We know, we know, it’s been a while since our last review, but while we’ve been focusing on cutting back the cals and subsequent lbs, an amazing new restaurant opened up that we HAD to get back in the game for, and STAT. That restaurant is Jesup Hall in Westport, and the reason it was a must-review is because of three words: Chef Fu&$ing Bill Taibe. Ok, that’s four words, but the colorful adjective was necessary for such an iconic and amazing chef in these here parts.
So, way back in October 2015 when we talked to him at The Whelk during a special oysters, sherry, and pork dinner, he was excited about the idea of expansion after the closing of leFarm. And with noted Chef Dan Sabia who comes from Campagna (in Bedford) and Bedford Post Inn on board, his hopes of starting something new took flight in Jesup Hall, located at the old town hall where you can also find Rothbard Ale + Larder off to the side.
With that, let’s just get down to it in typical OmNomCT style.
First off, we could have slapped ourselves. You can actually make reservations here. Not thinking too much, we just showed up early on Saturday (5:45PM), hoping to get a seat. Turns out that (for now at least) tables are given to people with reservations, while walk-ins get a community table hi-top behind the bar. The walk-in seats actually ended up being pretty good, giving you a nice view of the bar and the dining area, however the people that came in just 1 minute behind us ended up with a 45 minute wait because we took the last walk-in seat. Moral of the story? Make a reservation or come before 5:45PM. See, we got yo back!
Now, onto the food and drinks.
The drink menu has a really nice variety of wines and a decent, though small, selection of craft brews, and a drink menu that surprised us a bit. We were expecting a bold and progressive cocktail menu similar to The Whelk and Kawa Ni (both owned by Taibe), especially with the incredibly talented Craig Ventrice behind the stick, but it actually consisted of classics and twists off of them. Definitely nothing wrong with that at all, it’s nice to get back to the classics, we were just surprised.
Our friend John went with a Super Sparkle from Kent Falls, which just so happened to be on his craft beer wishlist. Dan started off with the Town Hall Car Bomb, creamy and strong, going down easy. He also went with the Brandy Crusta, which was warm and inviting, especially with a sugar crusted rim. Countering the punch from the brandy was a nice little tang. Again, with Craig Ventrice in charge of the beverage program, you’re always guaranteed a nicely balanced drink where the liquor(s) gets the chance to really shine.
For apps, we went with the Roasted Carrots, Veal Stuffed Fried Dates, Lightly Seared Tuna, and Confit & Fried Duck Wings. First up, we dug those carrots madly, with John even proclaiming that it was his favorite carrot prep that he’d ever had, and he really doesn’t care much for carrots. They were roasted to perfection with just enough snap, but were oh so delicate. The walnut pesto and spices helped to add a kick and an earthy richness to the dish.
The Veal Stuffed Fried Dates had a crunchy breading on the outside with a lemon and citrusy bite and were very smooth when you got to the center. In all honestly, we couldn’t really taste the veal in there, if maybe only for the added texture. We were also surprised a bit by the presentation, with the dates and toppings haphazardly arranged on the plate . . . definitely not what we were used to seeing from a Taibe restaurant. It is important to note they had only been open a few days when we went, so you have to give leeway for food prep . . . oh and service.
Speaking of, service was a bit inconsistent for us. We were given dishes and drinks that belonged to other people in our party, but our biggest pet peeve is that we had to ask (almost beg) our waiter to get us new drinks because he never asked us, sometimes leaving us waiting upwards of 20 minutes at a time. Later, about half way through the night, things turned around, and he was definitely more with it and on top of things. Like we said, this is to be expected as servers and waitstaff find their way through working with each other and the kitchen staff. Overall, service was very kind and friendly, though.
Next up was one of the major highlights of our meal: the Confit & Fried Duck Wings. As you’d hope, the skin was crispy, contrasting nicely with the sticky, rich, and sweet sauce stuck to the wings. The cabbage added a nice little bite and cut into the stronger flavors from the duck and the sauce. It also added some nice refreshment. We could’ve eaten an order each of these bad boys!
We also got the Lightly Seared Tuna for an app . . . and it came out thinly sliced and uber fresh. The fish was seared just perfectly (we’re suckers for a good sear) and we love the springtime burst that came from the mint and the tangerines. Very nice.
And then we got our main dishes . . . well, it was more like Dan got one different dish and everyone else ordered the same one because it looked that damn good. We’ll start with the dish everyone but Dan got: Slow Cooked Porchetta. It came out nicely plated, not demure at all, rather it sized up big and was definitely worth the money. The skin was crispy and perfectly cooked, while the pork in the center was delicate and juicy. In terms of the sauce, it was sweet, cut into the rich and unctuous pork, and also played nicely off of the cabbage and squash. Fantastic all around!
Now, normally, the chicken dish is what people order if they don’t want to spend a lot or if they aren’t too adventurous . . . but, damn, Dan couldn’t help himself when it came to the Pan Fried Half Chicken. The skin and crust around the chicken was crispy crunchity with a nice gentle spicy kick to it. The chicken came with a sauce that was tomato rich and played nicely off the juicy juicy meat. Another definite must order and one of Dan’s favorite chicken dishes at a restaurant in recent memory.
Dinner was over, sure, but we still had room for dessert and a few more drinks. ;) First up, we couldn’t deny the awesome sounding PB Cup. A chocolate covered dome surrounded creamy and peanut buttery ice cream, much like a tartufo. The PB powder that was sprinkled over the dish was salty and rich, bringing in even more complex flavors. We also dug the chocolate crunchies on top . . . because, well, who the hell doesn’t love crunchies?
We finished up with some smooth Shearwater Coffee, roasted right in Trumbull, and a round of Irish Coffees that were spot on with just enough liquor punch.
We’ve had great experiences and awesome food at all of Bill Taibe’s restaurants in Westport, from leFarm, to The Whelk, to Kawa Ni, and now to Jesup Hall. Yes, service needed a bit of work, but the staff is still learning the ropes. Overall, the experience was wonderful. We dig the classic styles and notes going on with this restaurant and we think that it’s definitely on its way to become another go-to restaurant for hungry Fairfield Countiers who are on the lookout for fresh new food with some familiar flavors, always perfectly prepared!
Address: 90 Post Road East
Westport, CT 06880
Phone: (203) 557-6198