After a 10-year run under the leadership of Chef Luis, his eponymous restaurant at 129 Elm St. has relaunched under new ownership and with a new name, look, menu and executive chef.
While ONE29 Restaurant brings a different vibe to Elm Street with an American contemporary cuisine created by Chef Joe Page, longtime customers of Chef Luis will recognize a few of their favorite dishes from the pasta and appreciate that its family-friendly atmosphere has remained intact.
When my husband, 4-year-old daughter and I walked into 129 one Saturday evening, we were promptly greeted by a cheerful hostess and directed to a table by the front window. The décor was sleek and modern with stunning crystal circular chandeliers that added just the right touch of elegance, yet the atmosphere remained warm and relaxing. A dark wooden wine rack covers the back wall and surrounds the entryway leading to the restrooms and a rotating collection of art available for purchase at New Canaan’s Sorelle Art Gallery adorned the walls.
Shortly after taking our seats, our server brought us a basket of tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa on the side—a familiar sight from old menu and a welcome surprise for my daughter who doesn’t like to wait very long for any type of food to hit the table. The guacamole was a little smooth for my personal taste, but it had just the right touch of cilantro, and the salsa had a subtle kick that wasn’t too spicy for my little one to enjoy.
General Manager Sergio Tamburlini greeted us a few moments later as I was looking at the wine menu. It’s a wide-ranging list to choose from, with bottles ranging from $38 to $120.
After inquiring about my personal taste, Tamburlini guaranteed that his choice would even impress my husband, who isn’t much of a wine drinker at all. He brought us a bottle of 2015 Vincent Girardin Santenay Les Gravieres ($75), a medium-bodied Pinot Noir with a vibrant flavor and a lingering berry finish. It was by the far best red wine I’ve had in a while and even my husband was impressed. Because he was the designated driver, though, I was able to have this superb bottle of wine all to myself.
For our appetizer, we chose the calamari, which is either served crispy with chili and lime or with a chorizo sauce.
Our server recommended the latter and she was spot-on: the tomato sauce covering the tender calamari was rich and flavorful, and the bits of chorizo throughout added a smoky kick. Our family mostly follows a pescatarian diet, but we felt no guilt about choosing this dish.
Other highlights from the “Snacks & Bites” menu include tuna tartare with peppers, avocado, capers and wonton crisps ($14), red Thai mussels with lemongrass, ginger and coconut milk ($14), and fried chicken wings made with spicy buttermilk, paprika, and cayenne pepper ($10).
And since we were already cheating on our diet, we ordered the churrasco steak ($32)—another Chef Luis favorite—to start off the main course. The steak was cooked perfectly to our liking (“medium”) and was topped with an insanely fresh chimichurri sauce. The mildly-flavored black beans, Spanish rice, and mixed green salad complimented the steak nicely, although I realized after we left that, according to the menu, avocado should have also accompanied the dish. I’m sure my husband didn’t mind, though, since I’m a much bigger avocado fan than he is.
The steak can be found on the “From the Land” section of the menu along with chicken paillard with avocado and mozzarella ($20), Veal Milanese with arugula and tomatoes ($26), and grilled pork chops with a parmesan crust and cremini mushrooms ($30).
Perhaps because a hint of guilt started settling in, we next chose the king salmon ($26), which was our server’s favorite choice on the “From the Sea” section of the menu. The salmon was grilled to perfection, but I enjoyed it slightly less than the steak because I would have preferred a sauce to accompany the teriyaki glaze. Plus, the basmati rice underneath was slightly crunchy. The sautéed greens and grilled pineapple, however, were fresh and delicious.
Other “From the Sea” dishes include swordfish fillet with lemon, mint, basil and ratatouille ($28), tuna steak with avocado, wasabi potatoes, and soy ginger sauce ($28), and shrimp Valencia with chorizo, clams, and bomba rice ($28).
My little one selected spaghetti with butter ($10) from the kid’s menu for her main course. She nodded enthusiastically when I asked her what she thought. She then finished half of the bowl (she might have finished it all if she hadn’t eaten dinner at home a couple of hours earlier) and then made herself comfortable on my lap for a nap. That’s probably the best compliment a night owl her age can offer.
Because I’m a huge pasta lover, I couldn’t resist sampling the wild mushroom ravioli ($18) featured on the “From the Garden” section of the menu, which also features vegan options such as tempura green beans ($14), a veggie burger ($10) and spaghetti Modenese ($18). The ravioli was stuffed with local mushrooms and topped with a truffle butter sauce and grilled chard. The pasta was slightly overcooked and the sauce was bit heavy for my taste, but the combination of savory, herbal, and bitter flavors worked well together.
Tamburlini informed us the desserts on the menu aren’t made in-house just yet, but we were happy to see some of our favorites. I’m a huge fan of tres leches cake, a butter cake soaked in three kinds of milk and topped with whipped cream or frosting. This version was drizzled with raspberry sauce and served with a scoop of a vanilla gelato. The cake was light, moist and spongy, and the gelato was smooth and creamy, which made it a nice ending to the meal. The runny chip cake, which was like a lava cake version of a chocolate chip cookie, was also quite satisfying.
I’m looking forward to returning to ONE29 soon, particularly with my preteen who is both a pescatarian and a pickier eater than the rest of the family.
She’ll most certainly devour the shrimp tacos ($7), the Caesar salad ($14) and the fettucine with lobster and shrimp ($26). 129 will also be a lovely place to dine al fresco with my girlfriends once the warm weather makes its long-awaited appearance and the restaurant’s live music line-up launches at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 20 with popular local band Mind The Gap.
Lunch and dinner, seven days per week. Reservations accepted.