The Essex, Centerbrook
We’ve been waiting ever so patiently for this one: Colt Taylor, ex-executive chef of renowned One If By Land Two If By Sea in NYC, has brought his estimable talents to Essex. The fresh reno of the rambling property features a sparkling open kitchen, dramatic bar with Melissa Barbieri’s (his mom!) aquatic mural as its focal point, and plenty of buzzy goings on. We visited about a week after opening and got immediately down to business with a Coquito Banana from their Tiki cocktail list; a modern riff on a classic Pina Colada, here spiked with habanero, on a pile of shaved ice.
For starters, who can resist Foie Gras bon bons? These slightly sweet and savory treats are a smooth duck liver mousse wrapped in dark chocolate. A strange and interesting concoction. I can never say no to a pretzel but should have this time, as an entire warm and large loaf of salty, cheesy deliciousness was delivered to our table. We had it doggie-bagged so we could make it to our entrees. For me, a ramen/chowder mash-up that featured lovely hunks of pork belly and tender clams in a creamy, umami-filled broth. I loved that the noodles here are cut into manageable lengths; nice to avoid the usual slurping that accompanies this dish. Poke finally makes an appearance on the Shoreline and my daughter’s bowl full of Montauk big eye tuna, avocado, carrots, cukes and easter egg radish with soy ponzu was a fresh delight, but we like ours with a bit more of the tasty rice. It’s a cliche but true, my husband is a meat (not so much potatoes) guy and relished his tender Ribeye with a smattering of bright veggies and a complex kaffir lime and toffee jus. Next time? A whole brined and fried chicken to share.
There’s nothing like The Essex on the Shoreline, so I won’t try to categorize, but the experience here is about big flavors. Most everything we ordered had a sweet/salty component (down to the creamy butter topped with black salt flakes), contrasting textures, and strict attention paid to plating. The open kitchen is surprisingly quiet (no Gordon Ramsey here!), all the better to see the brigade at work with their sous vide and tweezers.
This restaurant is nothing if not ambitious, with a chef’s tasting menu ($125 for seven courses), take-out market, and vertical hydroponic garden in the works. Not cheap, but worth it. Reservations recommended.
www.theessex.com 30 Main Street, Centerbrook
Foie Gras Bon Bons with Cherries
Pork and Clam Noodles; Ramen with Clam Chowder flavors
Chocolate three ways…