they were left from someone else. It seems best to stay right at the bar while your food cooks; otherwise you might end up with Buddy's marinara sauce on scallops with pineapple.

Our waiter told us that the sauces were rated for fieriness according to the number of flames on their label. But two of the labels were hand-written in crayon, with no flames; others were marked mild -- was that the same as one flame? A few had two flames, such as the Asian barbeque, which was verytasty with my grilled tuna and mako chunks. I saw only one, a habanero coconut sauce, with three flames. Two was plenty hot, even for the Tabasco-spritzing fool I was dining with.

Our waiter recommended the canned pineapple chunks from among the smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables, cooked penne, kidney beans, tofu chunks and mandarin oranges. And he was right about their grilling potential: the sweet juice carmelized on them and on anything nearby, such as the scallops, shrimp or portabellos I had chosen, with a mild teriyaki sauce.

On his second trip to the grill (dinner is unlimited trips to the grill for $13.95, with rice and tortillas brought to the table and a choice of three salads), my companion tried out turkey and pork loin, with portabellos, red onions, cherry tomatoes and another two-flame barbeque sauce , this one made with bananas, peaches and rum.

Fire + Ice makes a variety of desserts -- chocolate cake, peach-berry pie or chocolate ice cream with mango and kiwi on the evening we were there, ranging from $4.75 to $5. They also keep a selection of liquor-infused fruits behind the well-stocked bar.

The operative word at Fire + Ice is fun, with taped music from Elvis to contemporary hits, with eye-popping colors and shapes everywhere you look (check out the skewed tetrahedrons in the bathroom tiles) and your own creativity thrown into the cooking of the food.

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