The high-rise offices and apartment buildings, and the bars and restaurants in the Harbor Point Road area near Stamford’s waterfront, have seemingly sprung up overnight. But the development has been in the making since 2009, transforming a once-blighted neighborhood into an upscale destination.
Sign of the Whale, a restaurant opened in August 2014, can be found in this new domain.
“People love to have a drink somewhere, then hop around nearby for dinner or dessert,” said the restaurant’s general manager, A.J. Polizzi, in a phone interview after my visits. “It’s often part of the dining experience — and fun.”
While the restaurant’s space is large — with 120 seats on street level, and almost 80 more up in its rooftop beer garden — the dinner menu is relatively compact. It consists of 11 starters, nine soups and salads, three tacos, four burgers and one sandwich, five pizzas, and 10 entrees.
Perhaps we made the right choices from the slightly abridged menu, but my threesome found lunch a better experience than dinner.
We began with piping hot crispy calamari, which had a snappy rémoulade and was tasty, despite an absence of legs.
Chunky sushi-like ahi tuna, marinated in soy and embedded on creamy avocado, was adequate. But, like several other items whose reality differed from its menu-listed ingredients, the fish was missing its promised capers, wasabi, ginger and apple slaw.
One lunch entree, the lobster and crab ravioli (flavor-rich, but with minimal minced seafood), was enveloped by a luscious pancetta cream sauce.
Black Mission fig and prosciutto pizza — a surprisingly winsome combo with bleu cheese, Gruyère and caramelized Vidalia onions as well — had a thin crust and a great flavor.
The “Whale Burger” was of Melvillian proportions, topped with melted Gruyère, applewood smoked bacon and even a fried egg, all tottering on an English muffin. The menu described the burger as “porchetta-dusted” and topped with a “truffle spread,” yet evidence was scant. A mountain of deliciously crunchy French fries accompanied the burger.
On another visit, we began dinner with the chipotle barbecue beef empanadas, which benefited from a zingy Argentine chimichurri sauce. We also enjoyed an abundant house salad to start, with a goodly variety of baby greens and a sherry thyme vinaigrette. The crab cakes, with a saffron rémoulade, were a bit too mealy.
We liked the pan-roasted Atlantic salmon served just beyond rare in a tangy lemon white wine sauce, with couscous and a layer of haricot verts spread over the top. The green beans were an unannounced substitute for menu-mentioned asparagus.
Seafood cavatelli was another winner, offering calamari, shrimp and clams in shells in a tomato-tinged lobster cream sauce, but sans the capers the menu called for.
Despite the success of our fig and prosciutto pizza at lunch, our white-clam pizza at dinner had a too-thick, tough crust.
The desserts are more geared to a kiddie clientele, with s’mores, an ice cream sandwich, a root beer float, seasonal sorbets and a “Celebration Sundae” (at $25) as the only options.
We tried only the s’mores, which, for our adult palates at least, were suffocatingly sugary, abetted by sweet melted milk chocolate. On another visit, I might opt for a refreshing raspberry or lemon sorbet.
Sign of the Whale is evidently a hangout for watching big-time ball games. This makes it a favorite with sports fans and those loving a zesty snack or “plate” any time of day or evening.
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