Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Westport's Little Barn: Where You Just Can't go Wrong

There is no greater pleasure when writing a review than the ability to wholeheartedly and genuinely report a completely positive experience. After attending a blogger dinner at Little Barn in Westport, I now have the opportunity to do exactly that. 

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the restaurant is cozy but not suffocating, features two fireplaces (one indoor and one outdoor), a lovely patio, and a rustic bar with an entire wall of sliding windowed doors for breezy summer dining. We began the evening outside by the fireplace and were greeted by Scott Beck, personable and witty co-owner of Little Barn, and gracious General Manager Dave Studwell.

Giant soft pretzels with spicy stout and honey mustard dipping sauces from Little Barn's Oktoberfest menu and a pint of Pumpkin Porter from Thimble Island (a Branford, CT based brewery) got us started, and while the pretzel was warm and delicious, I knew better than to eat too much and start the evening already full.

Inside we went, and dish after dish began to arrive. First, a series of appetizers served family style. Seared sesame encrusted Ahi Tuna over avocado puree and topped with pineapple pico de gallo were just right; very lightly seared and completely raw in the center with crunchy sesame seeds and a kick of sriracha served on the side. 

Two different trays of tacos, char grilled filet tips with roasted pineapple, guacamole, and pico de gallo, as well as grilled chicken with pico de gallo and chipotle mayo arrived at the table. Wow. These are great tacos. The lightly charred tortillas and smoky spice of chipotle peppers made for an addictive flavor combination. There's a certain taco place in Westport (rhymes with martaco), and I've always been a fan, but now I've discovered a new favorite. 

Usually salads are the least "fun" part of a meal (at least not for my pizza-addicted palate). Not so at Little Barn. A shaved brussels sprouts salad tossed with crispy pumpkin seeds, crunchy granny smith apples, and chewy dried cranberries, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, was the best use of raw brussels sprouts I have yet to experience. I was also pleased to see the correct spelling, "brussels" on the menu - almost every other restaurant, take note. 

The raw kale and shaved fennel salad with candied pecans and red wine vinaigrette earns the same "best I've encountered" status. I had three helpings. I want to eat more right now. It's a must order dish, even if you have disliked kale in the past.

Thai chicken lettuce wraps with hot chili sauce and peanuts were flavorful but not overpowering, and a great dish for sharing with the table. 

For my entree, I chose sesame and wasabi crusted tuna with warm soba noodles. Even though we had already tried the tuna appetizer, I was ready for more. The entree was even better, with larger, thinner cuts of Ahi tuna and noodles with just the right combination of peanut flavor and salty sweetness. For vegetarians, a bowl of these noodles would be totally satisfying. 

After such a great meal, I was not sure there was room for dessert, but of course I could not resist. A warm brownie with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and gelato was indulgently chocolatety, and the pumpkin pie was well received.
But the absolute star of the trio, and perhaps of nearly every dessert I've ever had, was fried chocolate chip cookie dough bites with vanilla gelato. My taste buds did not know how to handle the deliciousness of these bite sized delights.

Stop reading this review, and go straight to Little Barn to try them. They combine the classic carnival treat of fried dough, texture combination of fried ice cream, and the indulgence of eating cookie dough straight from the mixing bowl.

It is surely obvious that I highly recommend a trip to Little Barn. It's suitable for both family dining, watching sports in the bar, or date night by the fireplace. And the food...well, my compliments to Chef Jeff Spence. 

Little Barn is located a1050 Post Road (near Barnes & Noble), Westport CT, 06880
Phone: 203-557-8501
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All photos by Jason Varga

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