An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Sep 9, 2013
08:24 AM
The Connecticut Table

Hot New Restaurants in Greenwich, Norwalk, Branford; Plane Watching in Oxford

Hot New Restaurants in Greenwich, Norwalk, Branford; Plane Watching in Oxford

A view of Le Penguin in Greenwich from the restaurant's website.

There’s a new bird in town — Le Penguin  ( 203/717-1200, ), which recently took over Restaurant Jean-Louis’ old space on Lewis Street in Greenwich, has pressed the fast-forward button and amped up the sound, hurtling what used to be a calm, collected little bistro into a hot 2013 see-and-be-seen scene. Same crowd—local gentry and their ilk, out-of-towners, ladies who lunch, guys trading stock quotes. Classic French bistro food as interpreted by a brilliant young chef. Relaxed, playful and decidedly unstuffy, this Penguin is a cool place to chill out.

New this past summer, SeaGrass Grill  in the Indian Neck section of Branford (203/315-3225, ) is truly a little gem hidden in plain sight. From the outside, it looks like a sandwich shop. Inside, it cooks like a fine-dining restaurant scaled to fit the small, tastefully appointed space (garden flower bouquets, good local art on the walls). The chef-owner, who grew up in the area, shops local farm stands en route to the kitchen. For a small place, the menu is surprisingly ambitious, with dishes like local cream-of-potato soup with crispy parsnips; lump crab cakes over lemon-dressed arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, fettuccine topped with shaved fennel salad; poached halibut over the best risotto I’ve had in ages. Pleasantly priced, all dinners come with a large salad and big, puffy, freshly baked popovers.

Plane watching’s fun whether or not you’re going somewhere, and lots of people do it at Oxford Airport, where a glass-enclosed porch provides a good view of private planes taking off and landing. The porch is part of 121 Restaurant & Bar (203/262-0121, ), the airport’s on-site restaurant. With a big comfortable bar, a friendly staff, and a lengthy menu of smalls, salads, pizza, sandwiches, meat fowl, fish and shellfish, sides and desserts — as in French onion soup with melted Grûyere, mahimahi with bok choy stir-fry, forbidden black rice and orange-ginger coulis‚ topped off with a whopper ice cream sundae — a lot of larger airports should have it so good.

Classic Indian cooking gets an update at Aladin Indian Bistro (203/939-9040, ), which just opened in August in East Norwalk. Small plates, local sourcing, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are featured, along with vegetable-based sauces to accompany meat and fish preparations. Special treats: green mango salad, Andhra chili chicken, Bengali fish curry, naan with wild leeks.


Hot New Restaurants in Greenwich, Norwalk, Branford; Plane Watching in Oxford

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