Harlan Publick in South Norwalk: Innovative Cuisine with a Tropical Twist

Harlan Publick opened last year in the SoNo Ironworks and immediately became a destination for great food, a vast line-up of beers and an outdoor terrace like none other in Fairfield County. The relaxed interior features a large bar, a dining area with both dining tables and high tops and a room for a private event that features several personalized beer taps, and represents the second for Managing Partner Steve Lewandowski, who is also the Managing Partner at Stamford’s Harlan Social, which has won accolades as one of the best restaurants in CT.

Executive Chef Kamal Rose recently joined Harlan Publick, and his road to this position was less than traditional. Raised on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he developed his passion for cooking from his grandmother. He moved to New York at the age of 15 and subsequently received an internship at TriBeca Grill. In 2009 he won a $20,000 scholarship in a national cooking competition and earned his diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education. He returned to TriBeca Grill under the tutelage of Drew Nieporent and Steve Lewandowski and last year, Lewandowski asked Rose to join him at Harlan Publick where his newly introduced cuisine exemplifies his Caribbean roots tempered by classical training. 

CTbites recently visited Harlan Publick to sample Chef Kamal’s newly introduced cuisine that deftly balances tropical flavors with a touch of heat. The menu allows guests to pre-order a Roast Porchetta for four, share several smaller dishes amongst friends, or order a traditional appetizer and entrée (these words are not on the menu). From Candied Peanuts to a Tomahawk Steak, the selections are wide and varied.

The “Braised Octopus Carpaccio” (pictured above) was like none I have ever eaten.  Traditionally, this preparation includes “cooking” diced fish in a citrusy marinade and served with various accompaniments…Chef Kamal created a carpaccio terrine. He fanned several thin slices on the plate and finished with starfruit escabeche and drizzles of mango Jalapeño vin. The octopus was tender and delicious and the addition of the sweet mango and spiciness from the escabeche were delightful.

The “Black Bean Hummus” is an excellent starter to share at the table. It was topped with a dollop of Pico de Gallo and served with Plantain chips. Chef Kamal’s rendition broke from tradition by using black beans, which added a deeper earthiness to the dip. The sweetness of the plantains were a wonderful offset to the richness of the black beans and a touch of heat from the chilies.

The “Mussels” were served in a broth comprised of lemongrass, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and Thai chilies. The soft and sweet bivalves were perfectly enhanced by the tropical flavors, accented by a mild kick of spice from the Thai chilies. The dish was further complemented by a few slices of Roti, a flatbread that added crunch and an incredible sweetness from its raw brown sugar.

The most creative dish that Chef Kamal prepared was the “Crabcake ‘Scotch Egg’” served atop a swath of Scotch bonnet aioli. The traditional recipe includes a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated with bread crumbs and date to the 18th century when farmers brought them to the fields for lunch. Chef Kamal first created his interpretation on “Beat Bobby Flay” where he encased a soft boiled egg in crab meat and bread crumbs, and deep-fried. When cut in half, the yolk exuded its creaminess to offset the incredible crunchy exterior.  The crab meat was sweet and the Scotch bonnet aioli (I was nervous about Scotch bonnets) added a little, but not too much, spiciness. The small parsley salad was the prefect means to cleanse the palate. This was a fun, creative and outstanding dish.

The “Rum Glazed St. Louis Cut Ribs” were another example of Chef Kamal’s talent of infusing just a touch of heat into his cuisine. The thick ribs were first marinated in jerk seasoning and topped with brown sugar and rum before crisping the exterior on the grill. Once the crust was achieved they were steamed and coated with a sweet glaze immediately before arriving at the table. The result was a moist and tender rib with almost a spongy texture. The tower of plump ribs were presented in a cast iron skillet and were very good but I prefer my ribs a little denser with a firmer texture.

The “Curry Goat Roti” is a traditional dish in the Caribbean. The goat was prepared with potatoes, channa (chickpeas), allspice and ginger, and encased in Roti bread and griddled to create additional crispness to the exterior. It can best be described as a Caribbean pot pie. It was served with a tamarind chutney. As much as I liked the Roti bread and the braised goat, the dish was just not to my liking.

Short ribs are on every menu this fall and Harlan Publick’s rendition, “Short Rib Stew,” was fantastic. The 6-hour braised ribs were served with diced yucca, pumpkin and pigeon peas and presented in an individual caldron. The meat was perfectly prepared to a fall off the bone tenderness while maintaining a touch of resistance. It was moist and rich in flavor, while the pumpkin added a delightful sweetness to the dish. The sauce was one of the silkiest preparations I have eaten in quite some time.

The “Grilled Tomahawk Steak” was a sight to behold and a delicious piece of beef. This 38-ounce monster completely covered a two foot cedar plank. After presenting the whole steak to the guest it is returned to the kitchen for slicing. It was served with a side of jerk fingerling potatoes and a scallion butter. The steak was outstanding and when paired with a small amount of the scallion butter elevated its decadence. The jerk fingerling potatoes were creamy on the interior and ultra-crispy on the interior. It is usually shared by two people but understand that many singles have successfully devoured this extravaganza.

After the meal, a new, special drink was brought to the table. The “Old Pirate’s Portion” was served in a martini glass and included spiced rum, sweet potato purée, maple syrup, egg whites, and topped with a thin layer of whipped cream and a couple of sweet potato chips. The combination was fantastic with the sweet potato purée and maple syrup creating a sweetness balanced by the spiciness of the rum. The egg whites added a luscious quality to this drink.

Overall I was incredibly impressed with the Chef Kamal’s new cuisine at Harlan Publick. It breaks from the new American tradition that is rampant in Fairfield County and proves that savory and sweet are perfect complements while chilies can add a little spiciness to accentuate the food.

127 Washington St. – Norwalk, CT – 06854

(203) 831-0727

Really Liked

  • Braised Octopus Carpaccio
  • PEI Mussels 13
  • Black Bean Hummus 9
  • Crabcake “Scotch Egg”
  • Short Rib Stew
  • Grilled Tomahawk Steak 91

Liked

  • Rum Glazed St. Louis Cut Ribs 16
  •  “Old Pirate’s Potion”

Did Not Like

  • Curry Goat Roti

 

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