New Menu Launched at Sign of the Whale

James Gribbon

Stamford's Harbor Point is starting to give the appearance of a boomtown. The peninsula, jutting into the flat expanse of the Sound, now seemingly holds more high rise buildings than the city's downtown, and they're steadily filling with residents, retailers, and restaurants. Amidst this ever present change stands one constant: Sign Of The Whale. At 16 months old, and with the little-lamented demise of the beer garden at the current site of Paloma, the Whale stands in the amusing position of being the Point's most venerable institution. In keeping with the theme around them that nothing is quite good enough as it exists, Sign of The Whale has hired a new chef, and launched a new menu.

Like so many others in the city, new executive chef Brian Murphy arrived in Stamford via New York, where he held the same position at P.J. Clarke’s. CTBites recently had the opportunity to sample some of his creations when the menu launched at the beginning of this month. A relaxed but fairly loud after work crowd was dispersed throughout the large main dining area (underneath an equally large rooftop bar area), and a duo of guitar and drums played instrumental tunes, as will be the case on "Jazzy Thursdays" going forward.

Office tower refugees can select from a full bar with multiple beer offerings on tap, and share multi-tier plates with selections from the Whale's raw bar, including Blue Point oysters and local clams, as well as cold lobster and shrimp cocktail. For a bit dressier option in the realm of shareable starters, the ahi tuna arrives in sizeable chunks which have been tossed in a soy ginger sauce before being topped with yuzu aioli, bedded on avocado cream, and served with wonton chips and wasabi. The yuzu was smoothed out by the cream, but still very prevalent in the overall flavor, and made a welcome pairing with the ginger. The airy wonton chips added a bit of their own flavor, but mostly an enjoyable crunch, to the meaty, sweet and sour dish.

If all this still seems a bit predatory to you, there is also a chopped salad of Tuscan and baby kale, tossed in a sesame vinaigrette, topped with oranges, avocado, fennel, and cucumbers. I'm not exactly an herbivorous kale bro, but this salad was unusually good, even to one inclined to view it with suspicion. The sesame/orange combination was particularly pleasing in the lightly dressed salad, and the complexity of flavors kept it from being overwhelmed by the grassy kale. I ate every scrap.

The lobster sliders were where we hit peak citrus. There was too much lemon in the mayo which coated the meat, and it washed out most of the other tastes, save the gherkin with which it was dressed. I had a similar issue with the scallops, which were cooked absolutely perfectly, then seasoned with a Roman mine's worth of salt. Both of these may be outlying incidents in new menu still undergoing development, but caveat emptor

The cavatelli arrived in a steamy cloud of seafood and cream. The little shells were tossed with shrimp, calamari, whole steamer clams, and chunks of lobster which did much to enrich the sauce. Everything, every individual component, was delicious. Capers added a bit of herb and salt to the gestalt and, at $22, this may be the best value on the entire menu. 

Another of the evening's stand outs was, surprisingly, the 16oz. bone-in rib eye, which was served sliced and fanned out over sauteed spinach, chick peas, and shallots, with large wedges of double fried potatoes. These last were sprinkled with grated Parmesan, and delighted the Belgian ex-pat in our midst with their similarity to her homeland's frites. Served cooked to a flawless rare, the steak itself was well crusted, deeply unctuous and flavorful, and well served by the addition of the sweet shallots. The spinach and chick peas were sauteed with a dash of lemon, and likewise expertly cooked. This was another winner. 

Dessert arrived in solid form with truly restaurant quality ice cream sandwiches. The cookies were thick and buttery, with big, explosive, 
chocolate chips, counterbalanced by the heavy vanilla ice cream. Both would very good on their own, but the sandwich was memorable. 

Others at the table sampled the adult root beer floats, made with Not Your Father's Root Beer (at almost 6% alcohol), but I couldn't resist the lab-grown neons of the Whale's Tidal Wave drinks menu. I went for the Old Man's Orange Potion, a cauldron bubbling with orange vodka, triple sec, orange juice, and Sprite, harpooned with an entire creamsicle, and overflowing with CO2 vapor from a submerged chunk of dry ice. The drink is entirely preposterous, utterly unrefined, gargantuan in both volume, calories, and price, and 
- incapable of taking it seriously - I enjoyed every drop. I even liked the large paper straws with which it's meant to be shared.

www.signofthewhalect.com; 6 Harbor Point Rd, Stamford.

 

Sign of the Whale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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