Five Things: Perro Salado, Newport

Five Things: Perro Salado, Newport

GoLocalProv | By Sean DeBobes

Rhode Island can be a big, little place sometimes. It took three years for news of a lively restaurant tucked away in Newport's Point District that was putting out delicous meals with Mexican influence, to make it onto the radar. With the play on a typical Newport theme, a Salty Dog, inspiring its name, Perro Salado beckoned Sean DeBobes south for a meal. Here are the five things he wants you to know.

One. Margarita Medley.
Who can resist a great margarita with fantastic Mexican food? Not this guy. Reading through the polished margarita list at Perro Salado is just another reason to give in to temptation. With several (lucky) dining companions along for the ride, I was able to try a quartet  – blood orange, local peach, Cubana and spicy cucumber. Each was a triumph. The crimson color and heft of the blood orange twisted the classic in just the right way. The peach, served with a coarse salted rim, whispered late summer peaches at a South County beachhouse. The Cubana really shook things up; all things pointed to margarita except the spirit (the bar substitutes a dark, aged rum in for tequila). How Newport! Highest marks go, however, to the spicy cucumber margarita, whose muddled jalapeno and cucumber base provided a slow burn that also refreshed. Perfect!

Two. Grilled Corn with Chipotle Mayo.
Perfectly sautéed seasonal vegetables (squash, onions and peppers) provide the bed for this faultlessly charred corn. Crispy, aromatic and stunning, this plate conjures images of a fabulous Mexican Thanksgiving. As delicous as all of that was, it set the stage for the star of the dish: an incredible house-made chipotle mayo. Deeply smoky chipotle melded with a rich mayo to form a flavor guaranteed to elevate the status of any dish. All hail to chef Dan Hall (below, with the in-house perro salado) for this deft, magical touch.

Three. Surf & Turf.
Perro Salado takes the Newport culinary canon and flips it with spice and creative revisionism. A hanger steak, densely coated in a fresh-herbaceous cilantro pesto and served alongside a bounteous salad of creamy avocados, was full of flavor and resonant on the palate. Sticky ribs (left) leverage "secret ingredient" Coca-Cola into heavenly sweetness. Finally, a lobster quesadilla (shown above) served with bursting-ripe cherry tomatoes and whole shoots of pea greens, won the night with assertive and delicious reimagining of that cantina staple. Yes, it was spicy, but within an instant, the sweetness of lobster shone. Refreshed by a salty-salty asadero cheese and finished with a pickled red onion - garnish with true purpose - this appetizer was reason alone to pay the $4 toll... each way.

Four. Special, So Special.
I was so pleased that my gracious and knowledgeable server, Chloe, convinced me to get one of the specials. A seared Mahi Mahi steak was served with about the freshest possible Rhode Island mussels and littlenecks you can find. Served in a sinfully good creamy coconut broth and heaped atop cilantro infused rice with a fried spinach garnish, this plate, mouth-watering and strikingly presented, gave all my fellow diners plate envy.

Five. Sweet Start, Sweet Finish.
You simply cannot help but feel comfortable in the wonderful space that Perro Salado inhabits. Situated in a beautifully restored Colonial, rooms deep with Christian iconography and dominating floral arrangements made me feel like I was the luckiest house guest in the world. And while first impressions are great, the end of my dinner was lasting as well. Closing out my evening, a brilliant coconut cheesecake with a layer of mango mousse topped off with a local blueberry syrup fused Mexican flavors fuse with Newport sophistication to create a winning plate.

Would I go back? Yes. Sorry to local foodies for sharing this hidden gem. At your next party be sure to book the charming and intimate "Captain's Dining Room."