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Esteva - Guilford, CT - Review

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Esteva - Guilford, CT - Review

vonmoishe | Apr 28, 2004 09:26 AM

The missus and I went there for our anniversary last night. We were happily surprised to find that they had a $20.04 prix fixe, for a choice from two appetizers, 8 or 9 entrees, and either a choice from 5 desserts or a glass of house wine.

The meal started with an amuse-bouche of red pepper-cream cheese on a small round slice of toasted bread. It was nice, but a bit sloppily presented, and not really what we'd call "worthy" of a restaurant of the caliber they claim to be.

For her appetizer, my wife got the mesclun green salad with pine nuts, garlic croutons and a balsamic vinaigrette. Her appraisal: mesclun straight from the supermarket, not even washed to remove the old wet pieces, with an overly sour vinaigrette, two bread pieces smeared with a strange mustard sauce that was too big to be croutons and too toasted to be bread, and not enough pine nuts to rescue it or even make it remotely interesting.

I got the bacon, squash and orzo soup with sage and grated parmesan. It was like an easter egg. Pretty but hollow. It had a nice mild taste, but was lacking any depth of flavor.

For her entree, my wife got the grilled quail with chestnut, grape and apple stuffing, Brussel sprouts, and verjus pan sauce. Her appraisal (keeping in mind she is usually not nearly as tough on restaurants as I am): the quail itself was great - tasty and cooked just right. The grapes were really just rehydrated golden raisins, the Brussel sprouts were not nearly cooked enough-it was like eating a hard lump of cole slaw without the flavor-and the pan sauce had a strange flavor that she could not pick out, but said was very jarring when eaten with any other part of the dish.

I got the pecan crusted pork tenderloin with
baby spinach salad, warm bacon dressing, and caramelized turnip. This won me over. It was awesome - full-flavored, sweet and savory at the same time, cooked to perfection. There were even thick slices of red onion mixed in among the spinach that I feared would overpower the dish as they didn't look cooked, but they melded nicely with the rest of the dish. The turnips were great as well - sweet and chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and a great match for the pork.

For dessert, we ordered the individual maple cream pie and the three ice cream combo. The ice creams were really nice - we got the banana nut caramel and the ginger, though they forgot the vanilla. If I were to nitpick, I'd say the texture of the banana could have been smoother, and the ginger could have had WAY more ginger flavor, but who wants me doing that? It was served with a soft cornmeal biscotti, which was a great foil for the ice cream. The maple cream pie was a bit of a misnomer - it was really a crushed candied nut base (as far as we could tell), and on top of it was what seemed to be a molded ice cream cap. Strewn over it were slivers of candied orange rind, and the whole thing was surrounded by maple creme anglaise, whipped cream puffs, and jagged pieces of pecan brittle. It was fantastic - no complaints.

All in all, a very satisfying dinner for $20.04 each, but we didn't feel it would have been worth the regular prices. I applaud the simple things that are great, like a Lenny and Joe's lobster roll, a scoop of Wentworh's ice cream, or a slice of Sally's pizza, but when a fancy restaurant aspires to be something, and then fails to hit the mark, I always come away a bit disappointed. Esteva would be a great little bistro, especially with the friendly and informal waitress we had, but a top-notch new American restaurant it is not.

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