Sunday, October 19, 2008

Restaurants: 55 Degrees Wine Bar, Fairfield, CT

55 Degrees, which refers to the ideal temperature at which to store wine, is Fairfield's newest hot spot. The restaurant and wine bar, which was formerly Mulino's Restaurant, is barely recognizable after an extensive renovation. The proprietors, who also own the acclaimed Cava Wine Bar in New Canaan, completely gutted and reorganized the space, creating a comfortable first floor bar, a bi-level dining room and a large, seasonal outdoor seating area.

On each of my visits to 55 Degrees, the bar was lively and crowded, but not overwhelmingly so. Bar service was prompt and courteous. There is an extensive list of wines by the glass, but it is also a full-service bar with several beers on tap. Bowls of marinated olives are placed around the bar, which lend authenticity to the Italian-vibe.
The restaurant is large with soaring ceilings, which give a great, urban feel to the space, but also tends to be very loud. We had our best experience while sitting in the lower dining area (a half flight up from the bar). That night the service was excellent, and our server was extremely knowledgeable and helpful in suggesting items on the menu. On a separate visit, after some confusion about our reservation (apparently the less desirable, and extremely noisy bar tables are included in the reservation list--a policy that should be reconsidered), we were seated in the upper dining area. That particular night the service was extremely slow, and we never figured out if it was our server, the fact that we were up an extra flight of stairs, or if the kitchen was overwhelmed that evening.

The food, however, was consistently excellent on every visit. Everything we ate was very good, but I particularly enjoyed the grilled calamari appetizer and the Caprese salad. I loved the house-made pasta selections, which were just a little out of the ordinary. The Rabbit Angnolotti (a stuffed pasta), which I thought was fantastic, was served in a lemony sauce with prosciutto and sage (my friend agreed it was delicious after she got over the fact she was eating rabbit). My other favorite pasta was Veal Mezzaluna (also a stuffed pasta), which like the rabbit, may be politically incorrect to enjoy, but it was excellent! The next time I go I'm dying to try the Lobster Papperdelle, which is paired with the unusual combination of cauliflower, golden raisins, pine nuts, and sausage.

Among the selections on the "secondo" section of the menu, the Diver Sea Scallops were the biggest hit with my friends. Also popular was the Leek-Wrapped Salmon and the Angus Sirloin. While I tasted everything at the table, I was so drawn to the interesting pasta dishes that between all my visits, I never personally ordered a meat or fish entree.

Overall, I very much enjoyed 55 Degrees and will certainly go back soon. It has a great vibe and a fun atmosphere, and is perfect for groups (there was a group of birthday revelers and a number of tables dedicated to 'girls night out' on our most recent Saturday evening visit). The service in the bar is good, however the hostess and dining service was inconsistent. However, what stands out the most is the food, and for that I'm willing to give them a chance to work out the kinks.

55 Degrees is a welcome addition to Fairfield Center, and is not only a great place to meet for a drink (or a few), but also destined to become an eating destination.

55 Degrees Wine Bar and Restaurant
55 Miller Street
Fairfield, CT 06824

Reservations recommended.

Hours: Lunch served M-F, 11:30-2:30. Dinner served Sun-Thurs, 5-10, Fri & Sat, 5-11.

No comments: