Now Open - The Chelsea, A Galpal Review
Monday, July 16, 2012
Reviewed by Tracy Holleran of The Secret Ingredient Cooking School in Fairfield. For some of Tracy's recipes or to learn about her classes, go to www.TheSecretIngredientOnline.com.
When I heard a new eatery was opening in Fairfield Center, I was excited. When I heard the restaurant was the latest creation from the masterminds behind The Grey Goose, The Spotted Horse, and Match, then I was really excited.
The Chelsea opened on July 12 on Unquowa Place (in the former Greenhouse Grill location), and has been bustling ever since. The restaurant has been completely renovated and redesigned, inside and out. The exterior is sided with reclaimed wood and boasts patio doors that open completely for an alfresco dining experience. The interior is airy and open yet has the feel of a cozy farmhouse, dotted with modern touches. The large balloon pendant lighting and bright lime green metal chairs add a bit of whimsy to the space. The bar is a great place to grab a pre-dinner drink, and boasts the same look and feel as the rest of the space.
With Match chef Matt Storch at the helm, the New-American menu at The Chelsea is eclectic, and draws from many cuisines, including Asian and Mediterranean influences. It is divided into four sections, and is the same throughout the day (lunch or dinner). “Apps”, “Just Tossed”, “Sandwiched”, and “More Substantial” are the headings, and each have a wide variety of options from which to choose.
When we first arrived (on the early side---the place was packed by 7pm) we were thrilled to have snagged one of the last remaining outdoor tables, although the chic decor and high ceilings make eating inside equally as appealing. The drink menu consists of about 20 wines offered both by the glass or bottle, beer both on draft or in bottles, specialty cocktails/martinis, and spiked summer lemonades. My eye went directly to the lemonades as it was a pretty steamy evening, only to be told they were completely out of lemonade. I was disappointed but our helpful waitress directed me toward another summery cocktail she thought I’d like and it was very refreshing and delicious (a Cucumber Caipiroska, made with citron vodka--yum). I also was happy to see that the wine list offered a really nice selection of varietals, including some of my favorite crisp summer whites like Gavi di Gavi and Albarino.
The “apps”run the gamut from cheese smothered garlic bread to raw tuna with avocado. I often gather my first impressions of a restaurant by their calamari appetizer, and The Chelsea puts an Asian twist on theirs. It was drizzled with a spicy sauce and plated over pea greens. I thought the flavor and portion size was very good, although my husband wished the calamari were crispier. The “just tossed” salads were also inventive, and included modernized versions of a baby lettuce salad, chopped salad, spinach and bacon salad, taco salad and caesar salad. I thoroughly enjoyed the bacon and spinach salad with its two slices of thick-cut bacon, crispy shallots, and the soft egg on the side. It was delicious as a starter, but wasn’t quite big enough to be ordered an entree.
Moving on to our main courses, my husband opted for the sloppy joe under the “sandwiched” section of the menu while I went for the gnocchi, which was categorized as “more substantial”. The sloppy joe was made from shredded short ribs and was really tasty with its sweet sauce and plump seeded bun. It was served on a divided dish reminiscent of a tv dinner tray, and the other sections were filled with potato chips, pickle slices and buttered corn kernels. The ricotta gnocchi (my favorite variety) were paired with a savory veal ragu and topped with parmesan cheese and both fresh and crispy fried basil leaves. It was so tasty that I actually asked to bring the leftover sauce home so I could make some pasta at home and enjoy it all over again!
The dessert menu was very retro and included many of my childhood favorites like a brownie sundae, an ice cream sandwich, and s’mores (from Chocopologie in South Norwalk). The brownie sundae was deconstructed, and a scoop of hazelnut gelato was served alongside a very rich and chocolately individually baked brownie. The ice cream sandwich was made from two yummy homemade chocolate chip cookies with mint gelato in between. It was delicious but extremely messy to eat, between the melting ice cream and the smear of chocolate sauce on which it was plated, so if you’re trying to impress your date, I’d recommend using a knife and fork or opting for something else!
The Chelsea does not have a children’s menu, although they indicated they would do plain pasta on request. The evening we visited there were at least three tables with school aged children, who, from what I gathered, were ordering off the regular menu. There were definitely several dishes I know my kids would enjoy (the grilled bacon and cheese panini, the fried chicken and waffles, the burger, or the sloppy joe), however keep in mind the prices may be more than you’re used to spending on more traditional children’s menu items. Also keep in mind that this food is expertly prepared from good ingredients, and is not a hot dog or chicken nuggets, so naturally that is reflected in the price.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Chelsea and will definitely be back. The service was friendly and nicely timed, the food was interesting and well executed (the woman next to us proclaimed it to be “fabulous!”), the decor is great, and the vibe is extremely energetic and fun. It is a fantastic addition to Fairfield Center, and based on the success of the owners’ other restaurants, The Chelsea has staying power!
12 Unquowa Place, Fairfield
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days per week (no reservations)