Two years ago veteran restaurateurs Anshu Vidyarthi and Antoine Blech opened Le Penguin’s second location in Westport’s Sconset Square. This delightful French Bistro known for its superb, traditional fare has been a popular dining destination ever since. Always striving for perfection, the restaurant has made a few changes, some subtle, others less so.
The porch was recently renovated enabling diners to enjoy this nautically inspired outdoor space for much of the year. During the warmer weather the oversized window panels are removed for that en plein air feel; during inclement weather they are. When necessary, portable heaters add an additional layer of warmth and comfort. Panels have been added to the ceiling, and carpeting to the floor in order to help tone down the noise level. These subtle additions have proved quite successful.
With its whimsical orange, blue and white interior one feels as though one has wandered into a bistro in the South of France. To dine at Le Penguin, is to enjoy the experience - for it is so much more than just the food. The cheery decor adorned with whimsical sketches of Penguins, is complemented by the din of diners enjoying themselves and the gentle clatter of forks and knives quietly, eagerly scraping away.
The name, Le Penguin is itself whimsical – a reference to the waiters whose uniforms resemble the fun and funny flightless birds. Like the name and the decor, the cuisine is sophisticated but not pretentious, serious yet completely unstuffy. It is a destination for those who appreciate really great food.
The restaurant offers a fairly extensive wine list, though I would encourage diners to try the Le Penguin labels. A dry, crisp Rosé with fruity undertones for and a St. Emilion Reserve made from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, perfectly suited for heartier flavors, such as steak tartare, steak frites, even the escargots.
Just in time for the arrival of the warmer weather regulars should take note of the new menu. You’ll see Salade d’Artichauts (artichoke salad), Calamars Provençale, Crispy Black Bass with morels and pencil asparagus, Escalopes de Veau Milanaise (Veal Milanese), Poulet Rôti (roasted chicken) with warm corn salad, and Carré d’Agneau (rack of lamb) with a white bean ragoût.
Perennial favorites such as Salade Niçoise, Salade de Légumes Grillés, (Grilled Vegetable Salad) Escargots (to die for), Grass-Fed Steak Tartare, Moules Frites, Poached Salmon, Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms, Cajun Chicken and Crispy Red Snapper, will all remain on the menu - The latter of which I recently enjoyed for the first time and just might be my favorite. The light fish with crispy skin sits on top of a bed of quinoa and sauce vierge made from olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil. This light French sauce - perfectly unites the dish’s delicate, fresh flavors. Also on the lighter side the Salade Niçoise, a classic Niçoise with grilled tuna and white anchovies and the Salade de Légumes Grillés tend to be my go-to choices for lunch. The Moules Frites will not disappoint and the Grass-Fed Steak Tartare with capers, shallots, parsley and their secret sauce, made from Worcestershire, Brandy, mustard as well as a few other unnamed ingredients create a melt-in-your-mouth culinary delight. Let’s not overlook the chicken. Simple as the Cajun Chicken sounds and is, complemented with a beurre blanc sauce and frites, though highly seasoned, is far from overwhelming.
Have a sweet tooth? Nobody does desserts like the French do. Might I suggest the light and airy Île Flottante? This cloudlike Island of lightly whipped meringue floats atop a light custardy vanilla sauce. A childhood favorite, this brought back nostalgic memories of my own childhood summers in the South of France. But if this isn’t quite your thing their Ice Cream Bombe made from a white cake and praline ice cream is absolutely da bomb!
Le Penguin Bistro is located at:
61 Lewis Street
Greenwich, Ct. 26830
7 Sconset Square
Westport, Ct. 06880