Arethusa Al Tavolo is the new gem of Litchfield County. Only a one hour's drive from Westport, past lush pastures and glistening lakes, Arethusa Al Tavolo takes you on a culinary journey. The restaurant is located right next door to the Arethusa Dairy Shop, founded by Manolo Blanik owners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, whose taste and style manifests itself in all of their ventures: The Arethusa Bar, The Dairy Farm, and Arethusa Al Tavolo, which opened in June 2013. The dairy produces milk, house-made ice cream, and Arethusa cheese to take home. The restaurant highlights fresh local ingredients, and Chef Daniel Magill, who has worked with the likes of Daniel Boulud, works his magic in a dining space that is bright and airy, but with no airs. The food is the centerpiece.
The menu changes often, depending on local product availability. On Sunday night, my family of 5, with varying culinary tastes, embarked on our first of many meals to come at Arethusa. My family consists of a Vegetarian, a Pescatarian, a willing to try anything 22 year old, a true carnivore, and a chef.
Of our many starters, the winner was a Quartet of Arethusa Farms "Deviled Eggs," featuring a classic, a fois gras, a beef tartare, and a smoked salmon. The fois gras was my personal favorite. I am a fan of the classic deviled eggs, but the unexpected additions took them to a whole new level. Also enjoyed was the Roasted Beet and Green Apple Salad, the exceptional House Made Country Pate, and The Crisp Squash Blossom Fritters.
The Arethusa Farm Eggs "Monolo Blahnik Style" were decadent, hallowed out and filled with a truffle custard, lobster, chives, a grey goose creme, and topped with Osetra Caviar, incredibly unique and oh, so satisfying. As you dug to the bottom, there were new tastes waiting to be enjoyed at each level.
For "Mains", we enjoyed The Pan Roasted Day Boat Scallops (with melted parsnips, sea beans, roasted cauliflower, sultans, bacon, marcona almonds, and madeira nage). This dish was exceptional, highlighted by the marriage of sweet sultans & satisfyingly crunchy almonds with the saltiness of bacon. I noticed Chef Magill enjoys playing with the combination of sweet and savory on his menu, with pleasing results.
Mustard Glazed Chinook Salmon (with sunchokes, guanciale, haricot vert, cucumber-red onion salad, and a dill-arethusa yogurt emulsion) wasn't as satisfying to my pescatarian daughter only because she isn't a fan of dill. She should have researched the ingredients more thoroughly before ordering, as the dill was clearly listed on the menu's item description.
Our family's carnivore ordered The Pan Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin (with grilled bourbon peaches, creamed corn succotash, heirloom tomato salad, and banyuls onion compote) and was thrilled. Again, the savory and sweet theme continued. The meat, expertly seasoned, was paired with succulent sweet roasted peaches. Each bite melted in the mouth, but also took the flavor sensations to another level. The Roasted Rack of Lamb with Spring Garlic Crust (with Arethusa Dairy Cry Baby-potato croquette, sweet corn custard, and roasted garlic-rosemary jus) was excellent and expertly cooked medium rare as ordered. I had trouble keeping my vegetarian daughter away from the potato croquette which was both crispy and rich with Arethusa cheese and butter!
For our vegetarian family member, since there is not a vegetarian entree listed on the menu, the server offered a fantastic wild mushroom risotto. My daughter devoured it, but not before I could steal a few spoonfuls of this satiating dish. The wild mushrooms were so fragrant and paired with the incredible cheese, the dish could easily stand on par with the other entrees.
The food is both sophisticated and simple. The presentation/plating is top notch, and the service both warm and unpretentious.
For dessert, we only ordered the most popular, and simply fantastic, apple studded beignets, served with Arethusa rum raisin ice cream. The rest of us popped next door for ice cream cones and were encouraged to enjoy them at our table in the restaurant. It was a great evening away from our day to day world- a scenic drive through the Connecticut countryside, topped off with a culinary adventure which both delighted the eye and more than amused our taste buds with creative and delicious fare.
Arethusa Al Tavolo features an exceptional dining experience, a cozy bar and outdoor patio seating. For reservations call 860-567-0043.
Arethusa Al Tavolo 828 Bantam Rd, Bantam, CT 06750 (860) 567-0043
[Photography courtesy of Danielle Hartog]