[Sidebar] December 10 - 17, 1998
[Food Reviews]
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Tyler Point Grille

A long-standing tradition of casual elegance

by Johnette Rodriguez

32 Barton Avenue, Barrington, 247-0017
Open Sun-Thurs, 4:30-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. till 11 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

One thing about East Bayers: they know a good thing when they find it. Tyler Point Grille has been reopened under new management for just a few months now, but on a recent Friday night, it was packed by 6:30. Fortunately, we'd hurried in out of the rain an hour earlier and had been easily seated in the low-ceilinged dining room next to the high, open-beamed one.

In both, you can find comfort in Tyler Point's warm wood and polished brass decor, set off by hanging plants and picket-fence-like room dividers and by multi-paned mirrors and sailing prints. In spring and summer, there are even sunsets over the inlet on which the restaurant sits.

Our attentive and patient waiter answered all of our questions and promptly brought us two piping bowls of creamy roasted-garlic soup ($3.75), followed by baked clams ($6.95). The soup was dreamy. The half-dozen clams, flavorful littlenecks, were startling with oregano and salty with chopped prosciutto.

The three of us carefully split up the clams and their stuffing before two from our party gravitated toward the pastas for our main course, with Bill ordering a special ravioli dish ($13.95) and our friend, Baiba, succumbing to that evening's risotto special ($13.95).

Her risotto was expertly cooked, with fresh tomatoes and a pesto sauce, and was mixed with a generous portion of pan-seared scallops. Delicious, through and through.

Bill, meanwhile, scarcely let anyone near his plate, guarding the artichoke hearts which hid their plump halves among the ravioli. But reviewers have their responsibilities, and I managed to wangle a sample, in which I found the light wine/lemon sauce just the right framing for the hearty ravioli, stuffed as they were with roasted eggplant.

My plate was actually the one everyone wanted to taste and retaste, in order to savor the smoked fresh tomato sauce surrounding my polenta Napoleon and halibut fillet ($15.95). It's not that the fish should have played second fiddle to the sauce, because it ably lived up to the restaurant's name and was very nicely grilled. It's just that there's something so appealing about smoked flavors, and this sauce was excellent.

The polenta was a round, thick slice of cornmeal-pudding-Italiano topped by a fresh tomato slice, melted cheese and a sprig of thyme. The vegetables that evening (chef's daily choice) were fresh green beans, cooked to a tenderness that retained their optimum flavor.

For dessert, we chose an apple-pumpkin upside cake ($4.95), made especially for Tyler Point, as were a half-dozen tortes and cheesecakes that night. The cake was moist and spiced like a pumpkin pie, while the apple slices were arrayed on top like pineapple slices, with that same buttery, brown-sugar taste.

Unfortunately, we also ordered a portion of mango sorbet, with memories of exotic tropical-flavored sorbets and ice creams in the Keys. We all agreed that this one tasted more like perfume than fruit, and our waiter whisked it away with an apology that it wasn't made by Tyler Point.

There's always been a feeling of casual elegance about Tyler Point Grille, and the food and service now keep pace with that mood, sorbet notwithstanding. Two caveats about finding the restaurant: when you look for the turn off Route 114, make sure you take Barton Avenue and not Tyler Point Road, as you might think. Also be sure to make a reservation for Friday or Saturday nights. You'll know you're on the right road as soon as you glide past towering, dry-docked sailboats and glimpse a view of the water.

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