Mar 21, 201212:32 PMFairfield

Not Here But Near: Elm

Mar 21, 2012 - 12:32 PM
Not Here But Near: Elm

If you’re looking for a new hot spot to eat out this weekend, you might want to try Elm on Elm Street in New Canaan. Newly opened as of yesterday, the restaurant boasts “modern American” cuisine in a fresh, local, and sustainable menu.  Chef Brian Lewis, formerly of The Barn and The Farmhouse of The Bedford Post Inn with celebrity owner Richard Gere, has made a point to focus on good food made well.

“The last thing I want people to say is ‘fine dining,’” he said at a press preview party earlier this month. “I want people to say ‘delicious dining.’”

And, delicious it is. Try this on for size: langoustines alla plancha with a quail egg sunny side up; salt roasted Chioggia beets with Mandarin orange, Buratta mozzarella, and Osetra caviar; handmade taglioloni pasta with razor clams, squid, and chorizo in a sauce of squid ink and saffron.

If that whets your appetite, you can move on to page two of the menu that includes the local catch from Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, hydroponically grown greens from Two Guys From Woodbridge in Hamden, and meat from Millstone Farm in Wilton.

Chef Lewis’ emphasis on local food starts with Millstone Farm and that sounds just fine to Annie Farrell. She is the renowned sustainable farmer at Millstone only minutes from the restaurant. In fact, Lewis can—and often does—stop off at the farm on his way to work. As far as she’s concerned, that’s a great way to grow a relationship with the clients who source her pork, beef, and eggs.

“It’s great to have a chef like Brian so close by,” she said. “It’s energizing for both of us. There’s a real sense of community. We can share ideas and get our creative juices flowing.”

Lewis is flanked by some very skilled people, particularly Caryn Stabinsky, Elm’s pastry chef. She sees desserts like appetizers: there are several components and they should build on each other in texture and flavor.

“I like to show flavors that are natural and not overly sweet,” she said. “There should be something a little sweet, a little buttery, a little salty. Whatever I make I try to compliment what comes out of the kitchen.”

Stabinsky met Lewis nine years ago when they were both working at Oceana in New York. She went on to work at wd-50 and Monkey Bar, adding to her extensive résumé. But Lewis is no slouch in that department either having such restaurants as Lutèce among others under his belt. With a bachelor’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and a business management degree from Johnson & Wales, he’s got technique and business acumen down pat.

The 85-seat restaurant has room for 45 in the main dining area, 10 at the pewter-topped bar with 15 extra booth seats, and 12 at the chef’s table. (Doing the math, I’m assuming the extra three seats are there in case you decide to bring a few friends.) You can make a reservation to sit at the chef’s table for a seven course seasonal and “spontaneous” menu. Prices range from $19 to $35 for most entrees. Much pricier special menus depend on choice and wine selection.

Elm is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, they are open until 10:00 p.m. They are located at 73 Elm Street in New Canaan. Call 203-920-4994 and have them set a table for you or visit them online at elmrestaurant.com.

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