Friends and family were treated to a sneak preview of The Whelk, Bill Taibe's latest venture in Westport on Wednesday evening. Steeped in the sea with unmistakable flashes of leFarm's seasonal luxury, The Whelk is poised to establish Saugatuck as the culinary center of Westport.
Bivalves in various shapes and sizes, octopus poutine, barbequed clams, a blackened pollock sandwich with spicy slaw and a lamb burger are now permanently seared into memory. Among many small bites, it is these I pray make it onto the menu. Admittedly, this reverence may be due in no small part to their pairing with the "perfect Manhattan" – a smooth classic of Bulleit bourbon, Dolin dry and sweet vermouth, bitters, and a lemon peel.
Salty fries piled precariously along the bar, breaking up the bivalve circus, may just be the perfect landlubbing accoutrement to the Whelk's sea-centric snacks. Paired with a Manhattan? Well played Whelk, well played.
As if that's not enough to look forward to, let's talk brunch, outdoor seating and fried chicken dinners. All these things that were sorely missing from leFarm mainly due to space constraints, will be very much present at The Whelk. The final iteration should retain a substantial raw bar (east coast and west coast oysters, represent) seasonal fish, as well as generous attention to meat (the closest neighbor happens to be none other than Saugatuck's Craft Butchery).
With familiar faces and names in the kitchen -- Bill Taibe, Dan Kardos and Andy Hayes-- paired with the consummate manager Massimo Tulio manning the elegantly appointed front of house, there is no more tip-toeing around the neighborhood. The Whelk has arrived. And just in time. [For more info on The Whelk, check out this first look].
The Whelk 575 Riverside Avenue, Westport 203.557.0902