Humbly billing itself as an oyster bar/bistro, Ten Twenty Post, located on the main drag in quaint, downtown Darien, is actually a good bit more. Just steps from the Metro North station, the space is a welcome combination of commuter-town friendly and upscale casual. It makes sense, given who the locals are.
In addition to lots of raw bar options, the regular menu offers thoughtful tweaks on bistro classics. Duck confit comes with a grainy mustard crème fraîche. Salmon is the main ingredient in the "B"LT. Moules of the P.E.I. variety can be had with fried capers. There is lobster mac & cheese, a molting deep dish of luscious, buttery chunks oozingly buried in white cheddar. There are "healthier" options, such as simply grilled fish, salads, etc., but sometimes you just gotta eat right.
My only complaint is that the menu headings are in French, which would be fine if Darien were, in fact, in France. To me, seeing a section titled "Nouvelle Angleterre" is just too precious, particularly when the English translation follows immediately après in parens. Either make us learn rudimentary menu French, or don't, but having it both ways is silly.
However, there are at least two things about this place that FAR outweigh any quibbles. First, and for most, foremost, the front of the house is absolutely among the warmest and most sincere I've run across in travels with my now five-year-old twins. Not only are kids seen at Ten Twenty Post, it's more than OK for them to be heard as well. They don't just give you crayons and hope the kids behave; the wait staff seems to genuinely like having the wee ones around. That attitude ensures that the big people can sit back and really enjoy what is a very good restaurant that puts out very well-prepared food.
But for me, the thing that always makes me suggest lunch, brunch or dinner there when we're out that way is the wine list. Not only is it deep and long and fairly priced, there are about three dozen half-bottles (and not just pint-size versions of some inexpensive quaffer; Sauzet's 2006 Puligny-Montrachet is $50; the '04 Louis Lator Corton-Charlemagne is $90, while Ridge's 2004 Montebello is $103), and countless thoughtful choices in many of the wine world's important categories. Not to mention some seldom seens that should be eyed much, much more often on lists, like Alsace, Condrieu, Collio and Gigondas.
And the best part is that while you might not be inclined to spend $120 for a bottle of Henriot's toasty, beery and balanced 1998 bubbly on a Wednesday evening, I bet you would plunk down $60 on a Sunday when all 750s are 50 percent off. That's right. No limits. No supplements for great producers, like Ramey, Rochioli, Kistler and Hanzel, on the chardonnay side, and Vieux Télégraph and the Proddutori del Barbaresco, among a few on the red side.
That's my idea of a day (or night) in the country.
Ten Twenty Post, 1020 Post Road, Darien, CT 06820 (203) 655-1020 www.tentwentypost.com