I had the best seat in the house. To my right, through the expansive small-paned window, I could watch people roam up and down busy Forest Street in New Canaan. To my left, I had a clear view of Chef Robert Ubaldo and his crew on the cooking line as pans sizzled and steamed, sending up an occasional ball of flame.
Ubaldo has manned the stoves at his popular restaurant, Farmer’s Table in New Canaan since 2010 – first across the way and now at 12 Forest Street. For twelve years he has built up a loyal following of locals based on simple, good food at a fair price.
Forest Street is the closest thing to a restaurant row in eatery-dense New Canaan. No less than nine
restaurants – full service to diner; American, Japanese or Italian; places to spend an evening or just grab a gelato – line the short one-way street. Most of them, like Farmer’s Table, have been there for years.
Ubaldo’s extensive menu is a highly personal mix of bistro fare, original creations and menu surprises. Hanger steak and tacos are listed along with stir fry lo mein and shrimp mojo. There’s some unexpected eating adventure here.
With our dinner companions, Linda and David, we were able to make a broad survey of the menu.
I had to have the Mushrooms & Haze ($15.95). Savory sautéed mushrooms dotted with melting goat cheese came with grilled bread. There was plenty to share around the table.
The generous Beet Salad ($12.95) with diced golden beets and lime vinaigrette was tossed with toasted walnuts, fresh herbs, and goat cheese. We all enjoyed a taste.
Jerk Chicken was Linda’s choice for grilled-tortilla tacos ($19.95) with guacamole, pico de gallo and tomatillo sauce. Marsha’s Sesame Crusted Tuna Salad ($26.95) included sushi-grade yellowfin cooked rare, and a heap of greens with lots of avocado and hearts of palm tossed with lime dressing.
David and I both found the shrimp appealing. His Shrimp Mojo ($28.95) featured plump shrimp sautéed with tropical, garlic-lime mojo sauce.
A full page of daily specials included Spring Pasta ($27.95), a colorful mix of shrimp, finely-diced, pan roasted cauliflower, peas, and basil all tossed with fresh pappardelle and dusted with parmesan cheese.
Portions are generous, not leaving much room for dessert. A shared Key Lime Pie with blueberry compote ($7.95) disappeared quickly.
The cozy interior is decorated with farm antiques, a display of fresh-baked loaves and colorful photos of farm scenes. The service team is friendly, knowledgeable, and quick to respond. Most tables are to the left as you enter, but my favored seat was to the right.
Ubaldo is actually the farmer of Farmer’s Table. He has a big garden that supplies much of the restaurant’s produce in season. In addition, he uses local farms from the Hudson Valley and Long Island for meat, cheese, and produce whenever he can.
Some of the major restaurant supply companies are seeking out small, local producers in the region, he told me. They’re bringing their products to him, expanding the number of farmers at his table.
Ubaldo shared some of the challenges that face restaurants these days. Coming off the worst of the pandemic, customers are eating out again, but restaurants are facing unprecedented cost increases for food, energy, and labor. A box of limes that cost $35 last year is now fetching $140 to $160, he told me.
It’s a different, but no less difficult, situation than last year. Ubaldo has his fingers crossed that the weather will be good, costs will stabilize, and people will keep eating out as we head into summer.
From my dinner table, I could see customers greet Ubaldo as he cooked. It’s clear that he has built a community around Farmer’s Table who can count on him to be at the stove and his partner at the door every night.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.