Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 15, "The Watch Factory Restaurant" (Cheshire, CT) (Restaurant Review)

By James V. Ruocco

When it comes to Austrian cuisine, there are many shades of tastes and flavors that immediately spring to mind. The dishes themselves, of course, are delicious, filling, satisfying and easily enjoyable. But they can be as decidedly different as the geography of Austria itself, its many cities, regions and provinces. It's all a matter of the menu, the recipes, both new, old and traditional and the culinary skills of the actual chef who prepares them.

And therein, lies the fun, especially if you have a penchant for "all things Austrian" and are willing to indulge in its many dishes, ranging  from wiener schnitzel and kasnocken to gulasch,  fleischknodel,  rindsrouladen and bierfleisch.

Again, it's all a matter of taste, preference and how much you're willing to spend.

One my favorite places to dine is The Watch Factory Restaurant (122 Elm St. Cheshire, CT). Here, you will find a broken-in lineup of Austrian food, a smattering of German dishes and some choice American standards. The food itself is exceptional, exciting, full-flavored and so lovingly prepared, a round of seconds is not entirely out of the question. Nor is a well-stocked bag or two of "take away."
You can also happily build a lunch or dinner entirely of two or three starters. Or simply pick an entrée with a starter on the side. No small talk....Just select and order.

The restaurant, located in an old, nicely restored factory building, offers a fine selection of starters: shrimp and artichoke crepes, homemade soups, a gruyere cheese spaetzle and onion confit, scallop mousse in herbed cream, zucchini and gorgonzola puff pastries, marinated beets and gorgonzola, mussels in mustard cream and mesclun greens with different options for dressings.
For entrees, there are many different choices: pork chops with roasted peppers, atlantic sole with lemon sauce, trout with capers and brown butter, top sirloin with a shallot confit,  black pearl salmon with tomato herbed cream, duck breast with seasonal fruits and wine sauce, bratwurst with white wine mustard sauce, rack of lamb with red wine and parsley, chicken breast with a mushroom red wine sauce and roasted monkfish in garlic cream. There's also the traditional wiener schnitzel and jager schnitzel.

Lemon mousse, black forest cherry roulade, chocolate mousse, sacher schnitte with raspberry sauce, cheesecake apple strudel comprise the dessert menu.
Mostly everything is made in house, which, in turn, accounts for a unique and very different dining experience. You may have to wait a minute or two longer, but trust me, what comes out of the kitchen and lands on your table, comes from the heart.

A shrimp and artichoke crepe, for example, overflows with diverse, traditional flavors, that you savor with every bite. The filling, a divine and creamy mix of sautéed shrimp and artichokes, is light and airy rather than overstuffed and side-splitting. It is folded simply and nicely, according to the crepe handbook, and contains a perfect blend of eggs, milk, flour and salt. It's a dish that simply melts in your mouth in ways that are entirely comforting.

The idea of mussels in mustard cream, at first, sounds a bit daunting. In general, mussels are a flavorful seafood concoction cooked in dry white wine and combined with oil, garlic, shallots and salt. However, one bite or two into this decidedly wicked shellfish dish and all thoughts of traditional mussels dishes quickly fade from memory.

I've had plenty of schnitzel's in my day (chicken, pork, veal). In fact, every time my dad and mom were in the mood for something Austrian, we'd place a family order for schnitzel with red cabbage on the side. I remember polishing off every single morsel off the plate. And most often, my dad would ask the waiter for schnitzel "take away."

The Watch Factory Restaurant brought back that wonderful state of bliss with a heaping portion of veal jager schnitzel, accompanied by a sweet, deliciously prepared, pickled red cabbage. The entire dish was heavenly with plenty of savory bite and crispness. It was cooked to perfection with an exact blend of spices, flour for dredging, butter, olive oil, jager and veal stock.  My parents would have loved it and so would my grandmother.

Another wonderful dish is the black pearl salmon drenched in a mouth-watering, to-die-for tomato herbed cream.  Here, it's all about the sauce and what was wonderful about it was its spicy, creamy consistency and how it heightened the taste of the already-delicious salmon.

Dessert-wise, everything on the menu is work ordering. Not all at once, of course. But during each and every visit to this establishment. Top of the list is the sacher schnitte with raspberry sauce, the cheesecake and the lemon or chocolate mousse.

The Watch Factory Restaurant is owned and operated by Chef Markus Patsch, who began working and cooking in his native Austria, South Africa and Germany. He came to the United States in the 1970's as personal chef for renowned pianist and entertainer Victor Borge.
Patsch  opened his first restaurant, the Gourmet Table in Darien, CT (it has since closed). His second, The Watch Factory Restaurant, has been running for years with its steady clientele of regulars, business class workers, students, out-of-towners and first-time visitors/soon-to-be-regulars.
This is a man who knows his food, loves and understands it, is not afraid to take chances and is often  willing to experiment or try something new. And that, in a nutshell, is what make his restaurant, so special.

One of the nicest things about The Watch Factory Restaurant is its polite, courteous and charming staff. Every one of them goes the extra distance to make sure that every customer who comes through the restaurant doors feels perfectly comfortable at all times. They answer whatever questions you may ask. They are well-versed in the Austrian, German and American cuisine at hand. They make suggestions if you're unsure about what to order for lunch or dinner. And never once, do they make your feel rushed or out of place. They are very, very welcoming, which, when you think about it, is rare nowadays. Patsch has done himself proud.

Much remains familiar and enjoyable at The Watch Factory Restaurant. Its well-crafted food that leaves a good impression and has you hankering for a return visit or booking almost immediately.   The menu, carefully prepared by Patsch, is a nice mix of creative choices that appeals to everyone. And, the restaurant delivers it well. I can't wait to return. Tomorow, perhaps.

The Watch Factory Restaurant, 122 Elm St, Cheshire, CT
(203) 271-1717.

Hours of Operation:
Sunday - Closed
Monday - Closed
Tuesday - Saturday:
Lunch: 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Dinner: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM

(A special thanks to Linda Hodson Gordona for recommending this restaurant for review) 


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