Rooftop 120, Glastonbury

 

★★★ [Superior]
 

I had cocktails and dinner at Rooftop 120 last night, and this morning I see it all in my mind’s eye and find myself wishing for photographs and double-page spreads on high-gloss paper so I could show it to you. There’s no way you can envision this place without seeing it—which I enthusiastically recommend for yourself.  

Words fall short because Rooftop 120 is not really like anything else. South Beach in Miami comes to mind, but this is art deco redefined as if it were born today—or tomorrow. We’re not talking skin-deep decoration. What we have here is a shining example of the organic way architecture and interior design can come together to stunning effect.  

At Rooftop 120, a backlit wall of bottles in the bar is a rainbow-hued light show all aglow at night. A meandering interior path is lined with supremely comfortable window nooks—grandma’s-attic-meets-artist’s-aerie in futurespeak. In short, Rooftop 120 is the sum of a series of spaces, large, small, intimate or convivial. You can eat under the stars on the spacious four-season Sky Deck, or inside at a huge circular glass-walled River Rock bar or at high tables, low tables, banquettes or wicker armchairs, in large groupings or small.  

One cocktail menu serves all and it’s out-of-the-box and off-the-wall creative. There’s a Manhattan called “Midnight,” made with Jim Beam Red Stag black cherry bourbon and sweet Vermouth. The Watermelon Cooler’s made with Tito’s handmade gluten-free vodka, watermelon liqueur, triple sec and cubes of fresh watermelon. The list’s a mile long and changes seasonally.

Everywhere the look is innovative and bold, and the food matches the ambience—so much so that we order a lusty Rioja to go with it. The menu consists of small plates and large plates, but the small plates are larger and the large ones smaller than you might expect, and all are copious enough for two or sometimes even three to share.

The menu is extensive but well organized, with Starters and Mains, Flats, Sides, Salads and Kids. We start with corn chowder, smooth as silk and unexpectedly suave. Eschewing the current trend toward “baconizing” a bisque with pork belly lardons or Serrano ham, this chef allows us to savor the lovely, lingering flavors of sweet corn and sweet cream on their own.     

Except for the Creole mustard alongside, Cuban egg rolls are also mild but seductively rich, with roast pork, country ham and Swiss cheese wrapped in a flaky bundle. “Sustainable fish tacos,” on the other hand, are hot as a firecracker. Filled with Cajun-rubbed tilapia, pepper relish, purple cabbage and chipotle cream, they’re huge. With two on a plate, it’s almost a meal for one, a hefty appetizer for two if you’re sharing.

The star of our starter parade turns out to be ahi poke, a raw-tuna salad hailing from Hawaii. Sometimes mixed with Japanese spices, it is served here pretty much au natural, perfectly fresh, perfectly chilled, garnished with fresh avocado, seaweed, pickled cucumber and a dollop of wasabi-soy served on the side. The rosy cubes of raw tuna piled into a pyramid are so addictively fresh and flavorful we find ourselves dickering over the last juicy cube.  

A large plate of deceptively simple clam linguine packs a big flavor wallop with tasso ham, white wine and chili flakes. No sludgy sauce this, it shimmers and sings. For the most part, Rooftop 120 does not go in for gimmicky presentations, but I have to admit that I’m delighted when my frissée salad turns up looking like a little bird’s nest with a farm-fresh poached egg nestled within. Served on a plate bejeweled with diced apple, golden raisins and pecans, it’s as tasty as it looks.    

Lest carnivores feel left out, we sample the filet mignon. At six ounces, it might leave some steak lovers wanting more, but it’s delicious, grilled medium-rare, with a potent port wine glaze and crispy Brussels sprouts luxuriating alongside, soaking up sauce and juices.

Cedar-roasted organic salmon disappoints, as I was afraid it would. It’s not the kitchen’s fault—the fish is precisely medium-rare, as ordered, but farm-raised salmon simply can’t deliver the clean, bright flavor and melt-in-the-mouth texture of wild.

Desserts displayed on a tray are brought to the table. It would be nice if more fresh fruit confections were on offer, but there are four kinds of mousse, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, a peach-and-pear cobbler bubbling-hot under a cornmeal crust, a birch beer float made with local birch beer, and “Junior’s world-famous cheesecake from Brooklyn, N.Y.” All are so unabashedly old-fashioned they taste new. Such is the power of nostalgia.

Sophistication and a lot of good taste underlie the concept and high quality of everything at Rooftop 120, yet the overall ambience is playful. And any number can play. It’s one of the largest open-air rooftops in New England, and the fun goes on until midnight on weeknights and till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. We leave after 11 on a Saturday night and the party’s just getting under way.

Rooftop 120
Eric Town Square, 140 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury, (860/430-9021, rooftop120.com)
Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday till 2, Sunday till 11. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access. Price range: appetizers $5.50 to $17.75, entrées $13.75 to $19.75, desserts $5.75 to $14.75.

Rooftop 120, Glastonbury

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