If you haven’t eaten at Chillingsworth, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have, you know that the 55-year-old restaurant on Route 6A in Brewster has a reputation all its own.
Chillingsworth stakes that reputation on meticulously prepared, French-inspired cuisine. Its heartbeat is a seven-course prix fixe menu that changes every day ($66-$72.50 per person), incorporating ingredients that range from foie gras to guacamole. It is an exotic menu in the land of fish and chips, one that evidences the Le Cordon Bleu education of chef and owner Robert “Nitzi” Rabin, as well as a creativity that could only be honed through decades in a kitchen.
Situated on a 323-year-old estate, the restaurant’s seating arrangements fits into the rambling old-fashioned home rather than the other way around: guests are dispersed throughout antique-laden rooms sized to fit one to 15 tables. After the wait staff escorted my guest and I from the bar just after our 7 p.m. reservation, it became clear that the main dining room was a portal to a different world. Gravitas swirled everywhere: waiters expounding upon the menu to a legion of suit-jacketed men, a spouse ordered a $350 bottle of Cristal, and a couple carried on a conversation whose transcript would surely be riddled with les accents circonflexes.
We poured glasses of Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc and tucked into our first course. I ate my Black and White Truffle Mac & Cheese in half spoonfuls, while my guest’s eyes and mouth lit up in between bites of spicy grilled shrimp, served in avocado guacamole and tomato salsa. As we sipped bowls of Creole Lobster Bisque and Chilled Melon Soup, the sunset that had illuminated the day lilies in the courtyard and the rest of the six-acre estate began to settle into a sky colored plum and peach. Plates of mixed green salad dressed in red wine vinaigrette gave way to a lemon-lime mint sorbet. This marked the end of anticipation and the start of the main attraction.
My Baked Basil Encrusted Salmon arrived as a verdant filet piled atop roasted potato medallions, peas, and tomatoes in a swirl of pesto sauce—hyperbole aside, it was the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten. My guest talked about her Warm Lobster—a smoky, one-and-a-quarter-pound crustacean served over spinach swimming in lobster butter—days after she finished.
Eating dessert was a delicious conclusion. I took alternating bites from each dish of my Crème Brulee Trio, while my guest savored the Mango Gratin, one of a handful of desserts that must be ordered at the outset of the meal to ensure proper preparation.
Just this season, Chillingsworth unfurled an á la carte menu, bypassing the full seven-course affair. Chills Bistro, attached to the bar, provides a menu catered to flip-flop wearers and families at more modest prices. The bar offers its own small plates menu. That these are all found under the same roof (if not in the same kitchen) is something of a paradox. But no matter how you choose to experience Chillingsworth, know that a visit isn’t a prelude to something else or an afterthought. It is a night out—a night out unlike any other.
–– Jeff Harder