Restaurant Review: Brushmill by the Waterfall, Chester
Courtesy of Brushmill by the Waterfall
★★ (Very Good)
Park the car, cross a rustic footbridge over an enchanting waterfall and leave 2014 behind. Brushmill by the Waterfall is a big, rambling, barn-like restaurant in a 200-year-old grist mill that over the years has been, among other things, a woodworking shop, a saw mill and a brush factory making everything from carpet sweepers to brushes for gun barrels. While the building has also housed a few restaurants, at this stage of the game it’s still easy to imagine the mill in its earliest days. The chestnut beams, the stacked stone fireplace, the water-driven pulley system overhead are all original, and in recent years modernization has been minimal because the loyal band of regulars who love this place love it exactly the way it is.
Admittedly, this makes for a bit of fustiness and it’s a big area to keep groomed, but the taproom with its comfy couches and upholstered chairs around the fireplace is alluringly cozy and the dining rooms—small, medium and large—have views of the waterfall on several levels.
In addition to the scenic setting, what the regulars come for is the food—not because it’s cutting edge but because it’s not and it’s not trying to be. Basic, honest, deeply satisfying and unabashedly old-fashioned dishes like stuffed shrimp, baked brie, surf ’n turf, and a 28-ounce bone-in certified Angus prime rib are among Brushmill’s endearing charms. Luckily, we arrived hungry.
The menu informed us that all entrées are served with an iceberg lettuce wedge salad with house-made ranch dressing. For $1.75 you can upgrade to Caesar or mesclun with goat cheese and mandarin orange. All three were delicious—and for a side salad, huge. When we said as much to our waitress she said, “Yeah, you get a lot of everything here.” Including service, as it turned out. Our waitress could probably win a walkathon for miles traveled at high speed, not to mention cheerfully bringing plates for sharing, describing dishes and wrapping food to go.
We began with a lush lobster bisque, laden with heavy cream and studded with a generous supply of picked lobster meat. Coconut shrimp were among the best I’ve had, crunchy on the outside, tender-crisp within, freshly fried and served piping hot on a hot plate with sweet chili sauce on the side. Baked brie with toasted sliced almonds was less succssful. It arrived barely lukewarm, with un-toasted almonds (too few and sliced too thin) and slices of ciabatta bread piled so high and wide it dwarfed the cheese. In my opinion this dish needs re-thinking (I’d serve it with crackers or Melba toast and heat the cheese). Give it a pass and do as we did, head for the entrées.
The humongous prime rib, en route to another table, was tempting but we decided it would be a meal in itself and we had much to taste before our sampling session was through. Happenstance came to the rescue: A smaller, $20 version of the famous rib eye was the evening’s special. Served perfectly medium rare as ordered, tender, flavorful and with just enough fat for sizzle, it did delicious justice to the larger version’s award-winning reputation.
While art on a plate is not what Brushmill is about, the lobster tail was a sight to behold. To begin with, there were two tails, large enough to have been attached to lobsters weighing over 1¼ pounds. Each was carefully cooked, prized from its shell, laved with creamy, garlicy white wine sauce and perched jauntily back atop its scarlet carapace. Fresh, sweet and tender, it tasted as good as it looked.
Grilled swordfish, also praiseworthy for freshness, texture and flavor, came with a zesty pineapple salsa served alongside. We could have tried chicken, pork chops or lamb, but Cajun Delmonico aroused our curiosity so insistently we had to order it although as another steak it was arguably redundant. What mystified us was the warning posted on the menu: “This steak is cooked medium or more.” Why? We asked our waitress and she said, “It brings out the flavor.” How? She didn’t know. In the spirit of exploration, we went with medium. A thick, tender piece of beef, cut from the short loin cooked a shade more than medium arrived topped with sliced Portobello mushrooms and port wine demi-glace. Biting into it, I surmised that this noble hunk of beef had been slow roasted, and perhaps dry-rubbed so that a subtle sense of cajun spices was evident throughout. Not spectacular but different and welcome if you like your meat well-done.
When it comes to dessert, Brushmill goes in for retro-huge and this-will-knock-your-socks-off: A triple-layer extravaganza involving chocolate cake, cheesecake and chocolate ganache; chocolate mousse made with Belgian bittersweet chocolate, espresso and clouds of whipped cream; Key lime pie with real key lime juice and more whipped cream; and last, but by no means least, “Mood Pie” with an Oreo cookie crust filled with Butterfinger crunch ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and peanuts. The menu says it’s “so good it puts you in the mood.” Did it? No comment.
Brushmill by the Waterfall
29 West Main St., Chester, (860) 526-9898, thebrushmill.com
Lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 to 4; Sunday brunch 11 to 3; dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 9, Friday and Saturday 5 to 10; Sunday dinner 3 to 8. Wheelchair access: taproom and small dining room on the first floor. Major credit cards. Price range: appetizers $6 to $10.95, entrées $17.95 to $38.95, desserts $3.95 to $6.95.
(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of Connecticut Magazine
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