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Cheap Eats

On20 Offers New Affordable Bistro Lunch Menu

Leeanne Griffin

1:09 PM EDT, July 14, 2014

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At On20, it doesn't matter if you order a simple burger and fries, or a full tasting menu with wine pairings, you're still treated to the same sweeping views of the Connecticut River and downtown Hartford from 20 floors up. And the service is still nothing short of impeccable.

The fine-dining restaurant in the Hartford Steam Boiler building, helmed by ambitious executive chef Jeffrey Lizotte (recently feted as a nominee for Food & Wine magazine's People's best new chef,) has recently introduced a "bistro-style" lunch menu on weekdays. With quicker service and affordable price points, it's ideal for corporate meetups or, as we found, a special midday "treat yourself" experience.

The menu features soups and salads ($5 to $10), starters and small plates ($8 to $10), entrées ($14 to $23) and sides ($4 to $7.) With a seasonal focus, this means chilled spring pea soup with herbed yogurt and Calabrian chili oil; a Tuscan kale salad with boquerones; chicken confit terrine with Castelvetrano olives; roast Arctic char with beluga lentils and yuzu sabayon; and buckwheat angel hair pasta with spring peas, egg yolk and Parmesan-peppercorn broth.

Highlights from our self-selected tasting of small plates included the julienned parsnip remoulade with green apple, cardamom crème fraiche, brown butter and garlic chips; shrimp bisque, an intriguing New England/Southeast Asian mashup with Stonington reds, coconut milk and kaffir lime; out-of-the-shell escargot with green Romesco, garlic fondue; and crispy sourdough crumbs and juicy lamb meatballs in a pool of creamy fennel puree. Our server expertly plated each starter item, portioning between the two of us, a level of care you'll only see at a restaurant of this caliber.

On the side, a mug of truffled Parmesan fritters were perhaps too light on the truffle flavor, but lacking nowhere else – the soft, airy globes were finished with gremolata, sprinkles of Parmesan and snips of fresh herbs. Other sides include pommes frites with spiced ketchup, spring vegetable cocotte, grilled asparagus with preserved lemon aioli and creamed spinach and artichoke.

I'd return for all we sampled, plus more – the 7-ounce ground sirloin burger with shallot confit and cornichon aioli (which I've had during ON20's happy hour) is a must-have, and the croque monsieur with Mystic Cheese Melville béchamel and jambon blanc also caught my eye. Lizotte's "crab en croute" of Jonah crab salad wrapped in crispy baguette - listed as his "quintessential dish" in his Food&Wine profile – is also a contender.

>>ON20, 400 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, serves lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Information: 860-722-5161, ontwenty.com.