Mediterraneo, a ‘destination restaurant’ in the Hotel Zero Degrees on Main Street in Norwalk is a beautiful backdrop for Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis’ culinary tour of the Mediterranean. The aquatic inspired dining room features a large bar area to the left, with several high top tables to augment the bar seating, and to the right is the main dining room. With hardwood floors, white chairs and a large nautical flag painting along the far right wall, the dining area presents a clean and airy feel. The highlight of the room is the floor to ceiling glass wall that overlooks the panoramic, million-dollar waterfall view on the river. From a magnificent French Braised beef “Bourguignon” to a mild Tuscan Prosciutto wrapped rabbit loin to an outstanding Wild black sea bass, the menu at Mediterraneo offers wide varieties of clean flavors and combinations. Mediterraneo is one of five local restaurants owned by the Z Hospitality Group.
Chef Albert joined Z Hospitality Group as Executive Chef in 1989 and is the creative vision behind the group’s five Mediterranean-style bistros. By the time he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1986, he was already a veteran of the kitchen. His tenure began at the age of 16 and his career included stints at Tropica, Chez Josephine, and Taliesin in Manhattan as well as at Hotel Le Goyen and the two-star Michelin restaurant Gérard Besson in France. Z Hospitality recently invited CTbites to sample Chef Albert’s new menu at Mediterraneo.
The chef prepared a wide variety of appetizers, entrées and desserts. My favorite appetizer was the Maple Brook Farms Burrata served with roasted grapes and chestnuts sitting atop slices of grilled country bread. The Burrata was halved to expose its creamy interior and was delicious with the sweetness of the roasted grapes. The chestnuts added a wonderful nuttiness to the dish and just a hint of saltiness.
The White Bean Soup included chunks of duck confit and savoy cabbage, served with two slices of toasted rosemary crostino. The al dente beans retained their bite and was accentuated with the deep, richness of the moist and tender duck. The savoy cabbage offered a touch of crunchiness.
The Hazelnut Crusted Egg was accompanied by a mini-tower of crispy pork belly topped with thinly sliced pickled onions and a few sections of roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. The pork belly was the highlight; it was moist and the slivers of pickled onions were a fantastic complement to the pork. The Brussels sprouts and cauliflower brought an earthiness and a crunchy component.
The Charred Spanish Octopus was served with shaved fennel, Taggiasca olives, blood orange segments, and drizzled with sherry vinegar. The four, small sections of the octopus were a little tough in texture and slightly under-seasoned. The orange and olives were a good additions but the fennel lacked flavor.
The Grilled Kale Sprout Salad paired Bosc pear, roasted pecans and Manchego cheese with a date vinegar. There was a slight sweetness to the pears and the Manchego Cheese was delightful with its subtle nuttiness. As much as I liked the taste of the kale sprouts, it was overcooked and overdressed.
My favorite dish of the entire visit was the Braised Beef “Bourguignon” served with roasted vegetables, cremini mushroom caps over crispy spätzle. It was delicious and may be the best Bourguignon I have ever tasted. The dish included three, boneless short rib sections, braised in red wine and served with carrots, crisped Brussels sprouts, cremini mushrooms and served over crispy spätzle. This deep, rich combination of the ingredients was superb. The beef was soft and tender, absorbed the full body of the wine and was perfectly offset by the sweet carrots. The mushrooms brought a touch of earthiness and the spätzle added a light crispiness to the dish.
Another outstanding entrée was the Wild Black Sea Bass, served atop a potato and Brussels sprouts hash, bacon, all nestled in a pool of a reduced balsamic / garlic sauce. The two large fillets were flawlessly prepared, with ultra-crispy skin while maintaining a moist interior. The hash was delicious and the smoky-salty bacon was fantastic. The sauce was phenomenal; rich, flavorful and beautifully complemented the other ingredients.
The Prosciutto Wrapped Rabbit Loin was served atop white beans, Brussels sprouts in a pool of rosemary au jus. The saddle of Rabbit was wonderfully moist and tender and the prosciutto delivered a slightly crisped and salty exterior. The beans were served al dente and the Brussels sprouts conveyed a bit of earthy qualities. The rabbit jus was finished with a bit of garlic and rosemary.
The Pan Roasted Natural Sea Scallops were accompanied with “parsnip three ways,” a black truffle tapenade with a touch of baby red mustard. The scallops were perfectly prepared, seared on both sides while maintaining a moist interior. There were several sweet components to the dish with the scallops and the parsnips which were balanced by the earthy black truffle. The three creative parsnip interpretations included soft roasted parsnips to crunchy parsnip “ribbons.”
Of the two raviolis, I really liked the Braised Pork and Lentil Ravioli which was served with dollops of carrot purée, shredded Pecorino cheese, and cracked pepper. The pasta was thin and delightful. The pork filling was rich in flavor and the cracked pepper added a little spiciness. The carrot purée was a delicious complement to the richness of the pork. I was not as fond of the Scallop and Roasted Cauliflower Ravioli, which was served with fresh thyme butter and toasted almonds. The texture of the scallop filling was more a mousseline, which was slightly off-putting.
We enjoyed three desserts. The Tiramisu was accompanied by dollops of chocolate and crème Anglaise. The luscious texture of the cake and creams were lightly accented with the liquor in the tiramisu. The second dessert was a Tuscan Boule Bread Pudding with a caramel sauce. This version was outstanding but I found it a little dense and heavy. The last dessert was a Chocolate Molten Cake, served with pistachio gelato. Mediterraneo’s version is a mild chocolate, with the interior oozing on the plate and complemented by a mild pistachio gelato and the caramelized banana slices.
Overall, the new menu at Mediterraneo includes some exceptional choices. With five restaurants stretching from Rye to Westport that include Aurora (Rye), Mediterraneo and Terra (Greenwich), Sole (New Canaan), Aqua (Westport) and Mediterraneo (Norwalk) Z Hospitality Group and Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis are delivering the cuisines of southern Europe.
353 Main Avenue – Norwalk, CT – 203-229-0000
-Maple Brook Farms Burrata ($14)
-Braised Pork and Lentil Ravioli ($17)
-Wild Black Sea Bass ($28)
-Braised Beef “Bourguignon” ($26)
-White Bean and Savoy Cabbage Soup ($10)
-Hazelnut Crusted Egg – Crispy Fresh Bacon ($14)
-Pan Roasted Natural Sea Scallops ($28)
-Prosciutto Wrapped Rabbit Loin ($28)
-Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
-Molten Chocolate Cake with Pistachio Gelato
Not Fond Of
-Charred Spanish Octopus ($15)
-Grilled Kale Sprout Salad ($12)
-Scallop and Roasted Cauliflower Ravioli ($21)