CRAVE in Fairfield: Creative American Fare

While Crave Restaurant in Fairfield may seem off the beaten path, it is conveniently located adjacent to the Fairfield Theatre Company and combines a hip vibe with a menu offering a wide array of options from a simple Mac & Cheese to a robust Chicken Scarpariello. The brainchild of owners Peter Prizio and Alfonso Cammarota, the owners’ concept was simple; create a restaurant and bar where everyone would feel at home and serve a global menu with bold flavors. The restaurant consists of two rooms. To the left is a traditional dining area with tables and high-tops and to the right is a bar, with large HDTVs and a U-shaped bar. Overseeing the kitchen is Executive Chef Rigo Lino; many will remember Chef Lino from the Mansion Clam House in Westport. His menu combines his Salvadoran heritage with the owners’ Italian roots.

CTbites was invited to a media event where, over the course of the evening, I enjoyed many of the chef’s creations.

My favorite small plate was the “Eggplant Stacks,” a simple, old-fashioned style eggplant parmesan served in a cast iron skillet. Thinly sliced eggplant was breaded, fried, layered in the small skillet and topped with sauce and cheese and baked. The result was a mouthful of lusciousness. The cheese was perfectly melted and stringy and the sweet sauce was a delight with the moist eggplant slices.

Another simple and delicious small plate was the “Mac and Cheese.” Crave’s version used orecchiette shaped pasta and the three-cheese sauce was ultra-creamy with just a touch of bacon to add salty, smoky and texture,  and enveloped each piece of pasta. A simple topping of bacon bits was a fantastic addition to add a touch of saltiness and smokiness, and just the right amount of crunch. This is a great mac & cheese for adults and children.

The “Filet Tips” included chunks of filet mignon that were seared in a bit of olive oil, cut into chunks and served with a corn salad and red pepper remoulade. The beef was perfectly prepared to medium-rare and delivered a nice level of beefiness. The corn salad was a simple combination of sweet corn, peppers and onions and added a little crunch to the dish. The aioli was a fantastic addition and delivered a nice spicy kick.

The “Ahi Tuna” was covered with white and black sesame seeds, seared, sliced and fanned on a plate, accompanied by a ginger-soy sauce and wasabi cream. The tuna was very mild, almost missing completely. When the sauces were included, the total bundle was very nice. The ginger-soy was an excellent complement.

Two of the small plates were not to my liking. The first was the “Pork Belly.” Three pieces of braised belly sat atop a green salad, which was dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. The first piece was completely fat with no meat while the second did have a fair meat-fat ratio. Although described as seasoned with “16 spices,” the meat was very bland. When a bite was combined with the salad, it was a little better.

I did not like the “Clams Oreganata” at all. Each Littleneck clam was topped with a thick layer of bread crumbs, baked and then finished with a light brown sauce. The clams were overcooked and chewy, the breading was much too thick and extremely salty and the sauce did not work with the already harsh presentation.

The chef also prepared his “Rigatoni Bolognese.” The sauce combined pork and beef and was thinner than a traditional, thick Bolognese, more a meat sauce, complemented by delightfully sweet tomatoes; the meats added nice flavor and texture. The pasta was perfectly prepared to al dente and hefty enough to handle the sauce. A little sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese finished the dish.

The table moved to the Larger Plate section of the menu. The two themes throughout were the significant size and bold flavors.

My favorite was the “Chicken Scarpariello.” Several boneless chicken medallions were sautéed with sausage, sweet and spicy cherry peppers, mushrooms and potatoes and served with a white wine sauce. The sauce combined loads of flavors from the spicy sausage and cherry peppers to the soft creaminess of the potatoes. These ingredients were the perfect accompaniment to the moist chicken.

The “Portuguese Shrimp” was delicious. Five enormous shrimp surrounded a mound of rice pilaf and were accompanied by a few sautéed vegetables. The shrimp were cooked to maintain a firm, yet moist interior. The saffron-infused sauce instilled its traditional color and accents into the shrimp and the rice, which also contained sweet peas and a little heat from diced cherry peppers. The dish was finished with a sauce that included garlic and shallots to give a wonderful and full bodied sauce.

The “Grilled Delmonico Steak” was very good; a very, juicy rib eye. This large steak was served with roasted potatoes, topped with sweet and hot peppers, with a few roasted vegetables on the side. The steak was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and had a great crust from the charcoal grill. To complement this ultra-juicy cut, a wonderful medley of tastes from the sweet and spicy peppers presented significant contrast, with the creamy roasted potatoes adding a soft textural contrast

The “Salmon” was a little disappointing. A large filet was charcoal grilled and offered the same char as the steak, but was over-cooked, and a little dry. The fish was joined by roasted potatoes, vegetables, grilled asparagus, a smidgen of tropical salsa fresca and finished with a drizzle of Balsamic glaze. There were numerous flavors and textures, but they fought a little with each other and the fruit was lost under the char and the Balsamic glaze.

Overall, I really like the atmosphere at Crave; with its casual dining area and lots of TVs to watch the game. Whether you are looking for a pre-FTC dinner, a dinner with friends and family or looking for a sports bar with very good food, Crave can deliver on all of these requests.

52 Sanford St, Fairfield, CT 06824

(203) 292-8080

www.crave52.com

Really Liked

  • Eggplant Stacks ($10)
  • Mac & Cheese ($10)
  • Chicken Scarpariello ($21)
  • Portuguese Shrimp ($28)
  • Grilled Delmonico Steak (Special for evening)

Liked

  • Filet Tips ($15)
  • Rigatoni Bolognese (Special for Evening)

Did Not Like

  • Ahi Tuna ($16)
  • Clams Oregenata ($12)
  • Pork Belly
  • Salmon ($26)

This was a media event. The author was not compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

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