Joel Viehland Resurfaces At Swyft In Kent, Conn.
Joel Viehland. Photo by Evan Sung.
By CB Wismar
For those of us who develop attachments to our local (usually renowned) chefs and make it a practice to keep up on their whereabouts, there’s good news. Joel Viehland, who conceived the award-winning Community Table in Washington, Conn. and left it a few years ago, has landed at Swyft, which he opened recently in Kent.
Located at the corner of Main and Maple Streets, Swyft is the casual half of a duo restaurant combination that will be completed in the summer of 2018 when Ore Hill, the formal half, opens in the totally renovated Swift-Bull House.
The gourmet vision of internationally celebrated, James Beard Award-nominated chef Joel Viehland will benefit from Viehland’s impressive credentials garnered over a career that spans Noma in Copenhagen, the Gramercy Tavern in New York, Herbsaint and Bayona in New Orleans and, of course, Community Table in Washington (which appears to be coming back to life soon under new management).
“I’m really excited to build upon some of the regional themes I was exploring at my previous restaurant and bring a rustic but elevated experience to diners in Kent,” Chef Viehland said.
Photo by Evan Sung
Both restaurants will take advantage of the excellent resources of local farms. The Swyft menu appears simple enough, but the chef’s attention to the detail is apparent with every dish.
Clearly, the signature dish at Swyft is the Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. There are four “red” pies on the menu and three “white” pies. Prices range from $14 to $17, depending on toppings. Toppings, sourced at nearby Rock Cobble Farm, will change with the seasons.
The Al Diavolo red pizza ($17) has a refreshing snap to it, balanced by a hint of sweetness supplied by a touch of hot honey. The translation of the Italian may approximate “to the devil,” but the pizza is heavenly.
For all the pizzas, which are baked to perfection in a Pavesi oven that Viehland imported from Naples, the underlying crust is truly worth noting. Elsewhere on the menu, in the “small plates” section, there also is an offering of naan, the puffy Indian bread that is served hot out of the oven. The pizza dough — created from the chef’s 30-year-old “Sour Girl” dough starter — enjoys the puffy texture of naan, topped by such ingredients as house-made mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, stracciatella cheese, pecorino, pancetta and sweet peppers.
Photo by Evan Sung
Further into the small plates section, Maine mussels in a tomato broth ($16, or $18 with fries), baby back pork ribs with a magical guanciale xo sauce ($15), and Parmesan gnocchi with leeks and dried tomato ($17) are standouts.
If full entrees are your preferred fare, then you may have to travel far to match Swyft’s rabbit Milanese ($25) or the stalwart of southern Italian menus, pasta Bolognese made with hand-cut pappardelle, beef, pork, veal and San Marzano ($21).
As we have noted in previous reviews, a fine measure of a new restaurant is how they treat the humble, yet important hamburger. The Swyft Burger boasts fontina cheese and basil aioli and comes with “old school fries.” At $17, it’s well worth ordering and was cooked to absolute perfection as directed to the server.
The staff at Swyft seems as young as the restaurant, but that is a very good thing. They are enthusiastic about the offerings, responsive to the guests and knowledgeable about the chef’s intentions as well as the ingredients. They’ve mastered the wine and beer offerings (which change from time to time) and can readily explain the choices of the whiskies, rums, tequilas, scotches and gins offered from the ample bar.
Incidentally, if you’ve left room for dessert, the citrus cake with yogurt and calamansi ($10) is elegant, as is the flourless chocolate cake with hazelnuts, mountain mint and crème fraiche ($11).
The entrance to Swyft is a modest garden gate on the Main Street side of the building. Signage is in keeping with the understated rustic elegance of the building restoration. Care has been taken to preserve many of the 18th–century features, including the hand-hewn beams and the fireplaces.
3 Maple St., Kent, CT
Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30–10 p.m.
Reservations are encouraged.