It began about a year ago. The owners of the West Street Grill (now in its 24th year) in Litchfield decided to offer their customers two nights each week with a completely different menu—a menu that is as delicious and well done as the regular menu but that was simpler, satisfying and a bit more straightforward.
They wanted to offer a menu that would provide a more casual night for regulars and others, filled with healthy comfort foods that were of the same high quality as what is offered on other nights, but nothing fussy or overly complex.
All this is, of course, the very definition of bistro food.
Thus Bistro Night each Thursday and Sunday was born at the Grill. A special menu is offered only on these two nights. It is a bit lower in price than the regular menu, and for those who still long for their West Street Grill favorites (even on those nights), there is a Market Additions menu offered, which includes many dishes from the regular menu. Italian white and red wines have been chosen by the Grill’s sommelier, Jillian Philbrick, to pair with these menus. They are specially priced at around $30 a bottle and will change throughout the season. Pastry chef Sherry Zaslow’s desserts are also specially priced and change with the weekly menu.
No, the dishes on this menu are not the classic bistro onion soup and salade frisse! Under the guidance of executive chef James Cosgriff, they reflect his tastes as well as those of co-owner James O’Shea. That is to say, they continue the cuisine that the Grill began, way ahead of its time, and still maintains. This is food that has Italian, French and Asian influences and falls under the banner of Modern American today. They were one of the first restaurants to do this and, in fact, introduced it to Connecticut. Another new addition to the menus is that each dish appropriate for either vegan or vegetarian diners is labeled so.
On a recent Sunday, I came early for dinner and still the place was packed. The menu was awesome. How to pick? Well, we began with hand-rolled potato gnocchi (something the chef learned to make at his grandmother’s side as a child), mixed with English peas, Gorgonzola broodo and saba, ($11) which was rich and warm and satisfying, and involtini of eggplant, garlic and goat cheese with beets, haricots vert and a tomato vinaigrette at $12.
Around us I saw people eating every morsel of their lamp meatball platter with pickled feta and tomato sauce ($13), and the famous West Street Grill fresh tomato salad with fleur de sel, aged balsamic vinegar and native basil ($12). Next time, the cauliflower fritti (like a tempura cauliflower) will be my first course, or perhaps it will be the panzanella salad, which also uses the tomatoes The West Street Grill is so known for serving.
Our main dish was a wild mushroom risotto with a porcini broth, truffle oil and chive blossoms ($24) and a superb pounded, panko-encrusted and perfectly seasoned chicken breast with arugula and chopped tomatoes and lemon wedges. I have to say I have never had a chicken breast more perfectly cooked, nor more succulent inside and crispy on the outside. And, it tasted the way chicken used to taste. This is a classic Italian dish and had I been dining in Venice, it couldn’t have been any better.
Next time it could be asparagus, leek and goat cheese ravioli ($26) for us or braised short ribs of beef with polenta cake, braised endive, Gorgonzola, balsamic-braised flatiron steak, potato puree with roasted shallots, and rich tomato sauce ($29) or even the Prince Edward Island mussels ($13 from the Small Plates Menu).
Espressos and a shared slice of the creamiest-ever cheesecake completed our meal. As host and co-owner of the restaurant Charles Kafferman said to me when I asked for his suggestions before ordering, “You can’t make a mistake on this menu.” We agree.What a lovely way to end a week and begin a new one. Highly recommended!
Now open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Bistro menu available for dinner only Thursdays and Sundays. Reservations recommended.