Forget the neighborhood tavern, at least for now. Instead, enter another realm, one where sensory stimulation distilled to what appears on the plate and much of everything else — music, design and service — is elegantly muted. Enter downtown Newport hotel Vanderbilt Grace’s restaurant, Muse by Jonathan Cartwright.
The title includes the name of its executive chef because Cartwright put the Vanderbilt Grace’s sister hotel, the White Barn Inn in Maine, on the culinary map. He’s an old Englander who fell in love with New England’s seasonal produce in the ‘90s when he first set up shop. However, he frames his cooking in classic French tradition — that is, as an experience that services the food and, ultimately, the taste buds.
The Muse experience includes a prix fixe menu designed to tantalize and satisfy in several neat courses. There’s also a bespoke section from which to choose a protein and add sides. There are vintage Vanderbilt dishes that might have graced tables here 100 years ago, such as Cornelius’ beef bouillon, a thin beef broth perfectly suited for the impending cold weather. There’s fine local produce showcased in a mushroom risotto with asparagus puree, sweetened with crisped carrots and finished with a parsley froth. And there’s a delicate apricot clafouti with piquant blackcurrant ice cream.
Muse’s clean design palette of Wedgwood and royal blues on white is calming, and though the nostalgic artwork depicting flappers and dapper gents in party attire adds whimsy, it is suffused in a serene hush. One might even call it zen.
Jonathan Cartwright extends his Newport duties this weekend, co-hosting a special dinner for the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival with chef Nathan Rich from Lake Placid Lodge. The seven-course collaboration between Cartwright and Rich will feature Hall and Walt wines. All proceeds from the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival benefit The Preservation Society of Newport County.
41 Mary St., Newport, RI
Prix fixe: $85