The Mill at 2T, Simsbury
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An appetizer of seared diver scallops with creamed oyster mushrooms and polenta croutons did so in spades. The woodsiness of the mushrooms set off the fresh-clean sea taste of the scallops, and the slightly crisped polenta added a foil of crunch.
Ahi tuna surprised the eyes when it arrived not in thin slices but in two-inch chunks, appropriately fresh, and grilled, rather than seared. A different, delicious dish for the serious fish lover.
Chopped salad proved to be a splendid choice, so tasty I scraped my plate clean. Instead of a pile of raw vegetables, the corn was roasted, the red onions grilled, the asparagus blanched. Heirloom tomatoes and carrots completed the composition, and a lovely saffron ranch dressing enveloped all.
At The Mill at 2T, small surprises abound. Butternut ravioli was one large tender pasta shell filled with squash and fresh ricotta. Hidden within was a soft-cooked egg, invisible until a fork released a flood of golden yolk. How in the world do they do that? Next time I’ll sit at the bar and watch.
But life, even in a fanciful place like The Mill at 2T, is not without its disappointments. I had my heart set on a grilled venison chop entrée. Alas, the kitchen was out of venison. Explanations were made. Last week the chef had bought too much venison; tonight venison sold out halfway through the dinner hour. But chef Jones offers an off-menu substitute. Would we like him to cut and grill a rib-eye steak for us? We would, especially because it’s Painted Hills Natural Beef.
Raised on small family ranches in Oregon, Painted Hills cattle are fed an additive-free diet of barley, corn and alfalfa. The distinctive flavor is favored by top steak-house chefs, which reminded me that chef Jones is big-league, with an affinity for natural and small- farm-grown ingredients. The rib-eye covered the plate and oh, my, was it good. Waxy little fingerling potatoes and Parmesan-dusted cauliflower struck me as just right with it.
Pan-roasted black cod was the centerpiece of an inspired composition of black rice, sunchoke purée and lardons with a splash of basil infusion. The cod was fresh and sweet and perfectly cooked.
Hearty pub grub for the traditionalist was on offer in the form of braised short ribs, fork-tender, blanketed with dark, multinuanced sauce and served with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
All were delicious but to me the most luscious dish was pappardelle pasta, handmade and luxuriating in a rich creamy sauce made with maitake, a robust, earthy fungus the Japanese call “dancing butterfly” mushroom. With a name like that, and topped off with roasted cippolini onions and sage butter, this had to be a vegetarian’s dream come true.
The dessert list was a bit brief, three offerings to be exact: a pleasant but unremarkable sweet potato tart, a “chocolate cobbler” that wasn’t exactly a cobbler yet was as wildly, intensely chocolaty, and the warm brioche donuts that really blew us away. We could smell their heady, yeasty aroma before they reached the table. Melting in the mouth, they earned that cliché. There was caramel sauce to dip them in. They were so bountiful and huge we had to leave some on the plate.
Maybe we should have gone easier on those popovers. But I regret nothing. The last time I had popovers that voluptuously fresh was when I baked them myself.
The Mill at 2T
2 Tunxis Rd., Simsbury, 860/658-7890, themillat2t.com
Dinner Wednesday through Saturday 5:30 to 9:30. Wheelchair access. Major credit cards. Price range: appetizers $10 to $12, entrées $18 to $32, desserts $8.