We fell in love with a seasonal New American restaurant in Greenwich Connecticut on our recent winter getaway to New England and the Adirondacks. Old world at its core, the cuisine at CHAR Restaurant is made with carefully-sourced ingredients in what they refer to as a “rustic-chic” space, and we couldn’t agree more.
While we weren’t able to visually capture the romantic ambiance and old world charm of this place when we dined fireside on that cold February night, try to imagine a Tuscan styled restaurant with eastern European and Slavic influencers throughout. Rustic meets elegance in this funky space in the heart of Greenwich, which for those who haven’t spent time in the Northeast, is only a stone’s throw from Manhattan. After dinner, we made it back to the city in about an hour.
The CHAR Restaurant chef and his team are all about fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients and they source meat, produce and cheese from local farmers as much as they can. Upscale and casual would best describe the mood at CHAR, which is housed in a funky building on a corner in the Byram section of Greenwich.
The restaurant was built using reclaimed wood throughout the building and the wall coverings are former floor joists from old building that were torn down in Brooklyn. The flooring is water logged old white oak from Alabama, the Cabinetry is antique pine. the bar is made of Antique solid four inch red oak, the lighting fixtures are solid brass, make in Long Island via lights on design and all the walls are painted by local Artist Deb Ryan.
The food is beautifully presented and the service is casual but attentive, the staff being a seasoned staff with plenty of experience across two continents. While they have a three course pre-fix dinner on Sunday through Thursdays, we opted to order off the menu. A typical pre-fix dinner is your choice of appetizer (green salad, a Roasted Beet Napoleon salad, chicken and lemongrass dumplings, potato bravas or shrimp stuffed calamari), an entree (pan roasted half chicken, tagliatelle pasta, Scottish salmon or a vegetarian linguine), and a dessert (creme brulee, white and dark chocolate mousse or an ice cream sorbet option).
These dishes can be found on their regular menu as well btw, but their three course pre-fix is a great deal for regulars. Since I’m a huge fan of goat cheese and beets, I had to start with their Roasted Beet Napoleon, which they layer with goat cheese, arugula and Macadamia pesto frisee and and then toss in a Blood Orange Vinaigrette. Let’s just say that my palette was joyful!
While I was in heaven with both the presentation and taste of my beet salad, Anthony’s Shrimp Stuffed Calamari appetizer stopped us in our tracks. It was so delicious we couldn’t talk for awhile — imagine the combo, but then adorned with white beans, slabs of bacon and grape tomatoes in a light basil broth. It was light yet decadent at the same time, which is hard to achieve, especially on a seasonal winter menu.
Since we had already ordered Chardonnay, we decided to stick with seafood and I was going to order their Pan Roasted Cod with Swiss Chard, roasted cauliflower and maitake mushrooms with black garlic broth or the Grilled Swordfish with broccoli rabe pesto and lemon orzo risotto, cooked in a smoked bacon clam broth….this was all before I saw Venison on the menu. Anthony stuck with seafood and delighted our taste buds with the exquisite Macademia Crusted Scottish Salmon cooked with fennel, beets, wilted greens and garlic fennel emulsion — oh so delish!!
And so, I broke down and ordered the Roast Cervena Venison — how could I not? It ended up being the best dish of all the restaurants we visited that week. Tender tender tender, he prepared it with celery root gratin and vanilla bean glazed beets in a cherry reduction. While Anthony continued to pair his plate with the Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay from Napa Valley, I went for a glass of Joseph Carr Cabernet with my Venison. Bravo!!
Simple but great for kids is their CHAR Burger and Hanger Steak Fries which they top with truffle infused parmesan. (delicious!!!) Even heavier than the venison and the burger, but also a great option with the Joseph Carr Cab, would be their Grilled C.A.B. Flat Iron steak which they serve with a crispy potato cake in a red wine reduction.
Vegetarians, have no fear. While it isn’t a heavy vegetarian menu, they do have a lovely Zucchini Linguini sauteed with tomatoes, garlic sauce and homemade ricotta cheese, potato bravas on the appetizer menu which you could get without the Spanish chorizo. There are also tons of sides, such as Swiss Chard, Baby Bok Choy, Haricots Verts, Whipped Potatoes, Wild Mushrooms, Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli Rabe, an Italian staple.
The desserts were insanely delicious; somehow we ended up with four and very little was left by the time we left, which is highly unusual. Regular readers know that I’m not a huge sweet fan although with Anthony’s Italian background and his passion for desserts means that we can cover it all.
Our night at CHAR was unique however and I found myself diving into all of it, starting with their decadent vanilla bean creme brulee. Wow!
The kids enjoyed the white and dark chocolate mousse with raspberry compote and the ice cream dollops which apparently change in flavors depending on the season.
I love the fact that they have something called Wine Appreciation Night on Mondays, where you can get 50% off all bottles on the menu under $100 – a great idea and something our local Italian restaurant in San Francisco does on Wednesday nights as well. Of course, this wouldn’t apply to the outa this world Amarone and Brunello choices on their Older Vintage menu, but the wine list was extensive enough to keep any wine lover happy.
Two thumbs up!! We would definitely return…..and sit fireside again…..and ask for the same waiter again. A big applause for the team at CHAR!
2 South Water Street
Greenwich, CT 06830