How New Englandy can you get? Rowayton is a village on the Five Mile River, and The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood is perched over a small marina. There's a spare, ship-shape look to the restaurant. The floors are built of gleaming, teak yatch decking. The bright front room of white-framed windows is filled with bare wood tables.
Passing by the bar, decorated with framed sailing charts, we note it's buzzing with men dressed in the full array of wasp attire: pink shirts over turned-up collars, khaki pants and boating shoes sans socks. Blue blazers. There's a yatch-clubby scene here.
The restaurant has that pleasing seafood smell: clean, lemony. The menu is filled with New England classics, chowder, fried clam bellies and raw oysters. But there's a fresh breeze at the restaurant. Chef Pedro Garzon took helm two months ago. The former executive chef of Barcelona and former owner of Café Manolo in Westport, Garzon brings a market-driven "sea-to-table" approach and will be introducing more specials, cooking them in a minimalist style that lets the freshness of the ingredients shine.
The classics will remain. Best way to begin a meal at Rowayton Seafood? The oyster shooter. A tray with one plump, briney, blue point oyster in its shell and a spicy Bloody Mary shooter. Watching our pocketbooks, we didn't go for the Blue Goose vodka upgrade ($10), but stayed with the virgin Mary ($3). It was a spirited way to begin the meal, like an amuse bouche, waking the senses. We were instantly rejuvenated. It was the highlight of the meal.
Lobster bisque was a particularly good rendition, tasting richly of lobster meat, not just shell. And it had several plump chunks of lobster. A shot of Tabasco did it good. Clam chowder, our server informed us, is made with root vegetable puree. Indeed, it was neither too rouxy nor too creamy. And it was bountiful in cubed potatoes, chopped celery and clams.
You gotta have fried seafood at a seafood place, right? The mixed platter ($20) is good dish to share. Beneath crisp exteriors, Ipswich clam bellies and Maryland oysters were soft and tender. Gulf rock shrimp were sweet and salty. The platter comes with lemon wedges and ramekins of tartar sauce, lemon-pepper aioli and rémoulade.
The lobster roll is an open-faced affair with lots of lobster and chopped celery lightly bound in mayonnaise, on a toasted, buttered bun. It's a fork-and-knife lobster roll. The fries were thin, crisp and good. The ramekin of coleslaw was a reminder of how few vegetables we'd eaten. Spinach ($5) or asparagus ($6) can be ordered on the side. Entrees such as pan-seared organic salmon with Brussels sprouts and celery root puree ($29), range from $27 to $37.
The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood is at 89 Rowayton Ave., Rowayton. Hours are lunch, Monday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; afternoon menu, 3 to 5 p.m. Dinner Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations recommended. Information: 203-866-4488 and http://www.rowaytonseafood.com.