Terrain (Westport) – Burger Better than Responsiveness

DSC_0895We arrived and were impressed with the interior space. Unfortunately it overlooks the yard and the garbage outside the windows was a bit distracting and should be addressed.

A warm bread loaf in a pot was brought. The bread was very good and still warm.

I ordered the Café Burger described as Painted Hills Beef, caramelized onion, mushrooms, Cheddar cheese, and horseradish aioli, served on a brioche roll. This is an enormous and vertically demanding burger. The meat is ground on premises and had an interesting texture, more pieces than ground beef. Some, including me, may not like the texture, it was almost a gelatinous feeling. The caramelized onions were perfect…they were soft, sweet and delicious. The cheddar was a good addition and complemented the rich flavors of the beef but the mushrooms were lost in the other flavors, they were not needed. The enormous swath of aioli was a great addition and the Brioche from Balthazar in NYC, was first grilled and it added a nice, sweet flavor to offset the bold flavors of the other ingredients. The skin-on French fries were very good, nicely seasoned, crispy on the exterior and soft on the interior.

Overall it was a very good burger, but could use a little adjustment of the textures and the ingredients to improve.

My wife ordered the lobster roll. The lobster was mushy and did not taste right. She experienced some post lunch issues and I contacted the restaurant. The manager scolded me, told me that she and others ate the lobster that day, but said she would look into and call back. I never heard back from her. I was very disappointed in her lack of caring, and no follow up is unacceptable.

It might be understandable if the kitchen has a bad day, but more often than not, the reason for non-returns and “doesn’t like” relates to the management. At Terrain the burger was pretty good, the lobster roll was bad and management was unresponsive.
Terrain on Urbanspoon

Little Pub (Ridgefield) – Tasteless Burger

Little PubThe place was hoppin’ when I arrived for my medium rare bacon-cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. I sat in the protected outdoor area and watched other guests seemingly enjoy their lunches. The restaurant was very understaffed and I felt bad for the servers who were running around, but each maintained an incredibly pleasant attitude under some pretty difficult conditions. Management should be ashamed.

The burger arrived, and I cut it in half. The interior was a little overcooked, probably more medium but was oozing juice. After one bite I knew looks were deceiving. The meat was juicy, but that is where the good news ends. There was no char, no flavor, no seasoning, nothing to separate from a basic diner slap on the flattop burger. The two slices of bacon were thick but overcooked and again flavorless, and the cheese was basic store bought American. The burger was served in a grilled Kaiser roll and again, no flavor, bland. And Little Pub is consistent. The sweet potato fries were crispy, but without flavor or seasoning.

Overall, there is nothing in this experience that is causing me to return.

Little Pub on Urbanspoon

Nola Oyster Bar – First Bites

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Several weeks ago I announced on CTbites the opening of Nola Oyster Bar in South Norwalk, described as a seafood restaurant with dishes from Maine to New Orleans. After my initial visit, it is apparent that much of the food is influenced by the great flavors and traditions of New Orleans, but the creative interpretations are singularly of Chef Dan Kardos.

Exposed brick walls, wood and tin columns, and wrought iron rails dominate the interior with white “antique” chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to create a very New Orleans visual. The front area includes a large, arced granite-topped bar that seats 10, plus a large reclaimed “Bankers’ Table” that seats an additional eight guests overlooking the floor to ceiling windows. The center section of the restaurant overlooks the kitchen, plus the rear room is available for regular dining or a private event.

Nola Oyster Bar is a place for fun, drinks and great food.

The kitchen is under the direction of Chef Dan Kardos (The Whelk, Harvest Supper). The menu is divided into four sections: raw bar, small plates, salads, and entrees.  The starters include raw oysters, clams and tuna Crudo, chowder, gumbo, seafood pan roast, tacos, mac and cheese, plus greens and sides with traditional salads and other unique combinations. The entrées include two burgers (tuna or beef), tacos, sandwiches, shrimp and grits, scallops, skate and several meat options.

bl tuna crudo
The “Tuna Crudo” is a delightfully light choice to start to the meal. Thin slices of tuna are topped with a sauce comprised of soy, hot sesame, jalapeño and candied ginger. While a sesame-soy combination is a traditional accompaniment to raw tuna, Chef Kardos takes the dish in a unique direction with the addition of the candied ginger. This sweet component creates a distinctive and delicious flavor combination when combined with the saltiness of the soy and the spiciness of the diced jalapeño.

bl black kale saladThe “Black Kale Salad” includes pears, sautéed squash, toasted hazelnuts, and pepitas and is another delicious dish to start the evening. The kale has a rich earthy flavor plus a touch of bite, and the crunchiness of the dish increases with the toasted pepitas and hazelnuts. The thinly sliced pears are a great addition to the dish, bringing a wonderful level of sweetness. The entire salad is beautifully dressed in a light citrusy dressing. I really enjoy how the sweetness of the pepitas and the pear complement the earthiness of the kale. The squash, unfortunately, does not add to either the flavors or the textures of the dish.

For a soup with a hint of spice, Nola Oyster Bar offers a delicious “Spicy Seafood Gumbo” with shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and Andouille. This rendition would make the French Quarter proud. A deep rich base made with a dark roux brings deep, rich flavors when combined with the delicateness of the traditional seafood additions. The oysters and mussels bring brininess to the gumbo, and the shrimp add a touch of sweetness. The spiciness of the Andouille sausage kicks up the heat just a little. I would characterize the flavor as sweet-spicy, but not too intense.

bl lobster & wafflesThe “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffles” is the decadent option that combines breakfast and dinner. Chef Kardos’ begins with two delicious cornbread waffles topped with large pieces of succulent, butter-poached lobster. These are surrounded by one of the most flavorful brown sauces that I have ever tasted, reminiscent of those served on New Orleans’ famous Grilled Shrimp. The dish is garnished with a few grilled scallions and finished with Queso Fresco cheese. The waffles are wonderfully sweet, crispy on the exterior and moist and soft on the interior. The lobster is perfectly poached and full of sweet buttery flavor and texture. The scallions bring just a touch of bitterness and the melted cheese creates smoothness to the dish. This is one of the most memorable lobster dishes I have tasted in a very long time and should not be missed.

bl burgerRemember the raves of Chef Kardos’ hamburger at Harvest Supper in New Canaan? The “Saugatuck Butchery Dry Aged Burger with Hand Cut Fries” at Nola is even better. It starts with dry aged beef from Saugatuck Butchery and then topped with slices of Sugardale bacon, XO Beemster cheese, oak tree shitake mushrooms, black pepper mayo and served on a Challah roll from Wave Hill Bakery. The flavor of the meat is outstanding and the toppings are perfect complements. The cheese is flavorful and the sautéed mushrooms add an earthy tone. The thick-cut bacon is perfectly cooked but I found it a little too salty for the other ingredients. The sweet Challah roll and the pepper mayo are both great ways to envelop this fantastic burger.  The hand-cut curly fries are scrumptious, fun and a wonderful addition to the burger; and the burger is a fantastic accompaniment to the unique varieties of beer.

bl tapsThe draft beers feature eight unique varieties including Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom Aged Stout, Two Roads Workers Comp Saison, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, Schlitz Lager “60’s Formula,” Berkshire Brewing Drayman Porter and Sixpoint Brewery Righteous Rye Ale. Ten wines are available by the glass, plus forty wine labels ranging in price from $28 to $100.

After a couple of months Nola Oyster Bar is producing some incredibly delicious food with inspired twists on New Orleans’ classics.

This was originally posted  on March 24, 2013 at

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/3/24/nola-oyster-bar-brings-seafood-to-south-norwalk.html

Sycamore Drive-In (Bethel) – Go for the Buzz

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The Sycamore Drive-In is a throwback to the ages where teeny boppers listened to the Big Bopper and Elvis was too risqué. As you pull into the lot, don’t be surprised if you see a real T-Bird, a Vet or another souped-up car from the 50’s or 60’s sitting next to a hand built roadster.
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Go inside and sit on a red vinyl covered seat, grab a menu and view what a diner meant fifty years ago. Eggs, pancakes, burgers, dogs, salads and specials. You almost expect to see a “Blue Plate Special” scribbled on a chalkboard to one side, but that would interfere with the life-sized cut-out of “the King.” And you would also expect a gum-smackin’ red-headed waitress in a poodle skirt sashaying up to the table for your order.
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There is nothing special about the menu. I ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, some fries and a root beer. The root beer was really good, but the rest was basic diner grub. The fries were frozen crinkles and the burger contained more iceberg lettuce than meat and cheese. As much as this is a relic and fun to visit the burgers are not that good. Go for the buzz not the burger.

Sycamore Restaurant on Urbanspoon

EOS (Stamford) – Delicious Greek Cuisine

EOS, the Greek goddess of the dawn, signifies the beginning of a new day. EOS Greek Cuisine, an upscale Greek restaurant in Stamford owned by the Glekas family, recently introduced its new menu and invited CTbites (along with several other bloggers for what we nicknamed “Bloggers’ Row”) for a tasting of several of these items. All of the dishes are based on family recipes with slight modifications to modernize the dishes while maintaining their Greek roots.

The tasting included three MEZEDES (Small Plates), a SALATE (Salad), and three KYRIA PIATAS (Entrées).

BL Cheese w HoneyMy favorite Mezede was the “Feta Saganaki” that featured a thick slice of feta cheese crusted with sesame and poppy seeds, fried and topped with a drizzle of peppered honey. This is a delightful dish. The cheese is slightly melted and contrasts texturally with the crispy exterior of the sesame and poppy seeds. The honey adds a cooling and smooth texture. The addition of the peppered honey elevates the flavor of the dish significantly and is the key component to the overall flavor of the dish.

The “Mydia” included P.E.I. mussels that were steamed in white wine, ouzo, butter, garlic and finished with fresh herbs. The size of the Mussels range from small to medium, yet each are cooked to perfection.  The accompanying broth is mild in flavor, slightly accented with just a touch of garlic, which does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mussels. This is a good start to the meal.

BL Beef MoussakaThe “Veggie Moussaka” and the traditional meat Moussaka were, unfortunately, not as good as the other appetizers. The traditional version includes layers of zucchini, eggplant, potatoes,  beef, and topped with a béchamel cream, while EOS’ vegetarian version substitutes lentil and mushroom for the beef filling. I give kudos to EOS in developing a vegetarian alternative of this classic Greek dish, but the Béchamel is too dense and would benefit from a lighter and more airy rendition. Likewise the meat and the lentil/mushroom layers are under-seasoned.

bl Lamb BurgersVibrant flavors were presented with the “Eos Sliders,” described on the menu as spiced ground lamb patties with caramelized onions and a roasted red pepper sauce, served on whole wheat buns. The lamb sliders were some of the best I have tasted. Contrary to the menu’s description, the lamb is surprisingly mild, the caramelized onions are soft and sweet, and the red pepper sauce adds yet another sweet component. The rustic flavor of the whole wheat buns is a perfect means to envelope these sliders. The EOS sliders are delicious.

BL saladThe “Kypro Salata” with mixed greens, grilled zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, red peppers, Haloumi cheese and balsamic vinaigrette was a pleasant surprise to this non-salad lover. This dish is elegant in its simplicity while simultaneously delighting the palate. The flavors of each of the ingredients are delicious and the combination of the sweet red peppers, the slight peppery flavor of the radicchio, the sour of the balsamic and the saltiness of the cheese create an absolutely perfect balance. This non-salad fan is completely sold on recommending this dish for the table to split.

The three entrées included two winners.

My favorite was the “Lahanodolmathes,” ground beef and rice stuffed cabbage leaves enveloped in a creamy lemon sauce. It tastes much better than it looks and the first bite will bring a smile to your face. The lemon sauce is creamy and flavorful with the perfect amount of lemon to complement the other ingredients. The cabbage is soft, with just a touch of resistance, and the dense meat and rice add another textural element to the dish.

bl DuckThe “Papia,” a char-grilled bone-in half duck, black cherry and red wine reduction with pine nut rice was delicious. The roasted thigh-leg portion is moist and tender with a deep flavor and the sauce is delicious and its sweetness is a perfect balance to the rich and fatty duck. Unfortunately, the rice is bland and would benefit from the addition of a sweet component to better complement the full flavors of the other ingredients. Both the Lahanodolmathes and the Papia are delicious and recommended.

bl SwordfishThe “Ksifias” (char-grilled swordfish kebab with lemon potatoes) was disappointing. The large cubes of swordfish were overcooked and under-seasoned and required a good splash of lemon to add flavor. The onion slices were extremely pungent and overpowered the other ingredients.  I did not enjoy this dish.

Overall, the new menu at EOS Greek Cuisine has many dishes that are outsanding and a few that need some additional work. If you order correctly, you will feast on incredibly delicious dishes from EOS’s modern twists of great Greek family recipes.

Really Liked:

  1. EOS Lamb Sliders
  2. Kypro Salata
  3. Lahanodolmathes – Stuffed Cabbage
  4. Papia  – Duck with Cherry Sauce

Liked:

  1. Mydia  – Mussels
  2. Feta Saganaki – Feta cheese with Honey

Did Not Enjoy:

  1. Veggie Moussaka
  2. Moussaka
  3. Ksifias – Swordfish

EOS Greek Cuisine

 490 Summer Street – Stamford, CT 06901 – 203-569-6250

This review was originally published on http://www.ctbites.com at  http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/3/3/eos-greek-cuisine-in-stamford-revamps-menu.html

Riko’s Pizza (Norwalk / Stamford) – Outstanding Pies

BL RikosI consider myself very fortunate in my historical relationship with pizza. Born and raised in NJ where the local pizzeria created $1.60 pies (yes that is under two-dollars for the entire pie, not a slice), I graduated  to the “Bar Pie” at Star Tavern and Pizzeria in East Orange, before leaving the Garden State in my late teens. While in College in D.C. I found Greek-style pizza and then graduate school in Chicago introduced me to two eye-opening events…the Giordano’s Stuffed Deep Dish pie and the Midwest propensity to cut their pies into little squares.

I hit the jackpot on my move back east with my marriage to a women from the New Haven suburbs and her presenting my all-time, favorite, best pizza…Sally’s in New Haven. Never did I appreciate the classical flavors and textures until then. I was fortunate to share a table with Flo shortly before her death and enjoyed both her pizza and her stories. One of my first assignments for www.ctbites.com four years ago was to give my opinions of the iconic Colony Pizza in Stamford. It was a classic full pan pizza with a thin crispy crust, basic toppings and their secret ingredient, hot oil. One bite and I understood the beauty of this creation. Take a little bit of this theory, add a little bit of that theory…delicious.

When I heard that a new kid in town was “duplicating” the Colony-experience I needed to test this theory. Riko’s Pizza originally opened in the same neighborhood as Colony and many claimed “foul.” But for me, it was less about the ownership of “The Recipe” and more about the product. Others agree, since Riko’s has expanded to a second location on Newfield and a third location on Main Street in Norwalk.

After a couple of Riko’s pies I am glad they have a location near my office as well as nearer the house. Both offer the same quality pizza…delicious. Those from the Norwalk and the Newfield locations are twin sons of different ovens. The pies are baked in high rimmed pans, reminiscent of the Chicago deep dish pan. The dough is stretched to the circumference and then topped a little sauce, and then you design the rest from almost 30 different toppings (Colony has twelve to choose from). I consistently stay basic with pepperoni, sausage and hot oil, hey if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

The thin crust was nicely crisped, not cracker and stilled maintained a degree of pliability. The sauce and cheese were delicious and the pepperoni and sausage were both excellent. Then the hot oil kicked in and this was an overall fantastic pie. Just make sure you have a ton of napkins since the pie is oily by itself and then adding the hot oil raises it to another level.

If you do not want to make the trip Colony, you will be just as happy with the pies at Rikos, just remember there is no seating so all of these pies are take-aways.

 

Riko's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Riko's Pizza on Urbanspoon