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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
7.4
7.5
$45
Modern
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Fri 11:30am–3:30pm
Mon–Fri 5:00pm–9:00pm
Sat 11:30am–3:30pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 3:00pm–8:00pm

Features Date-friendly, live music, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.jeffreysinmilford.com

Milford
501 New Haven Ave.
Milford, CT
(203) 878-1910
Jeffrey’s
Milford’s grande dame is back, a bit better, and more informal and lunchy

Jeffrey’s shut down briefly in 2005 to reinvent itself as more informal and approachable. The new version places more of an emphasis on lunches and bistro-style dishes. Still in its white house on a nondescript stretch of Milford, the restaurant has always been traditional to the core; it’s an elegant space with a nice view of marshland, and a gracious outdoor patio.

Still, the décor looks trapped in 1991, with its imperial white columns and hazy corporate art. Even the silverware is outdated, looking cloudy and cheap on the white linen. (That’s the seamy underbelly of “traditional.”) What’s more, the music is usually a shrieking melodrama of vocalists like Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion (which, by the way, feels totally anachronistic when you’re looking out at an Andrew Wyeth vista). They couldn’t appeal to the over-70 set any more than if Brian Dennehy were offering rides to his ageless planet, Antera.

The menu does seem to have mellowed out a bit; mains tend toward the mid-$20s, and more sandwiches are offered (many more during lunch, plus gargantuan wraps). Appetizers are pricey, but that seems appropriate given that they are so rich and involved, you won’t be able to eat much more than a salad afterwards. In one, avocado, lobster, and brie form a triumvirate of indulgent flavors; another sees lobster and butternut squash fill homemade agnolotti in what might elsewhere be a main course.

Despite the over-the-top ingredients, it’s clear that careful seasoning and balance still drive the kitchen. A salad of peppery arugula, expertly grilled calamari, and shaved pecorino is just dressed enough to let all the flavors sparkle. A clam-and-butternut soup avoids being cloying with a light and flavorful vegetable base, something we rarely see in this preparation.

But there are rampant problems with overcooking. Vegetables are limp, shriveled, and flavorless, and chicken (especially in a thin scallopine cut) is chalky. Maine crab cakes are full of finely shredded meat, and the outside is nice and crisp, but we miss the joy of crabby lumps. The Bearnaise in the dish is elegant, even if it gets lost in the shuffle.

It’s all pretty good, even if dinner prices remain too high for such unsteady execution—dramatic view and soundtrack be damned. But, if the object of Jeffrey’s revamp was to make itself more of a lunch destination, it has succeeded. Oh, and they still have that wonderful key lime tart.

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