An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Sep 16, 2013
01:00 PMThe Connecticut Table
ON20 in Hartford: Lofty Views, Gorgeous Food, Top Chef, New Prix Fixe Lunch Menu
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Chef Lizotte has a knack not only for accentuating the flavors of core ingredients with creative pairings but also an eye for color and composition in doing so. First each dish looks fabulous, and then it tastes great.
One example at a recent event to unveil the autumn prix fixe lunch menu was a single-bite dish, served on a white ceramic spoon, that featured roasted beets rendered into shavings and paired with a housemade whole milk yogurt and a pistachio crumble. The marriage of earthy and smoky flavors with a bit of a crunch and subtle sweetness was heavenly—and this bite was a riff on a salad from the new menu, which features a roasted beet and radish remoulade, yogurt and horseradish.
Another small bite at the event that riffed on a menu item—this time from the bar menu—was a pork rillette, or variation on a pâté, served on a homemade chip. The bar menu features, under the heading Charcuterie, this small plate ($6): Mangalista Pork Rillette with Golden Raisin Gastrique. Other bar menu choices—important during those Wednesday-through-Friday happy hours—include a six-ounce burger with Comte cheese, a brioche bun, cornichon aioli and sweet potato fries ($12), a crispy friend Jonah crab with purple mostarda ($8), a selection of Jasper Hill Farm cheeses with intense flavors ($16), and a dish with a distinct Spanish heritage: saffron rice stuffed piquillo peppers with Romesco sauce ($11). (The new prix fixe lunch menu is shown below right.)
The dinner menu, meanwhile, is as creative as it is mouthwatering. Starters include chowder made with sweet potatoes and glazed ham, Asian pear and kaffir lime ($9), along with country style duck terrine with black mission figs ($13) and grilled octopus with roast potato and tasso ham remoulade ($11). Here the Jonah crab is served en croute, with crispy baguette, charred tomato mustard and tarragon salad ($14).
Entrees include swordfish—lemon grass-scented loin—with white bean chilli, Bangs Island mussels and coconut crustacean emulsion ($31), an olive oil roasted black bass filet, with tomato bread and summer squash-and-pancetta chowder ($32), and other main courses are built around grilled lamb shoulder, Muscovy duck breast and a marrow-crusted New York strip steak ($28 to $32).
Jeffrey Lizotte was just honored this month as Best New Chef in our Connecticut Magazine Best of Connecticut 2013. The editors who accorded the honor, with the “new” designation referring to Lizotte taking the helm at ON20 after the departure of Noel Jones, wrote, “Lizotte has thrived in the limelight, continuing ON20’s legacy of innovative and progressive cuisine, while adding his own fresh take to the menu, which continues to win accolades from Zagat and The New York Times, among others."
Lizotte grew up in Simsbury, and at 15 began washing dishes at a small family restaurant in his hometown, according to the bio on the ON20 website. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2004 from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, and then was recruited by David Bouley to join the team at his former restaurant, Danube, in New York City. Lizotte subsequently worked under Eric Ripert and the staff at the three-star Michelin Le Bernardin. “While at Le Bernardin, with the help of Chef Ripert and the Jean Louis Palladin Foundation, Jeffrey was offered a job as sous chef at the famous bistro, La Tupina, in Bordeaux France. Determined to prolong his training in France, Jeffrey was then sought by chef Jacques Chibois of the two-star Michelin Restaurant, La Bastide St. Antoine, in Grasse France,” the bio says.
Lizotte came back to Connecticut in 2009 as Chef de Cuisine at what is now simply called ON20. He rose to the post of executive chef and is now working to turn a great restaurant into one that’s more vibrantly busy more often.
It’s the boring but essential part. Everyone who drives into Hartford for dinner and some culture has to park somewhere, but it’s understandable for folks from the suburbs and rural areas beyond—with much of Connecticut less than an hour’s drive from ON20—to perceive that it’s more difficult to connect with this restaurant, given its unique, and therefore secluded, location.