The Trumbull Marriott’s Parallel Post restaurant is the result of a prescient collaboration with a James Beard nominated chef and a well-known hotel chain just off the beaten path of Fairfield County's regular dining haunts. Leveraging its proximity to the region’s small and robust network of farms, and the fisheries of Long Island Sound, this three-month-old restaurant draws its inspiration from the bounty of land and sea. The effect is a modern and seasonal New England menu that skews upscale, but without any pretense.
Chef and restaurateur Dean James Max was tapped by Trumbull’s Marriott to reimagine its restaurant—an intensive project that included a two month renovation of its dining spaces. Opened at the end of November 2012, the restaurant has been gaining momentum, thanks in large part to this embrace of local farms, a superlative understanding of seafood, a talented team led by Executive Chef Christopher Molyneux, and a welcome, if seemingly inauspicious location inside the Trumbull Marriott.
The restaurant’s talent and seafood pedigree runs deep thanks to its chefs, consulting Chef Dean James Max and Executive Chef Christopher Molyneux. Chef Max grew up near the Cheseapeake and a glance at his C.V. and his recent projects reflects his devotion to the ocean and respect for seasonality. Executive Chef Christopher Molyneux, the chef tasked with executing Parallel Post’s concept and running its kitchen, comes with his own preternatural understanding of seafood, honed from experience as a professional longline fisherman. A native of West Haven, Chef Molyneaux finds himself back in Connecticut after attending Johnson & Wales and traveling the country as an executive chef for Marriott.
Parallel Post’s offerings are anchored by its new and growing relationships with local farms and fisheries, with many familiar names gracing the menu, such as: Norwalk’s Norm Bloom & Sons in Norwalk, Roxbury’s Ox Hollow Farm, Lebanon’s Beltane Farm and Westport’s Gilbertie’s. Nearby New York farms can be found on the menu such as Coach Farms, with a few more Connecticut farms and their products in the works for spring and summer. The menu itself is flexible for small-plate meals or full-coursed dinners, and creatively organized into categories such as “Share,” “Garden,” “Eat Your Veggies,” “Handheld,” “Artisan Meats,” and “Sweet.”
Many of the first courses we tried were seafood-centric and could have easily stood on their own. These included the Norman Bloom Clams BLT, a trio of clams paired with Benton’s triple smoked bacon (a one-two punch of salt and smoke) that is tempered by the crunch of grilled romaine. A Fire-roasted Copps Island oyster is served with preserved lemon butter and smoked bacon. This is a single oyster served in its shell, served atop a crunchy piece of bread that begs to be dipped in the briny, buttery melange lingering at the bottom of its bowl. The seafood chowder is a must if you are hankering for soup. The creamy base, amply studded with mussels, Yukon Gold potatoes, monkfish, and clams, was divine. These ingredients were well-proportioned and just abundant enough to allow the creamy nuanced flavors of the base to compete for attention. Tempering the tempting and decadent small plates, we split the deceptively simple Garden Salad, a collection of distinct and flavorful small lettuces tossed with lightly pickled cucumbers, tangy and salty aged Coach Farms cheese, and tossed with a hazelnut vinaigrette.
Since we front-loaded our dinner with seafood, we embraced the “Artisan Meats” as we arrived at the third course. My barometer for a good restaurant tends to be its roast chicken. Get this right, and I find the rest of a menu tends to deliver. Get it wrong and it can reflect a lack of experience or worse, a deficit of attention to detail. Parallel Post’s version of roast chicken knocked it out of the park with a moist and intensely flavored bird (they source their organic birds from Murray’s in New Jersey), simply prepared with salt, pepper and lemon. The dish is served with a creamy goat cheese polenta, collard greens and currants, anchored by a sauce I would dive into if given the opportunity. The sauce is a result of a 24 hour preparation, a lengthy recipe that demands rigorous prep and patience.
Moving on from fowl, we also tried the beef. Parallel Post’s Beef Tenderloin is a hand-carved chateabriand, an exquisitely tender cut of beef exemplified by a perfect execution and medium rare temperature. It was so close to perfection we were convinced it was cooked sous-vide before a final surface sear. The chef assured us later it was just cooked correctly (albeit with a thorough dose of butter in the process). This dish also happens to comes with one of the most inventive sides on the menu, a Roasted Sweet Onion Gratin.
This Trojan Horse of an onion, beckons on the plate with its softball size and glistening surface studded with specs of salt and pepper. Cutting into the onion, I was surprised to unleash a slow-moving mass of cheese and potato emerging from its roasted onion skin. Finished with swiss chard and a red wine sauce, this dish was by far a splurge at $34, but it was perfectly executed, dramatic and it exceeded expectations.
For dessert we tried a banana creme brulee and the chocolate valhrona cake. A well-balanced, and nicely portioned perfunctory sweet ending to a decadent and languorous meal. At this point I had already made a mental checklist of things I would try upon a return visit, including their “Hand Helds” which included a great-sounding burger as well as their cocktail menu. Parallel Post has a happy hour menu with drinks and snacks that range from $3 to $8, a relative steal at a place of this caliber.
Parallel Post benefits from its placement, tucked safely inside a hotel where service is naturally paramount. The restaurant itself is wide and welcome with a variety of seating—from cozy booths, to bar-height tables, traditional two-to-four top tables, and a communal table—making it transitional enough for a variety of experiences whether you're arranging a clandestine meeting (it is still a hotel bar after all), or a week-day dinner, and easily for a (as much as I detest this phrase) girls-night-out.
Working through the menu on our visits, a few things have become abundantly clear. Not only has serious thought and care has gone into crafting the menu, but the talent and depth in the kitchen paired with some pretty down-to-earth and attentive service makes Parallel Post a welcome addition to the dining scene. The menu can skew a bit upscale and bring-your-expense-account, but also just as easily serves as a comfortable and welcoming evening out if you opt for a combination of small, yet thoughtful “Share” plates.
Parallel Post is located at the Trumbull Marriott. It is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Information at ParallelPostRestaurant.com or call 203.380.6380.