Is there anything better than fried seafood by the beach on a warm Summer day? I think not. Neither do jfood of Chowhound.com and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com. These are two serious foodies who are more than happy to drive that extra mile to satisfy their fried seafood craving at Westfair Fish & Chips. I'll let them tell you why....
jfood on Westfair
Westfair is now celebrating twenty-five years as one of the best ‘Chippers’ (fish-‘n- chip shops) in Connecticut.
The history of Fish and Chips dates to the 16th Century when the Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal brought deep-fried fish, Pescado Frito, to the Netherlands and England. During the 17th century, Sir Walter Raleigh brought potatoes back to England from the New World. Fish and Chips were created when the potatoes were prepared in the manner of the French “chipped pommes de terre a la mode” and combined with the Pescado Frito. In the 1860’s, the first fish-and-chip shop (a “Chipper”) opened on Cleveland Street in London's Irish East End by the fishmonger, Joseph Malin. The dish’s rise to royalty culminated in World War II when it was exempt from rationing. Over 300 years later fish ‘n chips still remain major offering in English pubs alongside freshly pulled pint of beer.
Fish ‘n chips gained notoriety in the United States during the 1960s. Chippers opened along the shoreline of Connecticut, but few were located in Fairfield County. In 1985 the landscape changed when Westfair Fish and Chips opened in Westport. Westfair is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary and their fish ‘n chips and other great seafood selections offer a fantastic version of many all-time favorites.
Upon entering the cozy dining area, you can choose to order from one of the two menus. The wooden board on one side of the dining room describes the traditional menu, while the ‘specials’ are hand written on the board over the counter. Orders are placed at the counter and customers wait until called. This is a very no-frills establishment with paper plates, styrofoam, plastic containers and plastic utensils. Sodas and drinks are self-served from the refrigerator.
My favorite starter is their New England clam chowder. Westfair also offers Rhode Island clam chowder seafood bisque and lobster bisque, but I love a good NE chowder. The broth offers a nice balance between the richness of the clam liquor and the mildness of a hint of cream. The clams are sweet and plump and the addition of celery, red potatoes and plenty of fresh spices make this a wonderful clam chowder.
The fish ‘n chips consist of perfectly deep fried Cod. The challenge in preparing fish ‘n chips is bringing the crust to a perfect golden brown while simultaneously cooking the fish to firm, moist and flavorful flakiness. Westfair does both to perfection. The crust has a great consistency and flavor and has a different coating than many of their other fried choices. When I asked about the ingredients the owner humbly informed me that it is flour based “with just a few spices.” His secret “few spices” added a very nice flavor to this dish. The “chips” are steak fries and are good, but the fish is the centerpiece of the dish.
I love whole belly fried clams and Westfair produces a very good rendition. The whole bellies contain that great clam liquor that bursts in your mouth and the crispiness of the coating adds the desired crunchiness. It is still early in the season and I found the bellies to be a little on the small side, but I would expect that the size of the whole belly clams to increase over the next few months. When these larger sized are available and flawlessly cooked at Westfair, they will be utterly delicious.
It is unusual to find one of my favorite mollusks, sea scallops, breaded and then plunged into hot oil. But the result at Westfair is close to perfection. The breading creates a wonderful crunchy texture while the scallops are perfectly cooked; the heavenly sweetness of the scallop is still present. They are incredibly moist throughout and the crunchiness of the coating makes this a perfect choice for lunch or dinner.
Another dish that I thoroughly enjoy at Westfair is the fried shrimp. The 20-25 size shrimp are the ideal size versus the smaller popcorn shrimp served elsewhere. The shrimp at Westfair, like everything else, are perfectly cooked. The coating is flavorful, perfectly crisp and adds a nice complement to the sweet and succulent shrimp. The lunch sized portion of six shrimp plus the French fries are a perfect lunch if you add a cup of chowder to the mix.
Other items on the menu include fried oysters and squid and most of the fish selections are available as a platter, a side dish or a roll. Likewise most of the fish and seafood can be broiled. The side choices include cole slaw, potato salad and macaroni salad and each is made on the premises.
Westfair is now celebrating twenty-five years as one of the best Chippers in Connecticut and is worth a visit from near or far.
Michael Stern of Roadfood on Westfair
Westfair Fish & Chips is an unlikely eatery set back from Route One in otherwise posh Westport. Operating in the good old-fashioned eat-in-the-rough manner, it is little more than a kitchen with an order window and a few tables scattered about to which customers tote there own food on cardboard plates. There are picnic-style accommodations outside for good weather dining.
One prominent feature of the interior is a lobster tank; and many customers come here to buy them whole for cooking at home. "Hot lobster roll" heads the blackboard menu, and if we hadn't been jonesing for fried clams, we definitely would have tried it. Next time, for sure.
We were not at all unhappy to have an all-fried meal: clams with crusty golden cases and shrimp that were snapping fresh inside their crunch. We only regret not having ordered onion rings (75 cents extra).
Frying is the specialty of the house, and you can get whole clams, clam strips, sole, scallops, shrimp, oysters and squid ... accompanied, of course, by French fries (or baked potato or onion rings). Most of the fish are also available broiled; and the menu includes linguine with clam sauce and baked stuffed shrimp. It is important to note that whatever fish you get, you should definitely avail yourself of Westfair tartar sauce. It is bright with lemony zest and a great companion to seafood.
Also on the hit list for our next visit is chowder. Three kinds are available: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. And lobster bisque sounds pretty tempting, too.
Westfair Fish & Chips 1781 Post Road East, Westport 203.255.3184