We might not recognize Zweiban’s name as readily, but his standalone Province restaurant in Chicago garners high marks from critics and diners. The menus here and there overlap heavily. But we’re an independent bunch, and we’ll make up our own minds about whether or not Province is a destination worth the trip Downtown.
Throughout Province’s eclectic menu there are several nods to Latin ingredients, which should bode well here. Because it is a hotel serving three squares a day, there are several American standards on the menu, too, along with Asian- and Italian-inspired dishes.
Out-of-town guests will enjoy tasty breakfast options, including the skillet hash ($14) of fingerling coins, cubed pork belly and caramelized onions topped with gel-like poached eggs, and the crisp-edged pancakes ($12). They’ll also be thrilled with the cocktail-mixing prowess of the bartender and appreciate the warm welcome from the congenial staff. After a stiff Manhattan or a glass of sweet red sangria ($8), I might not notice the heavy-handed salt and vinegary bite in many dishes.
That’s not to say there aren’t some gems served in this modern-minimalist space of neutral tones. The dinner menu starts with a handful of one-portion-size snacks, such as the mini-Cuban pork sandwich ($3), which needs more flavor. Even less assertive is a spring squash taquito ($3), a crisp wonton folded over squash cubes that are too large and lacking in flavor. The best snack features a pleasant vinegary mix of eggplant, red peppers and capers on top of a fine slice of toasted pretzel bread from MJ Bread ($3).
The two soups ($6 lunch/$7 dinner) are tongue-ticklers, leaving me wanting more. Under the “small – to share” section, goat cheese fondue ($8) swirled with smoked onions and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes is dreamy. Kudos to Province for offering a handful of main dishes in half or full portions. The big hits include mojo-honey-glazed “brick” chicken ($19) and the juicy grilled skirt steak ($23). The desserts are tempting, but they sound better on paper than they taste on the palate. Servers are savvy and willing to replace dishes.
After four visits, we were left wondering, will Province be a destination dining spot Downtown? Not without retooling the menu or some other course correction. For now it will most likely draw locals for pre-event cocktails and nibbles.
Photos – From left: Mini cuban pork sandwich with tortilla soup; roasted eggplant toast
Address: 333 N. Central Ave., Phoenix (Westin Downtown)
Hours: Breakfast 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Highlights: Orange blueberry pancakes ($13), roasted eggplant toast ($3), tortilla soup ($6 lunch/$7 dinner), goat cheese fondue ($8), grilled skirt steak ($23)