A downtown-chic setting and farm-to-table menu pair beautifully here under the guidance of chef Brian Lewis, who was formerly the chef at the Bedford Post Inn. There are a few sidewalk tables on New Cannan’s pretty main street, perfect for people watching. But inside, the decor is urban and refined — coffee-colored leather chairs, dark wood tables, a comfortable banquette — and the simplicity of the room allows you to concentrate fully on Lewis’ complex dishes, which embody the essence of the season. A dish straight from his garden included green beans with a light tempura, nasturtiums and pickled fiddleheads; his lobster and burrata salad was strewn with delicate little lettuces and paper-thin slices of peppery radishes. Dinner here can be leisurely and long, or a few small plates at the bar — impressive in stature and in its selection — will give you a good feel for the menu without a big commitment.
Why it’s worth the drive: Each plate is a piece of art that color, texture and temperature all play a part in creating. Farm-to-table cooking here doesn’t mean simple: there are rarely fewer than 5 or 6 components to each dish, often arranged with scientific precision. (It’s a sure bet that tweezers are employed in the kitchen.) . It doesn’t work all the time — too much of a good thing, perhaps — but when it does, it’s a joy to behold and even more fun to eat. Lewis, who grew up in Somers and worked his way up the line in the kitchen at the former Mona Trattoria, definitely learned a reverence for food early, and he honed his skills cooking with the legendary French chef Jean Louis Palladin at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. and at well-know restaurants like Lutece, The Sign of the Dove and Oceana. Somehow, this all shows on the plate.
What to order: Pastas are brilliant. But they’re not light: the English Pea Sacchetti has little purses of pea puree and swims in a rich brown butter sauce; decadent foie gras cappelletti has morels, drunken prunes, sherry and the perfect foil of crunch from thin slivers of almonds. Luckily, all pastas can be ordered in appetizers sizes. Crunchy yellowfin tuna is set upon a sunchoke puree and gets a slick sweetness from soy-caramel sauce. For a fancy take on meat-and-potatoes, don’t miss the excellent 28-day aged prime rib beef eye with spinach, porcini confit and fun little squares of crispy polenta.
While you’re there: Tourists come for miles to tour The Glass House, architect Philip Johnson’s masterpiece of modern architecture in the Connecticut woods, a National Trust Historic Site on 49-acres. Reservations are highly recommended: www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org.
Insider tip: Sunday Supper is a $35 prix-fixe menu ($15 for children) that includes three-courses: a salad, main course and dessert.
Details: 73 Elm St., New Canaan, Conn., 203-920-4994; elmrestaurant.com.
— Liz Johnson