By ELIZABETH KEYSER
Special to The Courant
9:29 AM EDT, August 6, 2014
Sitting on the second story porch at the Boathouse feels like being in a Ralph Lauren ad.
Gray shingled walls, warm, worn wood tables, white and silver tones – a feeling of streamlined affluence. Then there are the views of the placid Saugatuck River, filled with colorfully clad rowers.
Tucked away on the second story of the Saugatuck Rowing Club in Westport, the Boathouse is sometimes mistaken for a private club. But the restaurant is open to the public, and under new management of executive chef Paul Scoran, formerly of Paci in Southport, the menu is American, with a nod to Italy. There's a sense that the chef is trying to leaven American standards with contemporary notes, without going too far. At dinner, hanger steak from Painted Hills — grassfed beef from Oregon — is grilled with fresh herbs and served with potato salad.
The dining room is intimate and cozy, decorated in soft browns and blues, but in pleasant weather, lunch or brunch on the porch, is the more attractive option. Crab cakes, golden brown and topped with rounds of tangy, sweet, pickled red onion, had a hint of fresh dill. Hibiscus syrup, circling the plate, was a sweet, unexpected touch. It came with a standard tartar sauce. "Saugatuck Slaw," finely minced – there's technical ability in this kitchen – was mild, and flavored by tiny celery seeds. It's a nice Ralph-Laureny kind of slaw.
The lobster roll was described on the menu as "Maine lobster and lots of butter." The day I tried it, the substantial bun (not an airy hot dog bun, thank you) was toasted, but the lobster seemed to have missed the butter, a tad disappointing. Cucumber salad came with it. Sliced, seeded cukes and raw red onion needed a hit of vinegar. The lobster role is only available at lunch. At dinner, grilled lobster tail is served with an intriguing-sounding tequila and lime butter.
Soft shell crabs were served over blistered, grilled romaine lettuce and topped with fizzled ribbons of deep-fried carrots, and the plate was rimmed with the sweet hibiscus syrup. Those contemporary New American touches made the crispy, sautéed crabs seem more special, but they didn't impart much flavor. The salad on the plate, fresh and deftly dressed, was a pleasure.
The wait staff was attentive, professional and ready to answer questions. Our waiter offered us generous tastes of the Spanish rosé, and we liked it enough to have him fill our glasses. The Boathouse is a pleasant spot with crowd-pleasing fare.
>>The Boathouse Restaurant, 521 Riverside Ave., Westport, is open for lunch, Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m.; and brunch 11:30 to 3 p.m. Closed Mondays. Information: 203-221-7475 and www.saugatuckrowing.com.
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