From Cottage To Firehouse

When it was the Vigilant Hose Company, the firehouse next to National Hall was where firefighters worked, lived — and cooked meals.

After the fire station closed, De Rosa’s Brick Oven Pizza moved in. Later it was the site of Neat — a coffee spot by day, wine and cocktail bar at night.

Soon, the Wilton Road landmark will become Brian Lewis’ latest creation.

The Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road, circa 1977.

The chef/owner of The Cottage — the much-heralded New American restaurant in Colonial Green — will open a Japanese restaurant there this fall. The yet-to-be-named place adds to the burgeoning West Bank culinary scene, which already includes Bartaco and The ‘Port.

The menu is “Izakaya meets Omakase.”

Brian Lewis

Lewis and his Cottage architect will work together again. They hope to bring out the original character of the historic building, while melding Japanese cooking with an American chef’s vision.

This past spring, Lewis tested a weekday menu at the Cottage. It was an instant hit.

He soon added a sake program, plus new cocktails. That spurred him and general manager Charlie Gihuly to search for a suitable place with history and “great bones.”

They found it — in a spot with a culinary past they look forward to building upon.

PS: If you’re wondering: Izakaya means “informal Japanese gastropub.” And “omakase” is “chef’s choice.”

19 responses to “From Cottage To Firehouse

  1. Peter R Powell

    It was for many years the site of the Westport Men’s Emergency Shelter, beginning Christmas Eve 1984 and continuing until the opening of the Gillespie Center

  2. Michael Smolen

    Sure smells and tastes a lot like what Bill Taibe brought us when he introduced Westport to the Izakaya experience with Kawa Ni, which is undoubtedly the finest Asian food experience in at least a 50-mile radius.

  3. I would like to know what background, experience, and training the new chef has in Japanese food and what his “vision” is. To use Kawa Ni as an example and say it is the finest Asian food experience in “at least a 50-mile radius” shows a complete lack of understanding of Japanese food. Unless you go to Westchester, but especially the city (within 50 miles), there isn’t a decent Japanese restaurant in honking distance. And the name, Kawa Ni, which means “to the river” in Japanese doesn’t make sense in Japanese. It should be Kawa Be which mean “by the river.” You don’t go to Japan on a 3-month tour and learn how to make Japanese cuisine. For anyone who wants to learn about the meticulous detail and devotion to food that the Japanese have in their DNA if you can’t spend time in Japan, watch NHK on HD cable (in English) and you will be astounded at the precision, beauty, and creativity of Japanese chefs.

    • I have been to Japan over 20 times in my life and can honestly say that I have the experience to comment on both the experience and cuisine. Do you? Clearly, most folks reading my comments understand that I was in no way trying to start a war of words about the relative merits of one restaurant versus another – a subjective battle in which I will not participate. My opinion that Kawa Ni is the “best Asian food experience….” is exactly that, my opinion. My point more was that while of course I welcome what the wonderful Chef Brian Lewis is bringing to town, the original should always be acknowledged in an introduction. And it is here that I am finished with this discussion. Thank you.

      • Since you are ending the conversation by asking if I’ve ever been to Japan and have the experience, the answer is that I have lived there and been intimately involved with the Japanese and Koreans for over 40 years. I also east authentic Japanese food quite frequently. Enjoy your meal.

        • So why don’t you both grab some PB&J and sushi cut some bananas and grab some Yahoo’s and sit by the children playground and duke it out!!! With Westport getting TP’d and our beaches being invaded by foreign license plates this isn’t really that important !!!

          • “Foreign license plates!” “PB&J, bananas, Yahoos (sic)!” While Mr. Meth’s comments on my post were both valid, thoughtful and on point, for you sir they have reserved a seat at the next Confederate rally between Trump and Alex Fields Jr. I have both been washing Compo Beach sand from between my toes since 1960, and eaten at places like Big Top and Chubby Lanes more times than I should have. I also have traveled the globe and tasted more cuisines than most and cannot wait to try each and every new restaurant to grace Westport’s zip code. The only foreigners we need to be wary of in Westport are those with beliefs such as yours – clearly alien in these parts. And no, I won’t reply to anything you write in response to this as I shan’t waste my time with clueless people that harbor hate in its most vile form.

            • Mr. Smolen. I think Mr. Harte’s comments were meant to be a little humorous and sarcastic and somehow you paint him in a very ugly light.
              Your comments are ugly and very unbecoming of someone who is evidently educated and had the privilege of growing up here with Compo sand between your toes.

              PS: for the record…I never liked YooHoo very much.

              • While I appreciate your recognition of my education and experience, I challenge you to point out either the humor in Mr. Harte’s comments or the ugliness in mine. I only hope that someday both you, Mr. Harte and all of his friends can someday connect the dots that actually are important. And with that my job is done. I have inspired discussion – albeit not the one I originally intended – and pointed out mankind’s immediate necessity to abolish hate of any kind as it exists everywhere….even in little ol’ Westport.

            • Michael Smolen,
              Great reply!!!! Gave me and my friends great joy to see your effort and how you can connect so many dots So on point to brag about your travels. Clap clap clap. My question is bananas and PB&J don’t go together? Damn I thought they did. As for you Jamie Walsh. Your not a fan of Yogi?

              • I am a fan of Yogi…just never understood why he liked “Chocolate toilet water!”…or what is referred to as YooHoo!

    • Jeez get over yourself. It’s a personal opinion.

  4. Rabbi Robert Orkand

    This was also the site of the very men’s shelter and the beginning of Interfaith Housing–under the inspired direction of the Rev. Peter Powell.

  5. Bart Shuldman

    Fabulous to read about the new restaurant in what is becoming restaurant row!! And thank you for wanting to invest in Westport. Your food is wonderful.

  6. Wow! Just another restaurant in Westport! Doesn’t anyone cook anymore? Sheesh!

  7. Adam Vengrow

    Sounds pretty awesome, Brian Lewis is a great guy and the Cottage is a great experience, he definitely cares passionately about his diners and their experience being meticulous and very different. My guess, it won’t be your typical Japanese restaurant, it will be some kind of Japanese flare. Either way best of luck. The comment about does anyone cook anymore is so funny, there really are so many new options that keep popping up!

  8. To follow up on the brief discussion about Japanese food: For anyone interested, including those who offer sushi at home or in restaurants, there is a superb documentary on NHK (1221) on Vantage/Frontier TV called “Trails to Tsukiji” (fish market in Tokyo) from 8/16/17. It details how sushi is created with the depth “umami”, pride, and beauty of this traditional food. Only 30 minutes and you will be engrossed and enriched for the viewing. NHK is free online.

  9. Nancy Hunter

    Authentic Japanese cuisine in Westport? That’s like expecting an authentic American meal in Japan!