Up until yesterday, if you had asked Bill Taibe for the name of his new Westport based seafood restaurant, he'd tell you what he told the town when they needed a name for the phone directory, "The oyster place in Saugatuck." But as of this morning, this seafood haven has been given a brand befitting its waterfront surroundings in Westport's burgeoning restaurant scene. "The Whelk" will be opening in roughly two weeks, and the restaurant is poised for its first round of guests.
The interior reflects the clean lines of a beautiful ship with beadboard paneling, industrial metals, and warm woods, but despite the seafaring undertones "there is a sense of responsible kitchiness here. We didn't want to go obvious nautical," says Taibe. He describes The Whelk's clean architectural interior as "The South of France meets Maine." Green park bench inspired seating runs the full length of the sunlit dining space and 2 high communal tables stand proudly behind the white marble bar. In keeping with Taibe's passion for local sourcing, everything in the restaurant was made in the USA.
While The Whelk's interior is like stepping into a playfully stylish yacht, the menu will reflect marina-side classics with creative twists. Taibe has described his menu as "bar food," and there will be plenty of Townhouse crackers, mayo, and butter on the tables, but you won't find these dishes at your local drinking hole. An extensive raw bar and oyster selection will be complimented by smoked fish pate, salmon jerky, lobster rolls, a dish I'd like to get my hands on right now featuring octopus, squid & fries in beef gravy, chilled seafood salads, oyster po' boys, and blackened fish sandwiches with bacon (of course). A tuna burger has replaced the signature leFarm burger and we hear a robust caviar selection may be in the works.
With this second Westport venue, Taibe has hired Dan Kardos (Napa, Harvest Supper, Bar Rosso) as his Executive Chef. He will be joined by a very talented kitchen team including Andy Hayes (Gramercy Tavern) from Smoked restaurant in Kent CT who will be helping out in the first few months. "This kitchen team is amazing" says Taibe. "I can't wait to see them in action." Chef Kardos has been working on the menu over at the leFarm kitchen in recent months and is ready for launch.
Bill Taibe is very quick to give props to his General Manager, Massimo Tulio (Fat Cat Pie Co), whose tireless efforts enabled The Whelk 's build out to go so smoothly. Given The Whelk's no reservation policy, Massimo's biggest challenge may lie ahead as eager diners clamor for seats.
Check back on CTbites for more information on The Whelk's opening date as well as a preview of their opening menu.
The Whelk 575 Riverside Avenue, Westport 203.557.0902