O'Connell's Hourglass is the successor to a highly regarded, long-standing restaurant on the same site but under different ownership.
Open for about a month, it has been spruced up inside (but not too much) and the menu has been contemporized a bit, although there doesn't seem to be as much seafood as there used to be. Also, the wine list -- even though it does sport a $600 Chateau Margaux -- is a lot more modest.
The chef is Kevin O'Connell Jr., brought home by his proud, gregarious father, Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O'Connell. While you're eating your dinner, chances are a member of the family will stop by just to see how things are going. It's a warm, personal operation.
The menu is based on popular favorites with up-to-date twists. The Grilled Pork Tenderloin ($18) is served with an apple bacon relish and a Grand Marnier demi glace, for instance; the grilled King Salmon ($21) is served over crab and herb risotto.
And my Pan-Roasted Duck Breast ($24) came with a roasted golden beet and black truffle risotto, finished, the menu told me, with a Montana huckleberry coulis. There weren't all that many berries to tell the truth, but the dish itself was satisfying and good.
Not startlingly brilliant, no, but extremely competently prepared. The dish tasted just fine on a stormy night. Call it upscale comfort food. As an accompaniment, I opted for an iceberg lettuce wedge. (Yes, the crispy stuff is actually making a comeback. Who would have thought?)
But this time it was topped with a blue cheese dressing instead of the traditional Thousand Island. And that, dear friends, is an improvement.
I'd have to say that the Companion's choice was a little farther out. Stuffed Free Range Chicken ($18) was filled with goat cheese, wild mushrooms, toasted walnut stuffing and chorizo. Nice contrasting blend of flavors here, and for once the juicy poultry really tasted like the real thing.
Other entrees include Beef Tenderloin with fried leeks and a white truffle and chardonnay creme as well as Day Boat Scallops and White Prawns sauteed with herbs, mushrooms, tomato and white wine served over pasta ($28).
Before the entree, we enjoyed our appetizers. Two for me, actually. I sampled Virginia clams with chorizo, served with tomatoes and herbs in a roasted garlic and white wine broth ($11). This dish is so soaked with flavor and so generously served that it could easily fill in as a light dinner.
And then there was the Confit of Hudson Valley Duck Leg and Wild Mushroom Strudel with Tawny Port Sauce. If I were to be super critical, I'd say that the pastry should have been crisper to contrast with the soft filling. But I won't deny that I gobbled most of it.
The Companion's starter choice, Alaskan Crab Cakes served over baby spinach with saffron and pickle aioli ($13), featured plenty of crab and very little filler.
Dessert? A small list from which we chose Chocolate Creme Brulee -- making for a smooth ending.
3.5 stars (out of four)
WHERE: 981 Kenmore Ave. (877-8788) Newly opened on the site of a recently closed well-known restaurant, this place features a menu of standards embellished with contemporary sides. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Pan-roasted Duck Breast
NEEDS WORK: Food is of good quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $18 include garnish and salad.
SERVICE: Very good
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Dinner, from 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
HEALTHY CHOICES: Grilled King Salmon, Day Boat Scallops
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: Lot in the rear.
KID APPEAL: Get a sitter.