A publication featuring student work from the Department of English and Communications at Salve Regina University.
BY BROOKE BIOLO
T he smells swirling in the air were fresh and spicy, and we allowed the scents to gently carry us through a dining area down a long narrow hallway lined with close to a hundred album covers—Michael Jackson, The Roots, The Rolling Stones, Prince and Metallica among them.
We made our way to the front where an orange-and-white tiled floor and other welcoming colors met us. The fanciful light fixtures struck me immediately. All around the room were glowing butterflies, flowers with light-bulb stigmas and stone hands that protruded from the walls holding subdued green lanterns. The soft blues of the walls and the dim lighting made for a retro but romantic setting at Newport’s Salvation Café.
A smiling woman wearing a blue jumper and bright red apron greeted us when we reached the hostess stand. My boyfriend inquired about the Restaurant Week menu. Before we even got a chance to take a look, she immediately asserted that the options on the set menu could be made vegetarian. Score! It is a rarity for a restaurant to accommodate a vegetarian diet. The evening was off to a good start.
With some guidance from a host wearing a fedora, we chose a dark booth with two tea lights flickering in the center and blue leather seats that were bouncy and comfortable. The host smiled and left us to contemplate our menus.
Our server came over wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. The casual wear made my boyfriend’s hooded sweatshirt seem more appropriate. The server quickly introduced himself and feigned a smile and I knew we were automatically determined “less important” than the older tables he was serving, something I am accustomed to as a 21-year-old college student.
We started off with a pitcher of Salvation’s sangria, which was served in a flip-top jar with a silver ladle and two glasses filled with ice and decorated with drink umbrellas. The drinks were tasty, even for a non-wine drinker. Sweet and slightly carbonated with a hint of spice (from the ginger), they were refreshing aperitifs. I was a bit disappointed to find only two pieces of blood orange in the entire five-glass concoction, though. After all, what is sangria without wine-soaked fruit to devour when you hit the bottom of the glass?
For our appetizer .we went with the roasted pear and quinoa salad. I had falsely expected the quinoa to be warm, but even cold it added a nice coarse texture to the chilled soft pear it covered. Eating a whole pear proved a bit awkward. Skinned pear slices might have been better. Nonetheless, Gorgonzola cheese gave the dish a nice tang to counter the sweetness of the pear, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the combination. The bitter crunch of the arugula, lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar, added even more variety to the dish’s flavor. The salad was finished with pickled onions, softened from the pickling process but still offering a crisp texture with a spicy kick.
We consulted the menu to begin choosing our next dish. Exotic entrees offered pork belly, duck and gumbo among other things. What caught my eye immediately were the two vegan options on the menu. The pad Thai with tofu and the vegan risotto both appealed to herbivores with no need for modification. If finding vegetarian accommodations is a rarity, vegan menu options are near fictitious, and Salvation’s menu proudly boasts their dietary diversity.
We decided to split the vegan risotto. Our menus stayed at the table after we ordered per the lack of attention from our server, but we didn’t mind. In this instance, the privacy was appreciated. Soon after, our risotto arrived. Much to my pleasure, they had Sriracha (a Mexican-inspired hot chili sauce), a staple in any vegan dish. Diced carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabaga and turnip were colorful accents against the brown, barley-like backdrop of the risotto. The leafy kale laced through the dish added just the right amount of salty crunch to the earthy taste of the sautéed root vegetables. The whole oyster mushrooms did little in terms of taste, but their velvety texture offered a great contrast to the rugged texture of the rest of the dish. We cleaned the whole plate!
Full and satisfied, we allowed our server to clear the table and requested our check. We had an excellent dinner for two for less than $50 with tip. Salvation Café at 140 Broadway in Newport offers nightly dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays only. (Check these hours before you go. These are current for the fall of 2013.) Salvation hit its 20-year anniversary in 2013 and was awarded the 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award. Salvation Café allows vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike the chance to indulge in their unique and exotic cuisine in a fun, casual atmosphere without breaking the bank.