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Food & Drink

Top Tableside Restaurant Preparations In Connecticut

August 14, 2013 8:00 AM

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(Photo credit: JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)

Cherries jubilee is just a bowl of warm fruit on ice cream unless it is flambéed tableside. A bunch of romaine with croutons is not a true Caesar salad unless the entire process with the egg and other fresh ingredients is performed like a theater piece to entertain diners. Tableside service is both performance art as well as an assurance that what is being served is as fresh as possible, and that is why at least five key restaurants in Connecticut continue to practice this ancient and elegant manner of food presentation for their patrons.

Fife ‘n Drum
53 Main St.
Kent, CT  06757
(860) 927-3509
www.fifendrum.com

Caesar salad is not supposed to come in bag, or worse, be left sitting in a drippy tub under a sneeze guard. At the Fife and Drum in Kent, halfway between Danbury and that little cow town gateway to the Berkshires known as Canaan, the Traymon family still prepares this old standard the way it was meant to be prepared: tableside and with 93-year-old Dolph Traymon tickling the ivories in the background as he has done almost every night for 40 years. His daughter Elissa now oversees operations, but despite modernizing the kitchen, she knows the value of tradition – and how to turn a simple salad course into a stylish, entertaining and enticing presentation table-side.

El Coyote Restaurant
838 Main St.
Monroe, CT 06468
(203) 459 4055
www.elcoyotemexico.com

Guacamole must be fresh or the restaurant might as well serve a pot of Elmer’s Glue dyed green and decorated with sparkly bits. The good and authentic chefs at El Coyote in Brookfield understand this, which is why they have taught their staff how to prepare the signature avocado delicacy properly – and at table-side. All of the ingredients are presented to the diners for inspection, after which the server peels, pops out the big seed and chops, slices, dices, minces and mushes the glorious green fruit into a meaty pulp. To this is added all the other little bits and spices that turn the mushy meaty Mexican goop into the glory that is guacamole. All of this is done in a traditional Aztec blender called a molcajete, and it is served with warm corn tortillas.

Related: Top Food Trucks In Connecticut

Matthew’s Restaurant
55 Mill St.
Unionville, CT 06085
(860) 673-7373
www.matthews-restaurant.com

On the banks of the Farmington River in Unionville sits a charming little delight known as Matthew’s. In addition to the typical lunch and dinner menus, it offers a pub and a “sunset” menu, as well as a raw bar and a “Louisiana Grill.” Matthew’s prides itself on tableside service, and not just for the Caesar salad (which can be enhanced with tableside grilled shrimp and other delights), but also for many of the other courses, including the seafood, dessert crepes and the Bosc pear salad. Many of them are prepared by chef-owner Matthew himself.

The Inn at Mystic
Three Williams Ave.
Mystic, CT  06355
(860) 536-9604
www.innatmystic.com

The only thing that could possibly top the seaside view from the elegant and stately Inn at Mystic is the food it serves– much of it prepared tableside in the “Flood Tide Restaurant.”  The lobster crepe and the pan-seared crab cakes and duck breast are usually finished with great flair in front of the patrons, as are several of the weekly specials, appetizers and desserts. The restaurant only recently completed a major makeover, but even with the updated menus, it held on to some of the old traditions. As its website proclaims: “We take pride in our tableside preparations.”

Carbone’s Ristorante
588 Franklin Ave.
Hartford, CT 06114
(860) 296-9646
www.carboneshartford.com

Beloved as much for its Italian food as for its romantic atmosphere, Carbone’s is a no-lose choice for a first or special date, an anniversary celebration or any meal where the goal is to come away feeling full not only in the stomach but also in the soul. Italian restaurants are not normally known for their tableside presentations, but Carbone’s is the exception to that rule. Family owned for 75 years, Carbone’s prepares all of its tossed salads tableside, and finishes off many of its pastas and other dishes on a rolling flaming cart within clear view of the customers.  For a true treat, however, diners must order one of the flaming desserts, preferably the Bocce Ball which, although named for the game played by old Italian men in wife beaters in the park, is actually chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream flambéed tableside with oranges.Related: Top Polish Food In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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