Spot-On Cooking at The Shipwright’s Daughter in Mystic

MYSTIC — The kitchen was in a groove on a recent Thursday night turning out dish after dish — small and large, across a tightly-woven menu — spot-on.

Roast chicken, potatoes, salt, jus, baby lettuce. Roasted maitake mushroom, cashew cream, spicy oil, garlic and ginger chips. A crudo of Stonington scallops. Smoked clam dip and Old Bay chips.

It’s the sort of spare, unassuming cooking that reflects confidence in quality ingredients and technique – “convivial cooking,” as the chef David Standridge explained it to me — not cold.

The other night he brought his family to eat – and along with a number of small dishes to share and plates of pasta – deviled eggs, fried oysters, bucatini with Pioppino mushrooms, sherry, mushroom cream – Standridge had the hamburger. 

He traces his roast chicken back to his time in the kitchen at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon where until 2012 he was sous chef. But when you taste Standridge’s food you can also feel the time spent executing a health-conscious menu at Café Clover in the West Village and at Market Table, where his food pulled together global cuisines and the whole-hog cookery of the American South.

On Thursday, the maitake mushroom, sourced locally from Seacoast Mushrooms in Stonington, was a standout dish – all about the umami (not at all a bomb) and the pleasant chew of the mushroom. It was vegan.  A dish, Standridge said, that had “evolved,” as part of the cooking process in a professional kitchen. The hot oil was left over from another prior Cuban-inspired dish. The recipes put together quickly within the constraints of running a restaurant.

The cooking feels tailor-made to the tastes of well-heeled locals who know good food, but mostly aren’t wanting, or willing to pay for, a New York scene in Connecticut. Standridge explained that he wants The Shipwright’s Daughter to be a kind of place where he’d like to eat or have a drink. A menu that offers opportunities for a small bite at the bar or the chance to improvise a tasting menu in the dining room. At that I think he has succeeded.

On our way to a corner booth in the back dining room, we passed through a lively, not loud, bar scene. A few dressed-up women sat comfortably drinking at the bar. Everything properly socially-distanced and masked where necessary, but otherwise normal.  I hope they had ordered the clam dip.

All that said, dinner had a few hiccups – an awkward wine service, the cocktail specials were over-large and perhaps better suited to a porch or to a leisurely Happy Hour than to spark appetite or dinner. And I regret not taking the opportunity to choose from an interesting selection of the wines by the glass. Instead, we skipped right to the selection of bottles, and were happy to find a modest earthy bottle of Evolúció Blaufränkisch that paired nicely with the dishes.

The profiteroles, the only real misstep on the night we tried them, were not at all good – the pâte à choux bread-like and neither light nor crisp. But these are minor points among a dozen or so dishes all well thought out and executed by the staff. Dinner was really very good and very reasonable.

It’s clear that in the state, The Shipwright’s Daughter is a restaurant to watch.

Photos courtesy of The Shipwright’s Daughter

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