Pickerel, which serves noodles and drinks, stands in Luongo Square in the location formerly known as Big King (formerly known as North before that). The restaurant keeps the intimate dining style of its predecessors while offering a simple and small menu.
3 Luongo Square
Providence, RI 02903
Service and Atmosphere
The interior of Pickerel is familiar with a long bar as the main centerpiece surrounded on the edge by two-seater tables and one token 4-person table in the back. The bar is well set up for a ramen style meal and the simple menu keeps patrons focused on what the restaurant does best.
Service at Pickerel is very good with friendly wait staff and bartenders. Despite the usual connotation of ramen as a quick service kind of meal, the staff work at a relaxed pace. While that’s nice for the overall atmosphere, some customers may take advantage of that by lingering perhaps a little longer than they should in such a small yet busy establishment.
As I mentioned, the menu showcased few items, but still had enough variety to make a visit feel varied. I do appreciate that the restaurant chose the precision approach of mastering specific dishes rather than a diluted or overly broad menu. It also encouraged us to try most of the menu by ordering the Menma Rice, Cabbage Caesar, Classic Shoyu, and Negi Shoyu.
Menma Rice – (Please note that the picture doesn’t do the presentation justice. I snapped this quickly just after people started digging in) At first glance, this is a very simple dish of menma (fermented, seasoned bamboo shoots), sesame sauce, and scallions over rice. Nonetheless, the rice alone tasted wonderful and had the right consistency for a dish like this. The menma surprised me the most because I don’t usually enjoy the overpowering flavor of the canned/jarred stuff used at most restaurants. I don’t know what kind of menma Pickerel uses, but it tasted wonderful and didn’t have any of that heavy funk I’ve come to associate with a lot of menma. That may or may not work for menma lovers, but it worked for me.
Caesar Cabbage – (I also only got a blurry picture of this dish after it was ransacked, but the presentation was originally very nice!) The Caesar Cabbage came with a snow top covering of fluffy Parmesan. The thin cabbage maintained a great crunch and held up well to the dressing. I personally found the yuzu a bit too tangy, but everyone at the table loved the dish overall.
Classic Shoyu – From the three non-vegetarian ramen options on the menu, I wanted to try the classic version to get a real sense of the quality of the ramen at Pickerel. The ramen did not disappoint and the semi-clear shoyu (soy sauce based) broth shined as the star of the show. The broth was simultaneously light yet full of savory umami flavor. The straight, thin noodles while usually not my favorite, worked well with this style of ramen. Meanwhile, the perfectly cooked soy egg added depth and creaminess to the bowl. Of course the scallions and nori added to the complexity of the flavors as well. I loved both pieces of pork, but the charred pork belly completely blew me away. I very much enjoyed this style of ramen that doesn’t clutter the bowl with ingredients when the broth and noodles are already so good.
Negi Shoyu – Admittedly, I didn’t try this ramen, but a friend at our table had it. It looked great on the menu and would definitely please spice lovers. It’s basically the Classic Shoyu, but with a more aggressive helping of scallions, a thicker kinked noodle, and a helping of the spicy house chili crisp.
Dessert – Last, but not least we tried three of the desserts (no pictures, sorry). We had a scoop of the Cantaloupe Sorbet, a scoop of the Ginger Ice Cream, and a piece of the Japanese Cheesecake Souffle. The cantaloupe sorbet had just the right amount of sweetness and the ginger ice cream felt like an excellent palate cleanser. I don’t personally like cheesecake (I know, I know), but even I had to admit that the cheesecake souffle perfectly balanced the light fluffy texture and sweet cream cheese flavors.
Pickerel serves a modest menu featuring big, excellently executed flavors. The staff are friendly and the warm atmosphere is great for chatting over a hot bowl of ramen. Come with a small party to get seated quickly and come hungry, but expect to wait for seats to open up. Pickerel excels where a lot of restaurants go wrong in that they keep their important flavors as the stars of the show by not adding anything that clutters the dish. Anyone seeking a well crafted bowl of noodles as well as some flavorful sides should definitely check out Pickerel.
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