The Providence Journal
July 30, 2009
Dining Out Review by Gail Ciampa
What is there to like about Fluke Wine, Bar and Kitchen? It’s set on two floors above Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, facing the lovely harbor. During sunlight hours, the rays bounce off the water and at dusk sunsets can be exquisite. Sit on the top floor in the bar and you’ll wish you had an easel and paintbrush — and the talent — to capture it all on canvas.
The energy in the restaurant is great, with lots of animated diners, many of whom are happy on vacation. The staff, too, buzzes around merrily, from busy owners Jeff and Geremie Callaghan to personable and energetic servers. Support staff wings around the place with boxes of silverware to keep every dinner table refreshed. There’s no apathy here.
The cocktails are beautifully conceived and concocted in full view of patrons. Cocktail glasses sit with ice, chilling for the next drink. There are fresh herbs on the bar to infuse interesting flavors.
The food is fun and creative and fresh as the day. Small plates offer little delights like crostini topped with a chick pea purée and pepper relish and the lightest potato and chourico croquettes. There are burgers and steak frites for meat eaters and a risotto for vegetarians. But make no mistake, seafood is the star here. Fresh from the sea is a Shellfish Pan Roast with scallops, clams, mussels and shrimp in a beautiful broth meant to be enjoyed with slices of grilled bread. It’s a play off cioppino, the Italian fish stew traditionally made from the catch of the day.
Each day is a happy adventure for new executive chef Neil Manacle (a J&W grad) and sous chef Kevin King, both recently imported from Manhattan. The sea provides beautiful fish, which inspires them: most recently, it was tuna prepared three ways. But then there is the land, too. The Callaghans have contracted for four acres at nearby Rhode Island Nursery to be farmed for them. Zucchini blossoms and snow peas are just the beginning of what it will produce this season.
All this means you shouldn’t get too comfortable with that menu, as they print it each night with the most seasonal and local foods they can find.
Blueberry Shortcake with Crème Fraîche is the dessert of choice with a bounty of blueberries being harvested around the state.
The Callaghans are Newport natives who opened Fluke two years ago, modeling it after all the cutting-edge spots they loved while living 15 years in New York. Jeff was in the wine business, something that serves him well here. The wine list includes out of the ordinary selections (Grüner Veltliner from Austria comes to mind) that make it rich in choices.
Jeff grew up busing tables at the Clarke Cooke House and the Black Pearl, and when he and his wife returned to Newport they thought they’d open a restaurant in Middletown. But then they came upon this perfect space that used to house Le Bistro, and they opened it up and made it bright and introduced all the food to match its sparkle.
Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen, 41 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, 401-218-7884, flukewinebar.com. Casually upscale. On street parking; pay lots. Reservations. Not wheelchair accessible. Highchairs. AE, MC, V. Open daily at 5 p.m.; Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Small plates $6–$13; large plates $12–$38. Extensive cocktail menu and wines by the bottle and glass.
Bill of Fare
A dinner for two at Fluke might look like this:
Glass Prosecco… $7.00
Duotone Daquiri… $10.00
Potato and chourico croquettes… $6.00
Cheddar burger… $12.00
Shellfish pan roast… $26.00
Blueberry shortcake… $7.00
Total food and drink… $68.00
Total bill… $87.44