After a lovely team event near my Westport, CT offices, I went out with my friend to grab a nice dinner before driving back to NYC. We checked out Yelp and made some calls to see who could take us right away. The Red Hen in the Westport Inn said they were having a slow night and their ratings were quite good, so we decided to check it out.
Sure enough, they were quite empty. The chef was at the bar and we were one of just two seated tables in the small restaurant off the lobby. We instantly fell in love with the decorations. The doors as dividers with this fun farmhouse feel. Really loved it.
The chef came over to our table and instantly started chatting us up. His love for food and excited for this restaurant was palpable. He talked about how he sources all of his ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible. He talked about wanting to step everything up a notch and we gave him some ideas of what we wanted to try and told him to have at it.
The first thing we tried was the zucchini fritters. These were tasty, but I’m not sure if they were right. The inside of the fritters was more like zucchini dip. Not raw, per se, but I wasn’t sure if that was really how they were intended or if they were meant to be solid all the way through. I did like the balsamic reduction on top, however.
Then we tried the vegan spring rolls. These had a few peppers in it, but I managed to pick around it. I liked the idea of it and the hoisin sauce was good, but I’m not sure I could recommend it.
We also tried the sundried tomato and basil sausage. It came with a cilantro dijonaise sauce and the cilantro was a perfect compliment to the taste of the sausage. But the sausage itself was a bit overcooked and dry. Bummer.
I saw bacon crusted arctic char on the menu and had to try it. Turns out, the chef makes a bacon paste-like substance to crust the char. It came with mashed sweet potatoes and grilled squash. Everything on this place was very good. The char was perfectly cooked and the bacon was a great compliment. There was an awesome char on the squash and zucchini and the sweet potatoes were tasty.
We also decided to try the grilled cheese with a side of brussels sprouts. The grilled cheese was a special version that had a mixture of cheeses and came with an onion jam.
And boy was it special. Everything else we tried at The Red Hen was good but not special, and for the most part not flawless. But this grilled cheese was awesome. Exactly what grilled cheese should be (and better). Nicely browned and toasty bread (but not too much of it) with a hearty, flavorful cheese and the sweetness of the onion jam. Mm mm mmm this was good!
The brussels sprouts were just okay. I like them roasted and crispy much better.
Overall, I think the chef’s excitement actually set expectations too high. I know exactly what he’s going for, but the food wasn’t quite there. There was a lack in depth of flavor in most of the dishes we tried and some executional problems. But everything was still quite good and that grilled cheese was something special! I will certainly return and probably order a bit differently next time. But I still recommend.
Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10