A hotspot in downtown Darien, Ten Twenty Post is a festive blend of old and new. Classic seafood dishes and comfort food mingle with culinary creativity — think herbed truffle-oil potato chips and mussels studded with fried capers. The mostly traditional décor (creamy yellow walls, coffered ceilings and dark wood) is punctuated with a few modern accents, like the long, zinc-topped bar.
Moffly Media Review
Darien’s new oyster bar with a French bistro vibe
Mary Kate Hogan
Photograph by Bob Capazzo
Already a hotspot in downtown Darien, Ten Twenty Post is a festive blend of old and new. Classic seafood dishes and comfort food mingle with culinary creativity — think herbed truffle-oil potato chips and mussels studded with fried capers. The mostly traditional décor (creamy yellow walls, coffered ceilings and dark wood) is punctuated with a few modern accents, like the long, zinc-topped bar.
Perhaps this combination — not to mention the fun menu and bar scene — is why Ten Twenty has captured a buzz while also giving off that we’ve-been-here-for-years kind of vibe. The restaurant is backed by the same team as Greenwich’s Elm Street Oyster House and Ruby’s in Rye, and French-Canadian executive chef Roland Coulombe logged years in the kitchens of Manhattan’s Cité.
For the summer season, you’ll be able to grab a café table outdoors along the Post Road or dine alfresco on the brick patio behind the restaurant. Another big draw is the flexible schedule: I like the fact that you can pop in at 3 p.m. for a late lunch or meet friends for a pre-dinner snack because the restaurant serves all day, with a menu that includes smaller plates and lighter fare.
Among les petites plats we sampled during a recent lunch, the pan-fried oysters are a definite standout. Lightly breaded and served in a sauce of Andouille-creole butter, they are seriously rich and balanced by a garnish of greens and radish slices in a vinegar-lemon dressing. Another must-try are the Prince Edward Island mussels. The traditional Moules in Saffron Broth is decadent, laced with bacon, carmelized onions and mushrooms. But my favorite preparation is the “1020” special, served in a creamy herb broth with tomatoes. What makes the dish special are the fried capers — these salty, crunchy little morsels pop in your mouth like caviar.
Listed as an “Anytime Comfort,” the oven-roasted tomato and goat cheese tart served with house greens makes a lovely light lunch. It’s laced with just the right amount of cheese and topped with ribbons of basil. Salads come lightly dressed, so you can really taste the pleasantly crisp greens. For a starter, try the house greens with goat cheese crostini; if you have more of an appetite, the frisse and baby spinach with Cabrales blue, apples, balsamic and lardons is a textural mélange of salt and sweet.
In keeping with the “anytime” theme, Ten Twenty’s bar is often frequented by diners as well as drinkers, enjoying the lighter meals and ordering from the raw bar. On a recent Saturday evening at 6:45, the only seats left in the place were at the communal bar table in the center of the dining room. And the bar scene was particularly festive, with a host of 30- and 40-somethings waving glasses of pink champagne and martinis.
At dinner that night, our waiter was quick with our chardonnay and beer (in spite of the crowd) and knowledgeable about the raw bar, guiding us to the Duxbury, Otter Cove and Kumamoto oysters. Oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail come served over ice in a giant metal bowl with cocktail sauce, horseradish and red-wine vinegar for dipping. As the waiter predicted, the Otter Cove were surprisingly briny for a West Coast variety.
Among the entrées, we couldn’t resist tasting some of the classics with a twist. The lobster macaroni and cheese is a healthy-size bowl of creamy shells with major chunks of Maine’s finest on top. The bouillabaisse with Pernod-spiked broth and caramelized fennel has a gutsy, salty broth laden with scallops, shrimp, fish and mussels, and buttery toasts with red-pepper spread for sopping up the extra juice. While there is generally a fish choice on the day’s list of specials (see the recipe for a pan-seared halibut with capellini fritter and julienned peppers), you can always order fish in a simple preparation, either grilled or pan-seared. Our grilled yellow-fin tuna was fresh tasting and came with a tasty soy-ginger sauce, but I expected it to be a bit more pink in the center based on my “medium-rare” order.
For sides, we liked the crunchy haricot verts and the creamy mashed potatoes. But what’s truly yummy and addictive are the truffle-oil and herbed potato chips (they should package these to go).
With this seafood-driven menu, I would have preferred a few lighter dessert choices rather than the chocolate-laden options and pecan tart. We sampled a number of these sweets and found them to be somewhat uneven: This seems to be an area where the restaurant is working out a few kinks. Still, the brownie sundae with mint-chocolate chip ice cream on top is a bright spot and I was happy to dig into some lemon sorbet (this wasn’t initially mentioned as an option by our waiter, but he brought it out after I inquired).
If you’re looking for a lively crowd, fresh seafood, bistro fare, light bites and more, Ten Twenty Post is clearly a very good catch.