Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: Stella Restaurant & Bar in Bethel, CT

Last night, after spending the afternoon lying in a sunlit field drinking fabulous locally brewed beer (Sea Hag by New England Brewing Company - check them out if you aren't familiar), it was time for food. But where to go? No desire to drive far, but we were in the mood for somewhere new.

After a mental checklist of places in the surrounding area, eureka! Stella! We had both been in the past, and weren't particularly impressed, but they've changed hands and are now chef owned. Off we went, and after the experience, I recommend making a trip over there. 

I generally prefer to try several different smaller plates rather than large entrees, and I always make an effort to order some "standard" items like calamari for the purpose of comparison to other places as well as at least one more "unique" dish. With this in mind, we ordered 4 appetizers: mussels, meatball trio, scallops, and calamari. 

The calamari arrived first, and it was delicious. Tender, crispy, and not too greasy, with a smattering of hot peppers and a tangy lemon aioli drizzled on top. Very good, and an attractive presentation. 

Next, the clear favorite: scallops. This was our "inventive" pick, as the scallops were served with pineapple chunks, edamame, and bacon. The surprising combo worked perfectly; tangy sweet pineapple, salty smoky bacon, and mild edamame to balance it all out. I really judge a restaurant by their scallops, because I know how difficult it is to get a nice sear on them without overcooking, and the chef clearly knows what he's doing. They were cooked perfectly. 

At this point, we were really pleased with the food and glad to discover a new spot. The next dish to arrive looked great but was a bit lackluster, the standard mussels in a white wine broth. It wasn't bad, but it was not memorable. An impressive amount of garlic though! 

Whoa garlic!

Lastly, the meatballs. The sauce was bright and "tomato-y" with no greasiness, which was nice. The meatballs were solid, and the presentation was interesting. They'd make great sliders.

Overall, a good experience and I'd like to try more of what they have to offer. Coming on the heels of a night at another Bethel spot, Ecco (rooftop at La Zingara), it was easy to make some mental comparisons between the two. Ecco is a great spot, and Stella absolutely holds its own. Ecco definitely has some competition down the street!

Price: 4 appetizers and 2 beers each: $65 plus tip. A little pricey for Bethel, but certainly less than Ecco, where a similar spread came to $85 plus tip.
Location: 213 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, CT 06801

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