An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 12, 2013
01:52 PM
The Connecticut Table

323 Restaurant & Bar in Westport Makes Splashy Debut With Fresh Takes on Well-Loved Dishes

323 Restaurant & Bar in Westport Makes Splashy Debut With Fresh Takes on Well-Loved Dishes

The low-slung building at the corner of Main Street and Canal in Westport has been a restaurant for as long as anyone can remember. For ages it was the popular hangout Oliver’s, then it had a 13-year run as Bogey’s. Now, after a year-long renovation, it’s been completely transformed into 323 Restaurant & Bar. New owners Jay Faillace and his son, Matt, have gone to great lengths to refurbish the onetime onion barn. They took out a wall, opened up the second floor to make a vaulted ceiling and exposed the original hardwood flooring. The lounge has a massive flat-screen TV—80 inches—and a handsome U-shaped bar carved from exotic African Moabi pear wood.  

But let’s get to the food. The menu at 323 is New American, with executive chef Chris Vacca doing the honors. Vacca’s a CIA grad, who’s cooked at David Burke’s Park Avenue Café and Pino Luongo’s Le Madre and Il Toscanaccio in Manahattan, so you’re in good hands. Small plates include New England clam chowder, fried calamari (with cherry peppers and roasted garlic aioli), lamb ribs with orange-chipotle barbecue sauce, and grilled octopus (with chorizo, fingerling potato confit, kumquats, cilantro and yogurt). Large plates include sesame-crusted tuna, terrine of eggplant parmigiana, Berkshire pork porterhouse and roasted salmon with market vegetable ragout. Prices are very reasonable: the two steaks on the menu are $29 and $39, but the rest range from $18 to $25.

We sampled several dishes the night we visited: carrot and beet salad (a sparkling summery mix of rainbow beets and Thumbelina carrots, with ginger yogurt, cilantro and aged balsamic), a respectable tuna tartare, tasty roasted oysters with spinach and bacon (similar to Oysters Rockefeller but not referred to as such), and salmon a la plancha (perfectly cooked, tender and delicious). Our favorite dish was an innovative ravioli special—which we’re told is getting a berth on the regular menu—beet top and ricotta ravioli with guanciale, English peas, Parmesan, saba and duck cracklings. This chef has a way with pasta; we’re looking forward to trying his gnocchi and fetuccine carbonara.

A word on that TV in the lounge: Bigger isn’t always better, and while it would probably be great to watch a game here—you could certainly see it from anyplace in the room—if you do NOT want to watch the game (or whatever), good luck with that, there’s really no getting away from it.

That being said, 323 is a great addition to Westport’s burgeoning dining scene—we loved the vintage town photos near the entrance—a comfortable, friendly place to enjoy fresh takes on well-loved dishes.

323 Restaurant & Bar is open for lunch and dinner daily and also serves Sunday brunch. The phone number is (203) 222-0323, the email address is info@323westport.com and the Web site is www.323westport.com.

 

 

323 Restaurant & Bar in Westport Makes Splashy Debut With Fresh Takes on Well-Loved Dishes

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