Revisiting our recent dining reviews
Blue Duck Bar & Kitchen
52 Bank St., New London
www.theblueducknl.com, (860) 446-6824
Once I clarified the origin of the restaurant’s name, the Blue Duck Bar & Kitchen in New London seemed rife with happy possibilities.
Originally, I inferred “Blue Duck” was a reference to the villainous Indian Blue Duck in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Lonesome Dove.” The idea of eating something inspired by THAT Blue Duck gave me the spooks! Turns out, though, “Blue Duck” is an allusion to an Adam Sandler bit in “Billy Madison.”
Relieved, my wife Eileen and I have visited Blue Duck three times and found it enjoyable. Its open, clean, post-industrial lines and bright colors are inviting, and the food and service are worthy.
The lobster bisque ($8) is a rich and tangy, lobster-chunky version that’s more than competitive in a market full of such things. Eileen tried a Brussels sprouts appetizer ($12) and was presented with a portion that would easily have served as an entrée. A pile of adeptly cooked, bite-sized sprouts popped delightfully, and the Nashville Hot dipping sauce provided a bit of not-too-blazing torque.
I loved the Birria tacos plate ($16). Three warm corn tortillas were loaded with shreds of spice-rubbed, slow-roasted beef sauteed in consommé, topped with a cheese blend and a bracing pico de gallo. I’ll eat that again. Ditto for their take on a Cubano sandwich ($15), which fused slices of sweet ham, earthy pork and Swiss cheese on a fresh Ciabatta roll. I opted to pass on the honey mustard as — to me, anyway — it seems flavorfully counter to the ideal of a Cuban.
— Rick Koster
13 Water St., Mystic
Oyster Club is closed until Feb. 10 for winter break, but with the chef and waitstaff coming back refreshed after a short respite, I imagine the food and libations will be as good as ever, if not better.
The menu is always inviting, with something for everyone and virtually all the ingredients are locally sourced and prepared by a kitchen staff headed up by executive chef Renee Touponce, who was recently named Connecticut’s top chef by the state’s restaurant industry group.
At our most recent dinner in late December, we especially enjoyed the oysters and black sea bass, but Oyster Club is known for its beef, and the filet mignon was outstanding.
Prices on the menu cover a wide range, with empanadas for $14, a roasted beet, labneh and chutney dish also $14, a burger with cheddar cheese $17, and the sea bass we enjoyed $33. The night we visited, the steaks were priced from $28 to $65. There is house-made pasta, too, with plates like Cacio e pepe, Casarecce, and Tagliatelle all available in full or half-size portions from about $14 to $30, depending on the dish and portion size.
Oyster Club has won all kinds of accolades and is popular with locals as well as visitors from out of town. It includes The Treehouse with Mystic River views, and next door is the Port of Call and Dive Bar.
— Ann Baldelli
The Plum Tomato
10 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme
If the name of a restaurant takes inspiration from an ingredient, it behooves the resident kitchen wizards to deploy that titular ingredient carefully and creatively. At The Plum Tomato in East Lyme, that mission is accomplished many times over.
On the Luigi White Pie ($22.25 for a small), plum tomatoes add texture and subtle zest to the savory mixture of toppings, which include bacon, chicken, mozzarella and ranch dressing. As a star ingredient of the Feta Bruschetta ($8.99), plum tomatoes provide great veggie texture and earthy notes to the accompanying feta, mozzarella and basil mix atop crispy bread. The Chicken Parm Delight ($11.75 for a half) features just the right amount of pesto-tomato sauce to enrobe (read: not drown) tasty chicken cut-lets upon excellent, house-made Italian bread. The house meatballs ($7.99 for three) are served in a pool of zesty tomato sauce.
All of the above are recommended.
You’ll find plum tomatoes making guest appearances throughout the menu, which offers plenty of options to suit non-pizza/pasta dinnertime cravings. Fantastic deli-inspired sandwiches? Check. Nachos? Affirmative. A variety of double-decker quesadilla options? Yep. Who knew eating more veggies could be so fun?
– Marisa Nadolny