An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 9, 2013
09:40 AMThe Connecticut Table
Up in the Air in Mystic
Summer’s fading fast but if we’re lucky we’ll get a patch of golden weather in September and October. Time for one more outdoor dining adventure. Dinner in a treehouse. No, you don’t have to climb a tree. There are stairs. But when you get there you’ll be snug as a bird among boughs on an architect-designed open-air dining deck with a river view and a breeze off the sea. Bring a shawl or a sweater and come hungry because this enchanting treehouse is perched atop a rocky cliff behind Oyster Club in Mystic. It’s got the same chef, James Wayman, but a separate, delightfully different, menu featuring berries, tomatoes, thyme, parsley and mint grown in the restaurant’s own garden, corn and potatoes grown nearby, local meat, fish and shellfish caught or gathered daily—all cooked more or less before your eyes on a wood-burning grill.
The Treehouse is chef Wayman’s baby, his dream come true. He grew up in Connecticut and knows the coast from Maine to the shores of North Carolina, where he summered as a boy. His Treehouse menu pays tribute to both New England and the South. For example, Rhode Island chowder with quahogs listed along with a smoky pork burger and a side of braised collard greens. A few Asian dishes are on offer, too, referencing his tenure witih a Bangkok chef in Thailand (Asian BBQ swordfish, smoked tofu with charred vegetables and brown rice salad). While the menu dictated by the day’s catch and what’s ripening on the farm changes frequently, the sprightly dishes Wayman creates for the Treehouse reflect the carefree atmosphere:Hot butter poached lobster roll with apple butter, and fries; roasted corn fritters with baconand cole slaw. Finger food, fun food to be enjoyed with craft cocktails, frosty beers, lemonade and wines by the glass or bottle.
Among the nice things about locally owned and operated restaurants is the fact that you get to hear the stories behind the dishes. And there are always stories. The sweet juicy blueberries served over cornbread piled with whipped cream that we enjoyed for dessert, we were told represented a summer-long picking contest that the birds probably won.
The telling of the story, the comaraderie of the staff, the sense of living connected to land, the sheer fun of it all warm the soul as the sun goes down and the moon rises over a group of happy people dining in a tree. Who says grown-ups can’t have a Huckleberry Finn adventure?
The Treehouse at Oyster Club, Mystic, 860/415-9266, oysterclubct.com.Up in the Air in Mystic