I’ve eaten at the Stone House Restaurant numerous times over many years, but only once in the dining room. Not surprisingly, I am more comfortable in the bar. It’s woody, warm and inviting, especially in winter. A long, well-stocked bar runs along one wall. Large windows face out onto the marina along the other wall. Several well-spaced tables surround a large wood-burning stove that is well tended by the staff. It can get a little loud on busy nights but it’s always fun. And the dining room menu is also available in the bar.
The Stone House Restaurant was among the first along the shoreline to offer upscale and eclectic pub fare with lots of small plates. Prices, execution, and service were good, which was cutting edge for the shoreline of Connecticut at that time. Although they offer nightly specials, the short bar menu has never seemed to evolve over the years.
It’s the same as it ever was. Oysters and scallops are fried and served with tartar sauce, or on the half shell with Asian mignonette. Clams are baked casino-style or served on the half shell. Mussels are steamed with fennel and saffron, and the shrimp and crab quesadillas have a side of jicama slaw. The lobster mac and cheese is drizzled with truffle oil. What about the Kobe burger, hamburger, Buffalo wings and sirloin chili with pepper jack? Same as they ever were.
But their interesting sandwich selection has always impressed me. The lobster or swordfish club, seared tuna with teriyaki aioli, the pastrami Reuben and open-faced steak sandwich are all served with hot hand-cut fries. A traditional Caesar salad, grilled Margherita pizza, and wild boar ragout round out the bar menu.
Of my two most recent visits I remember the service being better at dinner. The lunch staff was polite but mostly MIA (only one waiter/bartender and one busser scheduled for a Friday lunch… go figure). The kitchen was off on both my most recent visits, but not by much. With a little attention to detail The Bar at the Stone House Restaurant could be the same as it ever was: really good.
What we ate:
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Fresh Horseradish $12
Four good sized shrimp that were cold and crisp but the one I ate tasted a bit moldy to me. My friend Sue said they tasted fine to her. The cocktail sauce was lively and fresh.
Hand-Formed Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella $10.50
It was delivered to the table hot but soggy. It tasted fine, and the tomatoes were kind of ripe, but it was too wet because the dough was slathered with ricotta cheese (not listed on the menu).
Dijon Crusted Rack of New Zealand Lamb, Lentil Ragout, and Roast Butternut Squash $26.00
Six petite New Zealand chops were tangy from the mustard and seared to a perfectly juicy medium rare. The lentil ragout was rich with garlic and onions. At this point I must recuse myself: I have an abhorrence to most squash and beets so I did not, nor ever will, taste the butternut squash. Although I must say it looked well roasted.
Crab Cakes, Chipotle-Chili Remoulade, and Fried Onions $10
Two chunky but pasty-tasting crab cakes crispy on the outside served with a zippy chipotle remoulade. More frizzled onions please.
Traditional Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp, Chicken, or Skirt Steak $11-$14
I just had the salad part. The lettuce was fresh, crisp and cold but the dressing was relatively tasteless, thick and mayonnaisey. The croutons were forgettable.
Arugula Salad with Pork Loin and Sesame-Soy Dressing
I didn’t list the price because we sent it back and they took it off the bill. A nightly special, the “salad” was a tasteless mound of overdressed greens and thick, dry slabs of pork loin. Not even a near miss.
Mixed Local Baby Organic Greens with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette $6.50
Large enough for two, it was perfectly fresh and nicely dressed.
Grilled NY Sirloin Steak Sandwich on Garlic Toast with Natural Jus and Hand-Cut Fries $14
A thin steak grilled as close to rare as possible. Unfortunately, it was too gristly to finish. The fries were good but I don’t remember any jus on the side.
Fried Oysters with Hand-Cut Fries and Tartar Sauce $15.50
A good-sized portion, perfectly fried. Hot, crispy and juicy. The tartar sauce tasted house-made. The fries are thin cut and tasty. Not super-crisp, but they weren’t too salty and they disappeared fast. After a while it didn’t even matter whose plate they were on. Fries anyone?
Grilled Hamburger with Cheddar, Fried Onions and Hand-Cut Fries $11
A good-sized burger grilled medium rare as ordered. It was juicy with good grill flavor but the bun was so large and so hard from over-toasting we couldn’t eat it. Yet even more fries.
Grilled Swordfish Club with Wasabi Mayonnaise and Hand-Cut Fries $12
This is kind of their “signature” bar item. Buttery swordfish layered on toasted sourdough with tomato, bacon and lettuce with that spicy Wasabi Mayo. We always order it…maybe for the last time. Our table of six ordered two and sent both back because they were stone cold. They promptly re-appeared, warm and nicely re-plated, but the fish was tough from the microwave. Anyone want these fries?
Lobster Martini with Cucumber, Chipotle Vinaigrette and Frizzled Tortillas $12.50
OK, I cheated and ordered it off the dining room menu because it is always so good. A generous amount of claw and knuckle meat was nicely presented in a martini glass. Firm, chilled lobster chunks dressed nicely and garnished with diced cucumber and crunchy tortilla strips. It was immediately set upon by my dinner companions, whom I fended off for the last couple bites.
What We Drank:
Sterling Sauvignon Blanc $8 per glass: Your standard California palette: crisp, lemon/lime, some pear and no wood. It’s great with shellfish and most appetizers.
Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône “Samorëns” 2008 $30 per bottle: It was not the wine I ordered, but the waitress didn’t notice. Actually, it was nowhere on the list. Since I know this wine and like it better than the one I ordered, I didn’t say anything. This wine has great depth and finish for the price.