Alliums are the foundation of cuisine—onions, leeks, scallions, garlic and chives are often the first and last ingredients a chef puts into a dish. Much like its namesake, Allium Eatery, the cozy New American and gourmet take-out in Westport, has many expressions. It transforms throughout the day, week and seasons with the fluidity needed in these ever-changing times. Café, rotisserie, buvette, take-out and fine dining are all expressions of Chef Michelle Greenfield’s New American cooking.
In the early morning, Allium, which is across from the Westport railroad station, is a café, serving coffee, espresso, tea, croissant and pastries, and the chef’s daily “soft scramble” on a croissant. At lunch, a small menu of “sandos,” “toasties,” soups and salads can be ordered at the counter for eat-in or take-out. Come 4 p.m., cut out of work early for the buvette, French for a little place for a glass of wine and a snack. Throughout the day, the take-out case offers Allium’s favorites.
With a small counter, high-topped tables, pillow-filled banquette, outdoor seating and vintage tableware, Allium is a cozy refuge at any time of day, but at dinner Chef Michelle really shows what she and her team can do. (She has been a sous-chef at Bernards, The Schoolhouse and Jesup Hall.) Allium is transformed by votive candles flickering along the window shelves. The menu changes and ingredients change with the week and the seasons, but Chef Michelle’s style shines through. She transforms vegetables into silky purées. Each dish reveals a balance of richness and bright freshness, often with a contrast of pickled vegetables. A recent entrée of venison, seared and rosy, rested on a sweet, blanket of parsnip-celeriac purée, surrounded by apple, chestnuts and bundles of braised cabbage . An entrée of seared duck breast and confit leg sat on a vivid swath of luscious carrot-ginger butter, paired with wilted greens, little French lentils and fresh blood orange.
Foie gras mousse on toast, on the snacks section of the menu, exemplifies the vegetable-forward nature of her cooking. The toast, cut into four pieces, is showered with blistered grapes, pickled fennel, thin carrot rounds, delicate rings of onions, and corn and pea shoots. It is a thing of beauty, and tastes luxurious and fresh, contrasting the juicy sweetness of the grapes and crunch of pickled vegetables with the rich mousse. A starter of Oysters Allium, revealed big beauties covered in a golden crust, and beneath the oyster, greens and a bit of prosciutto, roasted in onion butter. It was served simply with a lemon cleverly cut to be seedless.
Rotisserie chicken, that staple of Paris Sunday lunch take-out, is a backbone of all of Allium’s menus, at dinner paired with, well whatever the chef is making. It could be creamy polenta and local greens (Sport Hill Farm in Easton is the chef’s go-to). At lunch, rotisserie chicken is featured in a sandwich, and a half chicken is offered in the take-out case. Another signature dish is the Allium Dip with housemade potato chips, an upscale, yogurt-based play of the Lays and Lipton onion dip of our youths. Rich, spreadable Duck Rillettes are often on the snacks menu paired with fruit chutney and a small jar is available in the take-out case (instant upgrade to a charcuterie board).
At lunch, carrot-ginger soup was served in a charming vintage soup cup with curved handles. Bright orange, with a light, silky texture and sweet, earthy and bright flavor, each spoonful was a delight. French-style lentil salad with radicchio and chard was dressed in just the right amount of vinaigrette, and was a good sharable dish. Four sandwiches and toasts are on the daily lunch menu. Recently, they were out of the roasted pork for the sandwich but offered to substitute the rotisserie chicken. Served on a baguette, it had all the elements, rich proteins, pickled vegetables, creamy spread, fresh baby arugula. My meat-loving friend marveled at her vegetarian croissant sandwich, filled with rounds of sweet potato, blue cheese and cranberry chutney. She’d never had anything like it—and loved it.
Absolutely order dessert after lunch or dinner. We had a magical dessert of lemon curd piped over shortbread crust, dotted with little toasted Swiss meringues, and decorated with glistening pomegranate seeds and fresh mint. The apricot compote was the least successful part of the dish, having more body than flavor. The flavors and textures of the lemon curd, sweet, soft meringues, and buttery crust made that easy to overlook. To drink, the menu focuses on wine, with some local beers and ciders. We liked that they offer half bottles of wine. Cocktails are made using Estate Distillery of Bridgeport.
Allium’s schedule changes during the week, so check on Instagram @alliumeatery for the weekly Wednesday menu for Allium Eats In, a weekly take-home meal for two, with three course and dessert and for special events and wine dinners.