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Abalone in Stratford (a review)

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I think I've found a gem of a French bistro in Stratford masquerading as a Mediterranean restaurant. Abalone is located in the most unlikely place you can imagine, on Main St. on the east side of Sikorsky Airport hiding behind a Shell station.

A French restaurant will never fly in blue collar Stratford (remember Plouf! ?), so the French chef/owner has kept a familiar Italian/pizza menu for the unadventurous and spiked it with country French standards using their English titles so as not to put off potential diners.

The two of us started with Roquefort salads, assorted greens lightly dressed with a vinaigrette and topped with a 1/4" slab of the finest Roquefort cheese I've ever had (not that you run into it all that often). We followed it by sharing a foie gras plate from the mallard duck specials menu which was probably intended to be an entree, but we treated it as an appetizer. Two large scallop-sized pieces of seared foie gras were accompanied by some poached apple slices, blueberry compote and two complimentary glasses of late harvest pinot gris (instead of the usual sauterne). We used the crusty slices of a baguette to offset the rich, silky creaminess of the foie gras. All-in-all, a very generous portion, so I didn't regret having to share it for once.

We followed this with our entrees. I ordered a veal Normandy, slices of veal covered with mushrooms in a cream sauce, plated with haricot verts (not just green beans), baby carrots and a couple small diamonds of polenta. My companion ordered duck orange, a breast and leg of duck gently coated with an orange sauce and paired with scalloped potatoes and more perfectly cut and arranged haricot verts.

From the short dessert menu we decided to split a tart tatin, made more country style than the usual thinly sliced apple preparation. This was thicker slices of stewed apple on a very thin, almost invisible pastry crust with a little caramel sauce and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We each has a glass of a very nice French Chardonnay to sip throughout the meal, and my companion ended her meal with a cup of French-press decaf.

As we were leaving, we noticed a cooler case in front of the kitchen stocked with at least a score of different French cheeses, and another case near the entrance with assorted pastries. The owner also runs a catering business out of the same location, which probably explains how he's able to keep the restaurant going at the *very* reasonable (dare I say cheap?) prices he's asking. He devotes an entire menu page to his concept of "slow food" using only quality ingredients. If you go, you really need to order some form of starter because most of the entrees do take a while to prepare from scratch.

The front dining space is pleasant but nothing special, the walls decorated with what look like B&W family photos (but not his family). There's a large back room for larger functions, and the bathrooms are currently undergoing renovations but are otherwise clean and presentable.

If you're coming from the south/west, take the Lordship Blvd exit from I-95, follow it for about a mile past all the hotels, and then when you see the sign where route 113 curves toward the right at the fork in the road (ha!), continue straight ahead on Access Rd until it ends, T-ing into Main St. Take a right, south on Main for a few hundred feet and you'll see the sign for Abalone, immediately beyond the Shell gas station on your right. The building is in the back with a partially lit neon "Resta[rant]" sign visible from the street.

If you're coming from the north/east, take the West Broad St exit from I-95, follow it south where it merges into Main St, and continue south past the Duchess restaurant on your right, where Access Rd intersects from the right.

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Abalone Cafe & Restaurant
595 Main St, Stratford, CT

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