By CAROLE GOLDBERG, Special To The Courant
The Hartford Courant
March 21, 2013
After heading out to Riverton for lunch, a friend and I found our intended destination was closed that day, so we crossed the road to Sweet Pea's, where the décor is charming, the menu is amusing and the food is delightful.
THE VIBE: Sweet Pea's is a yellow Victorian house that's been converted to a restaurant and antique shop. The first floor is a warren of parlors and dining rooms, showcasing antiques for sale. Tables have wooden tops on elaborate wrought iron pedestals and Hitchcock-style chairs: Riverton was where Lambert Hitchcock founded his furniture factory. On this rainy late-winter day, the eclectic décor made for a cozy atmosphere.
THE FOOD: The menu announces you are in the hands of a playful chef. A roast cod fillet with mushrooms is Shiitake Happens; a lunch special of soup, sweet potato fries and a turkey sandwich on a half baguette is Half In the Bag; goat cheese cakes with greens, pumpkin seeds and a pomegranate reduction is Goat in a Coat; calamari with hot sauce, bleu cheese dressing and celery is Quilted Buffalo.
The cute names are intriguing, but it's the food that makes the trip worthwhile. My friend had a green pea soup that mixed the pureed veggie with cooked-just-past-crunchy split peas and carrots, making for a nice texture contrast and sweet flavor. With it she had an Avocado Slide open-faced sandwich on sour dough bread, which combined ripe avocado with tasty tomatoes, melted Monterey Jack cheese and slices of veggie bacon. Though looking alarmingly like Beggin' Strips, these soy-based slices had a mild flavor and crisp texture. We'd both prefer the real thing, but found the faux bacon interesting.
I ordered the Half in the Bag special with mushroom and potato soup made with white wine and plenty of thyme, which nicely complemented the turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich on an house-baked crisp and tender baguette. Sparking the flavor was a layer of chutney and plenty of caramelized sweet potato fries. My pot of green tea and matching cup had a lovely magnolia pattern.
For dessert, we split a luscious slice of lemon cake with raspberry sauce and whipped cream that hit all the right notes: sweet, tart, moist, tender, creamy — and plenty for two.
Among the other lunch choices are the Gulf Stream appetizer (hazelnut crusted fried shrimp with Cajun garlic butter sauce); Regal Tender sandwich (sliced filet mignon with onions, cheddar and chipotle mayo); Field & Stream salad (salmon filet, spring greens, apricots, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts and peanuts in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette; and Lindsay's Lambkin entrée (roasted rib lamb chops with zinfandel dipping sauce, seasonal vegetables and whipped potatoes).
THE BILL: At lunch, appetizers are $7.95 to $10.95; soups are $4.95 and $5.95; sandwiches with fries are $8.95 to $10.95; salads are $4.95 to $13.95 and entrees with salad are $14.95 to $17.95. The lemon cake was $6.95. Items are higher for dinner portions. There also is a Friday night Burger and Brew menu ($8.75 to $10).
THE PARTICULARS: Lunch is served Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner hours are Tuesday through Thursday 5 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. and Sunday 2:30 to 8 p.m.
THE VERDICT: Sweet Pea's offers a clever menu, lovely setting and adventurous food.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant