**My below review of Artisan originally appeared on SuzySaid.com on July 25, 2011.
The highly anticipated Artisan Restaurant opened in the Delamar Southport Hotel on July 13 and has been going strong ever since. Described as “New England inspired cuisine influenced by the rhythm of the season and the farmstead offerings,” Artisan hits the mark
When we first arrived and glimpsed Artisan’s large, beautifully appointed garden patio in the hotel courtyard, we felt transported somewhere far from of Fairfield. Outfitted with a full-service bar, it is a perfect spot for pre- or post-dinner cocktails. Large, comfortable chairs dotted with brightly colored throw pillows surround candlelit cocktail tables. Along the patio’s perimeter are cushioned banquets and tables for dining, and against the building is a large pergola complete with dining tables and ceiling fans (which were much appreciated the steamy evening we visited). Inside, the beautifully lit space boasts a nice tavern area which gives way to the large yet intimate-feeling dining room. There is even a funky glassed-in private room for groups up to ten. The entire restaurant is bathed in creams and sages and oversized floral designs grace two of the walls. The atmosphere outside felt very hip (my husband, fresh off a west-coast business trip, was getting a California vibe). Inside was a bit more subdued, but had plenty of energy and was a great setting for a meal.
And then there was the food! The menu was nicely balanced with inventive dishes, some of which would appeal to the more adventurous and others that would suit the meat-and-potatoes crowd. To start, I chose the “tuna crudo, watermelon, tomato, avocado with citron essence”. The gorgeous cubes of sashimi-grade raw tuna were beautifully presented in checkerboard-like circle with the cubed tomato, avocado and yellow watermelon, and was topped with shaved radishes and a citron drizzle. It was absolutely fabulous. My husband chose the Connecticut oysters and Cape Cod clams from the raw bar which were super-fresh and briny. For an entrée, I chose the local striped bass with a tomato-squash gratin (although they ended up substituting halibut—a change of which they informed me). I was presented with a perfectly cooked, moist filet served over a tasty mélange of vegetables . My husband ordered the sea scallops over mushrooms, English peas, and roasted tomatoes, which was equally delicious. As for wine, we were presented with only a list of selections by the glass, with 5-6 wines in each category, plus two rosés. Although not extensive, the list had enough of a selection to make everyone happy and was not overwhelming.
Amazingly, we found room for dessert. I didn’t get past the first listing. “Fresh strawberries with balsamic essence, rosemary biscuit and basil ice cream”...done! The amazing basil ice cream was presented alongside a strawberry sorbet, over the biscuits with small, sugary sweet strawberries rimming the plate. My mouth is watering all over again just describing it. Everything at Artisan was really excellent and I cannot wait to return. It might just be my new favorite spot!
275 Old Post Road, Southport, CT 06890
(203)307-4222 for reservations
Serving dinner 7 days a week, starting at 5:30pm. Breakfast and lunch service to begin Monday, August 1, 2011.
Appetizers $8-14, Entrees $24-38, Wines by the glass $8-18