Review: Trafford

More than a nice view
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  September 14, 2011

Sometimes a beautiful location is as far as a restaurant gets when it sets up shop. Often it's in a tourist location, relying on the view to pull in customers, not needing to build a base of regulars. Trafford certainly is a nice spot, letting diners watch boats passing through an inlet on the Warren waterfront. Fortunately, the proprietors are keeping their eyes in the other direction — on the kitchen.

And wise eyes they are. Bill and Marguerite Kane have made Marguerite's in Westport, Massachusetts, a talked-about destination. Then Marguerite's begat Trafford. Literally. Their son Trafford, who has developed his own culinary chops, is in charge of the kitchen here. He takes things seriously. On the restaurant's website, he declares that he wants to make his diners passionate about food. And he's not just talking raw oysters.

The view is interesting inside as well. Designer Alyn Carlson has used wood for eye appeal and also as a metaphor for naturalness and creativity. Thick plank tables array contrasting woods, such as cedar and knotty pine, piquing our attention.

Although the place isn't painted green, it makes a big point of being so, from the menus using recycled paper to at least one small wall sculpture employing scrap wood. A menu page titled "We're Fresh" notes that they serve natural Kurobuta pork from a farm in Idaho, sustainable beef from the Northwest, and both needs from P.T. Farms in Vermont. Evidently, quality is being assured, but the proud declarations are also a reminder that local sources are not being used.

The wine list is short, less than two dozen whites and reds all available by the glass ($8-$16), ranging from the appreciated familiar ones we chose — Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Cupcake Chardonnay — to real splurges, such as that $16 pour of Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.

The lunch menu, which is available throughout the day, has enough interesting items to assemble a little tapas array for dinner; as well as the usual raw bar selections and wood-grilled shrimp, you can get Chardonnay-poached lobster (dinner only). A couple of the starters I saw passing by were huge: a lump crab cake topped with a tomato slice ($11), and a fist-sized stuffed quahog ($5). Offered among the salads is a wood-grilled vegetable antipasto ($11), with goat cheese and a basil and cumin dressing. We had the lobster and corn fritters ($11). There was a chili aioli, lightly spicy, drizzled on top, and a red pepper coulis on the side, plus pieces of whole corn inside as well as more lobster than I'm used to getting clams in clam cakes. Pretty good.

The dinner items are divided into "Water," "Land," and "Air." The latter seems to indicate that the listed chicken dishes employ some variety of super-poultry that can fly. Lucky for us, they don't seem to be overly athletic, because the rosemary breaded chicken ($16) wasn't at all tough and muscular: two cutlets thick enough to remain quite juicy, topped with diced shallots and slices of peach — fresh peach — and zinfandel wine sauce, atop almond rice that appreciated the juices.

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