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Taste of Greenwich

Here, our guide to what’s fresh, what’s fun and what’s hot from the kitchen

photographs by Gus Cantavero

Greenwich is the place where top Manhattan chefs come to start their own restaurants, where such trends as the stand-up dinner party are born (it’s coming, trust us); where people are always hungry for the next big thing. We thought it was high time to take a close look at our town’s ever-changing dining domain.

Where can you pick up an amazing Mexican fiesta to go? Enjoy a free cocktail at a top Greenwich Avenue restaurant? Sip a martini mixed by an old-school bartender who’s been pouring drinks for thirty years? Call for takeout so fantastic you may swear off cooking? Hire a caterer to the stars? We set out to answer these questions and more, talking to the town’s top food personalities and tapping unexpected ways to enjoy new restaurants, little-known cafés and old favorites.

Tried & True

Elm Street Oyster House
A great catch right off the Avenue, this cozy, often-crowded spot opened its doors eighteen years ago, and it’s still the place to go for terrific fresh seafood and a fun atmosphere. People love to eat at the bar—a laid-back hangout where you can catch up with fellow locals—so much so that they often wait for stools to open up, even when tables are available.

What to eat now: Macadamia-crusted King Salmon, and Wasabi-and-Sesame-Crusted Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Asian vegetables are the most popular entrées. Also, try the panfried oyster appetizer with garlic-thyme butter, or one of the six varieties of fresh oysters available daily. For big appetites, consider the exceptional paella or luscious lobster roll—a full 1 ¼ -pounder served chilled with mayo on a hot dog bun.

Drink specials: A beer-and-wine-only place, Elm Street is known for its terrific wine list, with twenty varieties available by the glass. “Bartenders are happy to let customers sample a wine or two until they settle on what they like,” says the manager, Dennis Gallagher. They’re dedicated to finding your perfect match.

11 West Elm Street, Greenwich,
203-629-5795; elmstreetoysterhouse.com

Established in 1997, this modern American eatery in Glenville has enjoyed longtime popularity, due to the consistently delicious and creative food, lively scene, and passion on the part of the husband-and-wife culinary team, General Manager Rebecca Kirhoffer and Chef Reza Khorshidi. “I consider it that  my customers are coming to my home,” says Rebecca. Over the years the couple have developed strong relationships with local farms, including Gilberties in Westport, which grows a baby lettuce to Rebecca’s exact specifications.  

What to eat now:  Signature corn blinis with sour cream and servuga caviar are served to guests as they arrive. Don’t miss the foie gras dumplings with a black truffle broth, crispy black sea bass with an artichoke-heart ravioli and a ginger emulsion, braised short ribs of beef, white truffle risotto, and housemade donuts. The Baked Alaska, a trio of homemade ice creams, Italian meringue and a red raspberry sauce, is Rebecca’s personal favorite.

Drink specials: Rum is on the rise, as are boutique vodkas, says Rebecca. The restaurant has just started pouring a new vodka called Broken Shed, which the bartender says is the best he’s tasted in years. New signature drinks: the “New Fashioned” red currant and ginger cocktail and a kiwifruit and elderflower gimlet.

265 Glenville Road, Greenwich,
203-532-9270; rebeccasgreenwich.com

Restaurant Jean-Louis
The namesake of French-born Chef Jean-Louis Gerin, this classic bistro founded in 1985 has won numerous accolades and awards, ranging from a nod from Wine Spectator for its excellent wine list to the Best Chef in the Northeast in 2006 by the James Beard Foundation. Many special occasions have been celebrated over Jean-Louis’s Menu Dégustation, a five-course tasting that changes daily and often includes exquisite preparations of foie gras. Regulars also embrace the vegetarian and vegan selections, which showcase the freshest produce. Recently, Jean-Louis appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped and emerged as champion, promising to use the prize money to buy a convertible and take a cross-country trip with his wife, Linda.

What to eat now:  The chef is planning a fabulous fall menu, which will include these must-try dishes: warm French lentilles vertes du Puy and “petit gris” escargot soup with fresh roasted shallot and raw parsley; monkfish filet braised with bouillabaisse-style sauce, vegetables, raw tomato and fresh herbs; and tenderloin of Berkshire organic pork slow cooked with fresh ginger and a hint of curry savoy cabbage julienne confit with coco milk and roasted curry accent.

61 Lewis Street, greenwich,
203-622-8450; restaurantjeanlouis.com

Celebrating twenty years in business, this elegant, upscale Italian restaurant features a new outdoor patio as well as terrific ambience inside, with a fireplace in every room. Exceptional food and service here as well as an outstanding wine program have earned Valbella a Grand Award from Wine Spectator. In the wine cellar, guests can sit at the fourteen-person heated granite table (the warmth keeps diners cozy in the cooler temperature) and be surrounded by some 16,000 bottles. A private room in the wine cellar can also be reserved for parties of two to ten.

What to eat now: Watch for the new menu coming out this fall. Some special dishes include venison, lamb, farm-raised pork chops, a fall pasta special with boar sausage, and dishes that capitalize on the truffles now in season. The restaurant imports the finest white truffle from Alba, Italy, which is incorporated into the menu.

Drink specials: Valbella’s fall entrées go well with bigger wines like Cabernets. With the white truffle dishes, earthier wines such as Barolos, Babaresco, Pinot Noir and Burgundy are most complementary. Valbella has a full-time sommelier on staff (Nick) who can point you to the perfect bottle.

1309 East Putnam Ave., Riverside,
203-637-1155; valbellact.com

This landmark French restaurant on the lower part of the Avenue is enjoying a renaissance under the management of owners Ingrid and Steve McMenamin after reopening in 2010 in a larger space with a chic dining room. The bistro and patisserie that’s into its third decade in business was once favored as a breakfast spot and a place to pick up those to-die-for French pastries. Now it’s also an elegant destination for lunch and dinner with authentic food, gracious service, and entertainment—a jazz singer performs on select evenings.

What to eat now: Filet Mignon Tartare, French Onion Soup Gratinee, Duck Confit Salad, Chicken Riesling with Spatzle and Mushrooms, Cassoulet, Pissaladierre a la Alsace, and any of the seasonal fish specials. From the decadent Trio cake—with its almond dacquoise, chocolate mousse, and flourless cake layered with Bavarian cream and topped with dark chocolate glaze—to the colorful macaroons, the desserts are a must-order.

Drink specials: The all-French wine list here is well edited and reasonably priced. Ask one of the knowledgeable servers for a pairing recommendation.

339 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich,
203-661-6634; versaillesgreenwich.com

A see-and-be-seen spot on the Avenue since 1991, Terra draws regulars for its consistently good Italian food, the wood-fired pizzas and, especially, the sunny little patio that’s an ideal spot for a relaxed outdoor meal and people watching. The casual atmosphere and appealing menu make this trattoria equally well suited for date nights and meals out with the kids.

What to eat now: Burrata with fresh figs; flash-fried calamari with saffron aioli; pizza with spicy lamb sausage, artichokes and carmelized onions; and fall specials including carpaccio of sushi-grade fluke with blood orange and fennel; pan-roasted sea scallops with pumpkin caponata; braised short rib agnolotti with parsnip puree and chanterelles.

Drink specials: On Tuesday nights, diners can enjoy a bottle of wine with their meal for half price. A special wine-by-the-glass program lets guests sample pricier varietals and select wines from the main list; choices change monthly.

156 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich
203-629-5222; terraofgreenwich.com

For the complete Greenwich food guide pick up the October 2012 issue of Greenwich Magazine on newsstands now!

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