Restaurant review

Tailor is a warm and slightly torn postcard from Europe

Here’s a little cafe in Krakow’s Old Town: its neat tables spill out onto the street, waiters in starched aprons bustling with bottles of wine, and exhausted dishes are wiped off the chalkboard menu. I stayed there for an entire afternoon several years ago, sipping coffee and Zubrówka. I don’t remember the name of the place and I only remember part of what I ate, but I can remember exactly how I felt, like I had been going there for years .

Photograph by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden.

For many old-school European cafes, the food isn’t revolutionary. The magic lies in the unmistakable comfort of these spaces: Sitting in one of the worn out seats, feeling the weight of tarnished antique silver in your hand, leaning across the aisle to knock your glass of wine in a happy greeting with that of your neighbor. This is the atmosphere sought by Tailleur. Heather White and Amante Domingo quietly opened the split-level restaurant across from Transit Coffee in Westport over Labor Day weekend.

Tailor seems to have materialized out of nowhere, even though it’s been a long road. White and Domingo planned it for eighteen months during the pandemic. They painstakingly renovated the 1928 building, painting the walls a rich navy blue, laying hexagonal tiles, and hanging warm brass chandeliers from the domed ceiling. The decor pays homage to White’s past as a horseback rider: Oil paintings of hunting scenes hang on the walls, interspersed with gilded mirrors, and the second-floor dining room features handsome Victorian sofas and cowhide rugs. The details are precise and intimate down to the black sequined show jacket hanging from a hook and the riding boots propped up the stairs, as if Ralph Lauren himself had just arrived home.

I have heard people refer to Tailleur as a French bistro. They are inspired by the name, French spelling of Taylor, the sister restaurant of the Russell on Main and the second culinary children of White and Domingo. People also wink at Domingo’s menu, which focuses on classics like steak and fries, mussels, and steak tartare. White maintains that the restaurant is continental European and the menu will change seasonally. The classics are well done here. Domingo’s food is rustic and sometimes old-fashioned, but in a calming way, like an endearing parent who always decorates with place mats. Domingo is at its best when it comes to large chunks of meat.

The rack of lamb is rubbed in an abundance of garlic and thyme, roasted to a perfect degree of rare and finished with a cheerful demi-glace that accentuates the robust, earthy protein. You’ll enjoy savoring the last juices of this dish in the polenta cake buried under the lamb, but the surprise scene stealer is the mountain of crispy Brussels sprouts with wispy little leaves that are as snackable as French fries. A huge pork knuckle is slowly braised in bold red wines that you’d be proud to serve at a dinner party, and you hardly need a fork to separate it from the bone – a stern look will do the trick. case.

Either of these entrees is a great backup choice if the kitchen is short of duck. Here, where you might expect an orange duck, Domingo delivers a pan-fried duck breast confit that he glazed in a pomegranate and lavender reduction. He checks every box: crunchy skin that could peel off the tender pink flesh, a balance of sweet and tangy against the vigorous fat of the duck, a pool of lentils and chunks of sweet potato that prolong those flavors.

The salmon fillet would benefit from more salt, but it has a wonderfully crispy exterior and flakes beautifully, revealing peach flesh that has been cooked with precision. The mussels in the sea are a delicacy. There’s nothing secret about the sauce – it’s standard white wine, butter, and garlic, plus a carrier of dried herb spices – but it’s a good example of cooking. honest and proven team on which Tailleur relies. Order a side of the house baguette, one of the smoothest and spongiest I’ve ever seen, and be sure to mop up every drop of that golden broth.

Photograph by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden.

Likewise, the steak tartare is exactly what you want it to be, a tenderloin rolled with capers and Dijon mustard and finished with a chicken yolk and a crispy onion ring. Looks like it has been transported from the Gallic countryside to your table.

“You’re never going to see foam or anything gastro on anything we do,” White says, “and there’s no box opening here. It’s important that things are highlighted. by their natural element.

“Sometimes Domingo’s tackle goes from sentimental to disappointing. I take umbrage with most of the purely decorative garnishes, and over half of the plates I ordered have arrived somewhere with a big square of purple radicchio or a sprig of thyme or rosemary. The risotto was the worst offender: in addition to the inexplicable radicchio, the rice, mixed with nice pieces of lobster and served with seared good-sized scallops, was covered in handfuls full of stripped arugula. At the end of every meal at Tailleur, I felt like I had wasted an entire salad.

There are other complaints. The bun on the burger wasn’t quite right – it collapsed in my hands. The fries, which should have been easy to win, were pale and dull. And when the shrimp cocktail arrived, it was with the cocktail sauce smeared on the plate (next to the thyme) and the shrimp themselves wrapped in a tumbler (with radicchio).

If you’re willing to ignore these little sins, Tailor is well worth the advance planning needed to secure a reservation (just one month after opening, and without an online reservation system, it’s nearly impossible to get in on a Friday or Saturday. without a week notice). Like a real bistro, the portions are generous and the prices are moderate (starters range from $ 15 to $ 31). And White, who runs the dessert program, makes sure things end on the right note.

Photograph by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden.

The carrot cake has twenty-four ingredients – no raisins, however – and is finished with an irresistibly tangy cream cheese frosting. I savored every spoonful of chocolate cream jar and wondered how the warm bread pudding, made from yesterday’s bread soaked in custard and covered in maple syrup, was gone so quickly .

There’s no need to agonize over your dessert choices – pick three for twenty dollars and get all the cake you want. (Skip the flourless chocolate pie.)

Soon, Tailleur will complete its fine wine list with a cocktail service at the table. Waiters will roll an antique drinks cart from table to table, making cocktails to order. (There is no bar and therefore no bartender.) White plans to introduce a monthly tea service, with frilly pastries served on china for special occasions. And that divine jar of cream will turn into a common chocolate pudding: in a lifted motion from one of his favorite restaurants in his hometown of Vancouver, White wants to wander the dining room enjoying some festive mousse for that the guests enjoy an afternoon coffee dinner.

European cafes never go out of style. Part of their charm is that they never tried to be stylish in the first place.

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