[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Kali Restaurant

The sleek and understated interior of Kali.

About a year ago, Kevin Meehan, a veteran of Patina and Bastide, joined forces with former Providence wine director Drew Langley to open Kali Restaurant on Melrose Avenue, in the spot that once housed Midtown Bar and Kitchen and before that, Pueblo Viejo.

On first glance, the sleek, understated restaurant seems almost casual, but the cooking is ambitious, with an emphasis on getting top-quality organic ingredients to give up surprising new flavors.

The chef likes to walk the tightrope of nearly-burnt flavors, exploring that edge with ash and charred avocado.

So often, beet salads are tricked out with overly sweet nuts and the ubiquitous goat cheese. But here, a vividly composed beet tartar dish is a completely different offering.

Beets and greens are combined in a disc tasting of the earth, and of the essence of the root. A bright yellow globe on top masquerades as an egg yolk, but it’s a puree of golden beets. Wisps of bitter frisee, almonds and preserved lemon serve as background notes.

It’s likely you’ve never tasted anything quite like the black barley risotto with black garlic and toasted cheese. So much umami savoriness has been coaxed out of these seemingly simple ingredients that that they reveal a whole other level of muskiness that’s barely been tasted before.

Cavatelli with arugula and crème fraiche is much more restrained but nearly as compelling.

The menu changes frequently—some nights the beef course is hangar steak, other nights, filet mignon. Mains like lamb, duck breast, tuna, or salmon are all livened up with touches like bitter herb oil or black garlic vinegar.

In addition to the cavatelli, there’s always a main course pasta, though a vegetarian friend said there wasn’t enough choice to make a full meal.

As would be expected from a Providence alum, the wine list is excellent, but cocktails are also terrific, like the Burn Zone Gem with bourbon and sweet potato liqueur.

Desserts skew post-modernist with imaginative constructions of yogurt panna cotta or meringue gelato, but the bittersweet chocolate cremeux brightened with mint will scratch the chocolate itch.

With a kitchen appreciation charge of 3% added to every bill, a memorable dinner for two will run about $150 a la carte, while tasting menus are available for $70 and $100.

Kali is even open for lunch, adding items like a lamb burger and chicken kale salad to appease the Paramount and Raleigh studios workers on their lunch hours.

Kali

5722 Melrose Avenue

(323) 871-4160

kalirestaurant.com

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