Above: Stonington Scallop Crudo; Pomegranate Pana Cotta
Photographs by Gus Cantavero
Certain restaurants are hotly anticipated, and the stars seemed well aligned when Mill Street Bar & Table opened in the fall. Seasonal American cuisine has been an underrepresented category in town, and the commitment here to organic ingredients runs deep via a partnership with Back 40 Farm and sourcing from the chef’s local gardens. That buzzed-about chef is Geoff Lazlo, a pro who’s worked at Chez Panisse, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Gramercy Tavern and locally at The Whelk. (I liked his cooking so much at The Whelk in Westport that I often advised people to drive twelve exits north on 95 to try it.) A Greenwich native, Geoff had been waiting for a chance to open a restaurant in his hometown; he and partner Bill King worked with experts to restore the 1850s building that is now Mill Street.
We were excited for dinner at this hip new spot on a recent chilly Saturday night. When we walked from the back parking lot (where there’s also valet) to the side entrance, the outdoor space was in full swing, a group gathered around the fire pit. Friends we were meeting entered through the front door by the bar. With the warren of rooms—there’s a half-moon oyster bar and high-top communal tables in back, a regular bar and dining room in front, plus an upstairs lounge—it’s smart to specify where you plan to meet and eat.
If you’re waiting for a table, you can pass the time happily at the front bar over oysters, crudo, or caviar and cocktails. We tried petite Wellfleet oysters (there are hyper-local Stella Mars from Greenwich too) and grilled mussels, simply cooked with lime and salt. Many dishes capitalize on the custom wood-burning grill—even the margarita is garnished with grilled limes for smoky flavor. The main dining room where we were soon seated feels intimate with a navy upholstered banquette along one wall, a wood planter overflowing with greenery and a tall wine rack separating the space from the oyster bar.
With six of us sharing plates, we sampled something from every corner of the menu. One of the snacks wound up being a favorite dish: carrot fries are crispy carrot shavings more like chips that you dip into a buttermilk sauce laced with curry, messy but delicious. Seafood fans must try the baked clams, buttery but not overly bready with a kick from peppers. Duck ‘ribs’ with Chinese five spice were intriguing but so-so, not much meat to them. Among the salads we tried, we liked the kale and cabbage punched up with pepitas and Parmesan shavings, more than the wild apple and radish, which was pretty but a small portion. We loved the roasted cauliflower in pine nut butter with zingy flavors of capers and lemon.
Whole-roasted lamb shoulder for two is served on a slate with pita bread, a yogurt dip and pickled green tomatoes, beets, peppers and zucchini. It’s like an upscale deconstructed gyro and fun to eat. A lush lobster risotto got autumnal with Brussels sprouts and crunchy pepitas, but the dish was light on the lobster. We liked the tender flounder with fennel, squash and pepper aioli, and while the grilled trout stuffed with chard and bacon was tasty, a mint salsa eclipsed some of the flavors.
One snafu came with a hen of the woods dish, served with poached egg and sauteed greens. The first bites were meaty and tender but on a second piece we hit grittiness as though the mushroom, which grows on oak trees, had a bit of bark or something in it. A missed step in the kitchen?
Desserts by Pastry Chef Caryn Stabinsky, who takes advantage of the grill too, revived us. She turned out an interesting smoked chocolate dish with a banana pudding and pistachio crumble. Her trio of cookie ice cream sandwiches, including gingersnaps around strawberry ice cream and chocolate cookies with peanut butter ice cream, was also a hit.
This ambitious restaurant has a changing menu and aims to please many: adults on date night, walk-ins with kids, those who want to chill over cocktails and oysters. But with Chef Geoff’s talent, I’m sure that I will soon be telling friends in Westport that they must drive twelve exits south to check it out.
A new drink on the cocktail menu that’s ideal for chillier nights and sitting by the firepit: the Chef’s Tea blends cider, lemon and honey with scotch.
The Mill Street building dates to 1855, and the new décor by designer Marcia Tucker plays on history with old maps of Byram, antique Americana, vintage restaurant menus and farm-inspired chalk drawings.
Though the menu changes regularly, popular choices include the daily grilled oysters, roasted cauliflower, spaghetti alla chittarra, Bolognese, whole roasted chicken and the flatbread with fried oyster, kimchee and cabbage.
MILL STREET BAR & TABLE
230 Mill Street, Greenwich
Tuesday& Wednesday 5 p.m.–10 p.m.;
Thursday–Saturday, 5 p.m.–11 p.m.