Delicious Cuisine at New Canaan's Elm restaurant

Chef/owner Brian Lewis made his vision come alive when he opened Elm restaurant. "Rooted in tradition and inspired by the seasons," Elm brings modern American cuisine to the table with a focus on locally farm-driven flavors.

A sleek façade with open floor-to-ceiling windows greeted us as we entered chef/owner Brian Lewis’s (of Bedford Post fame) most recent venture that’s “rooted in tradition, inspired by the seasons.” At the door to Elm restaurant in New Canaan, all eyes are drawn to a long, 10-seat pewter bar from Bastille Metal Works facing a wall of leather banquettes. The 84-seat restaurant is divided into four chic and sophisticated dining areas: the bar, the main dining room, a 12-seat Chef’s Table that can be closed off for privacy, and a four-seat Caesarstone Chef’s Counter. All areas (except the bar) offer a view of Chef Lewis and his team at work in a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Warm earth tones, custom artwork and sophisticated lighting (love the Edra Campana lighting over the walnut Chef’s Table by Ian Kirby) blend simplicity and craftsmanship. “The subtle furnishings are quiet to let the food speak,” says Westport design consultant Pina Manzone, who insists she “was only a guide to help make the owners’ vision happen.”

Bread made on premises was delivered warm with house-made butter, topped with smoked-paprika salt and citrus salt. We were pleasantly surprised with complimentary fresh gazpacho of watermelon, cucumber and yuzu juice in a salt/sugar-rimmed shot glass. Sorrel in the salt/sugar blend added that unexpected extra that was found in everything we ordered. An extensive wine list and signature drinks complement the menu. Wine pairings are offered for a special “Chef’s Tasting” menu of four courses bookended with treats, savory and sweet.

The menu changes daily according to the rhythms of the season and showcases locally sourced vegetables, meats, sustainably raised seafood and house-made pastas. For starters, I opted for the grilled Spanish octopus served on black garlic aioli with pea shoots and guanciale (delicious, but a touch too salty for my taste). The housemade pastas are offered in two sizes, so we tried the tagliatelle nere as an appetizer. It was served with cockle clams; saffron and mint helped counter the heat of Calabrian chilis. Although there were two beef and one chicken entrées, seafood dominated the day’s main-course selection. A generous serving of Maine halibut was topped with delicate slices of peaches, along with fennel, lovage and Swiss chard. My dining partner enjoyed the Scottish langoustines (tiny lobsters) with riso venere, zucchini and pimentón. A full line-up of signature sweets by pastry chef Caryn Stabinsky tempted us to split a delicious blueberry galette. Paired with a well-made espresso, it was the perfect ending to a late-summer dinner.