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EatDrinkShopCook: '323' adds up to great dining

Updated 4:19 pm, Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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  • Entrees at 323 include pasta, chicken, lamb, beef and fish, such as this salmon with spring ragout. Photo: Patti Woods / Westport News

    Entrees at 323 include pasta, chicken, lamb, beef and fish, such as this salmon with spring ragout.

    Photo: Patti Woods

 

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THE SCOOP
323 Main
323 Main St., Westport (corner of Canal Street)
203-222-0323S
www.323westport.com
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Nearly two years ago, Hurricane Irene hit the area and left its mark on many businesses in Fairfield County. Bogey's Grill and Tap Room in Westport was one of those places that just couldn't recover after the devastating floods. The popular neighborhood restaurant closed its doors and was vacant -- until three months ago. After some major reconstruction, the little restaurant located at the corner of Main and Canal streets has reopened with a whole new look. The eatery is owned by three Weston natives, Jay Stasko, Jay Faillace and Matt Faillace.

When the restaurant was Bogey's, it had a personality of its own. (Let's not mince words; most people referred to it as a dive ... a very popular dive). That description no longer fits, however. The exterior of the building provides little clues as to what the interior holds. Outside, a simple sign that says "323" hangs next to the door. (The name refers to the address, 323 Main St.). Inside, there is a huge bar with a vaulted ceiling, a massive flat-screen television and a large fireplace. The dining room features exposed beams and wooden floors and the motif seems to be a cross between Scandinavian and beachy. Simple, elegant, yet not stuffy.

Chef Chris Vacca has been tweaking the menu, which he describes as "progressive American with an ethnic influence." What does that mean exactly? There are classics like oysters on the half shell, iceberg wedge and roasted salmon. The New England clam chowder is surprisingly light and very clammy. Vacca says the secret is that he doesn't use flour to thicken the broth. Then there are more creative starters, like seared octopus with chorizo hash (very crispy and smoky; $16) and unusual salads, like Thumbelina carrots, breakfast radishes, beets, kumquats and avocado in a ginger yogurt sauce (fresh and bright; $12).

"We try to source everything locally," said Vacca.

Entrees include duck, pork, beef, lamb and pasta. On a recent visit, salmon was on the menu, served with a spring vegetable ragout and black truffle sauce ($24). The fish was fresh and flaky, but would have benefitted from more sauce. Another entree, dry-aged boneless New York Strip served with broccolini with raisins and pignoli nuts and duck-fat potatoes ($39), was outstanding. Next time I plan on trying the pork porterhouse with grits, cheddar cheese, shrimp, capers and onion rings ($25).

Although I definitely have a sweet tooth, I often find restaurant desserts disappointing. Here, though, I would go back solely for the flourless chocolate torte with butterscotch, sea salt and vanilla gelato ($8). I've had countless flourless tortes, but this one was spectacular. The cake was moist and dense without being cloying and the sea salt gave it a necessary contrast.

323 is the kind of place where you can go for any occasion. It's special enough for a celebration, but comfortable enough for those nights when you just don't feel like cooking. The restaurant is open for lunch and Sunday brunch, and offers a children's menu. "Everyone here is really passionate about honest food," said Vacca. "We like to keep it simple and fresh."

THE SCOOP

323 Main

323 Main St., Westport (corner of Canal Street)

203-222-0323S

www.323westport.com