Geoff Lazlo set the bar very high when he partnered with Bill and Lesley King in launching Mill Street Bar & Table in Byram. Open just over a year, Lazlo is comfortably settled in this Greenwich hamlet. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly tweaking his recipes. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he’s fine-tuned his palate in such formidable kitchens as Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern and alongside talented chefs like Bill Taibe at The Whelk in Westport. His cuisine is sharply different from anything you may have had before, so much so, in fact, you try to figure out how Lazlo eked out a delicious dish from some very humble ingredients.
Mill Street Bar & Table
230 Mill St, Byram
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Grilled limes top a Margarita made with Chinaco Reposado tequila and agave nectar
First you have to navigate a menu that veers considerably from the appetizers/entrées/desserts sheets of yesteryear, but the patient and knowledgeable staff are a big help. There are snacks and flatbreads for sharing (absolutely order the Sunchoke Chips) and gussied-up vegetables (Lazlo is a committed farm-to-table chef —herbs under lights in the basement, produce from community garden plots and Back 40 Farm in Washington, CT, and microgreens from Greenwich Garden Center), plus pasta and fish, and wood-roasted meats. You’ll need time to make choices, so it’s best to order cocktails like the Margarita, with its smoky grilled-lime overtones, while you peruse the offerings. Chunks of warm focaccia, coco monkey bread, ciabatta, and flatbread are good nibbles while you ponder the unusual.
Like rutabaga. Lazlo poaches slices of it in milk to coax out its inherent sweetness and then layers it with a slick of grilled broccoli rabe. Molten mozzarella and Parmesan coddles the vegetables with a watercress pesto into a delicious gratin. Three varieties of radish, sliced wafer thin and cooked slowly, are dressed with chopped pistachios and arugula. Roasted carrots (there’s a fried version on the current menu) come to the table with confetti of cumin, caraway, and coriander. Beets are plated with a smear of house-made hummus, a hefty dollop of yogurt sprinkled with zesty za’atar and served with pita for scooping. Roasted cauliflower, that had been brined before cooking, is served with pine-nut butter and brightened with capers and lemon. All were excellent.
Unfortunately, the crab and corn dumplings lacked much flavor, and the meatballs had such a crispy coating that we could barely taste the pork.
Toothsome flatbreads — essentially pizza by another name — include this one with mushroom and fontina.
Flatbreads — think rectangular thinner versions of pizza dough without the charred edges — get a whole category of their own. Order the earthy mushroom rendition with fontina that melts like mozzarella or the bacon-and-potato selection that cavorts with caramelized onions (a favorite condiment at Mill Street). Each is delicious and a hearty meal in itself.
If classics are your preferred repasts, be assured there are first-rate choices, such as the roasted, juicy chicken or fish and chips. The tempura-batter coating on the fillets of hake is light and crisp, the fish almost creamy, and dewed with malt vinegar, as are the snappy french fries. This is a whimsical take on the British dish, so instead of newspaper cradling the food, you get victuals on a sheet of butcher paper.
Then there is beef Bolognese that cloaks house-made cavatelli, an Italian canon if ever there was one. One guest enjoyed the dish but another felt it tilted too sweet, with not enough discernment of beef.
Slices of roast beef on a buckwheat baguette were a misstep; the meat was well-done to the point we thought the cook had sent out brisket instead. A risotto dense with tender lobster, mussels, pumpkin, and Brussels sprouts seemed more like rice pudding in some parts of the bowl. The lamb shoulder, generous to a fault, paired with a spicy yogurt was better, and the grilled calamari shimmering with tomato marmalade and ginger aioli was outstanding. Most dishes would easily satisfy two people.
The near-80 seat restaurant’s warm, fun decor.
No skimping on the plates here, but we do wish that the bar could find a larger jigger for its “pour” — a martini had more olives than gin in the glass. The beverage list is intelligently pared, with beers outdistancing wines. (Spring for the dry white Fiano wine, a seldom-offered grape in restaurants.)
As for desserts, the carrot cake was so-so, while the ice cream/cookie sampler was decent (and cutely presented); best was the mesmerizing yogurt sorbet on a bed of pomegranate seeds and crushed pistachios skirted by a sweep of blood orange sorbet.
The restaurant is a modern version of a bistro: wooden tables, comfy seating, beverage and oyster bars, a waist-high wall of wood leading from a casual dining space to the main dining room. You’ll feel like lingering as the waiters indulge you.
Freelance writer Rosemarie T. Anner was the executive and food editor of Greenwich Magazine for 21 years.