Great Potential at Winfield Street Deli (Norwalk)

Growing up in NJ, corner delis were everywhere. The biggest decision was whether to go to an Italian deli for a huge meatball, sausage and pepper or chicken parm sub (that is what we called them) or a Jewish deli for corned beef or pastrami (maybe a combo). I first heard ofWinfield Street Deli from Chris Hickey at The Spread, they recently changed the roll on their burger from a potato roll to a brioche from Winfield and it was outstanding. Bread this delicious from an Italian deli in the area required a visit and see if they were delivering great sandwiches.

The small deli is located just down the road from the East Norwalk train station, you will know you have arrived by the bright red awning welcoming patrons. Upon entering you are transported to an old-fashioned Italian deli. A large glass enclosed case fills the right wall, offering meats, cheeses plus a large array of house made salads. The left side has a single table for two plus two stools in front of a shelf to eat. The rear includes a display of the house made breads and pastries, fresh fruit and the ordering station. The walls are adorned with a TV and chalkboard menu in the rear, a large poster of Marlon Brando as the Godfather overseeing the single table and large cans of peeled tomatoes. The airwaves are filled with Channel 12 news intermixed with opera or the theme song from the Godfather. This is a true neighborhood haunt where everyone is addressed by their first name.

The menu includes an enormous selection of sandwich combinations, twenty-four already pre-determined, served as a wrap, on a Portuguese roll, as a wedge (subs for those of us from NJ), enclosed in hot pressed roll, on a toasted ciabatta or, in the case of the Godfather Burger, in a brioche.

On my visits I ordered a few different sandwiches on various breads.

My favorite was the #22, a house made Porchetta. Included in this combination was stuffed pork loin seasoned with garlic, basil, prosciutto, served on a toasted ciabatta with a swath of garlic mayo. The loin was moist and incredibly flavorful, and the crisped prosciutto added a nice level of saltiness while the garlic mayo delivered balance of creaminess and pungency. The toasted ciabatta was extremely thin and crispy, approaching cracker texture. As much as I enjoyed the sandwich I found the amount of filling was very modest and I would have preferred more substance to the entire sandwich.

The #14 is a Salciccia (pictured above), served on a hot pressed panino and includes Esposito Italian sausage, peppers, onions, Fontina cheese & basil pesto. A more accurate description would be a sliced sausage and melted Fontina cheese Panini. There was a scant amount of peppers and onions and mine did not have the pesto. That being said, the sandwich was still very good, but a little salty. It contained a combination of sweet and spicy sausage, of medium spiciness. The sauce and cheese were also very good and the grilled panini was an interesting change from a traditional sausage and pepper wedge. Like the Porchetta, I wanted a larger sandwich, and more onions and peppers and the inclusion of the pesto would have been a welcome addition

The last sandwich I tried was #13, a traditional Chicken Parmigiana. This third sandwich finally reminded me of an Italian deli from my youth, it was sizeable, with a little melted mozzarella and sauce peeking out of the edges of the roll. When I pulled the two halves apart, the cheese created that desired stringiness and I thought this would be a great sandwich. The chicken breast was pounded thin, coated in bread, it looked like the ratio of chicken to breading was really good. First the good news. The bread was outstanding and the cheese and sauce were delicious. Unfortunately, the breading was burnt, and the chicken at the edges was dried out. The chicken in the center of the sandwich was moist, but the flavor was lost in the burnt breading. I showed this to the staff and they were very apologetic, offered a replacement, a substitute or a refund. Good customer service after operator error.

Overall, I think Winfield Street Deli has great potential. The menu includes great choices and combinations. Italian delis are known for large, over-stuffed sandwiches; these were petit and a far cry from the size that I have enjoyed for over fifty years. Once the kitchen ups its game to include all of the ingredients and is careful not to overcook the featured meat this should be a great go-to Italian deli.

69 Winfield St., Norwalk, CT 06855

203.866.4348

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Johnny Utah’s in South Norwalk – A Fun Time with a Side of Food

Fairfield County has some great bars with good old fashioned bar food…wings, burgers, fries, onion rings, cheesesteaks, with a wide variety of beers. Recently, many have expanded the menu to include tacos, chili, ribs, chicken and other down and dirty delicacies. When I received an invitation to join a media event at Johnny Utah’s in SoNo I was curious, since this bar also features a mechanical bull (spoiler…not happenin’).

The décor is college rathskeller meets Texas longhorn; long, wooden bars extending from front to back on both side walls, numerous high-top tables, tons of bar seating and “The Bull.” There are plaques of beers throughout, nine TVs on the walls airing sports, a large American flag comprised of beer cans, and on any given night the bar may sponsor a bull riding contest, line dancing or specials on some of the food. While we were eating, there were several groups that were having a blast. I felt transported back to my college days.

Johnny’s menu is pretty straight-forward, bar food that goes with beer. This was not haute-cuisine, farm to table, plates of well-constructed and balanced flavors and textures. This was down and dirty bar food. This was fried. This was sweet. This was sour. This was spicy. This was wings with a choice of more than a dozen sauces. This was a burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches. This was 32-ounce, multi-person smokin’ rainbow colored drinks. This was foot high milkshakes covered in Reese’s bits or Oreo cookies, and for an additional $5…add a shot of booze. This was college bar food ready to down with pitchers of beer. And there is plenty of the latter, with a long line of taps on both bars, from Bud Lite to Fat Tire. I asked the bartender which was the best seller and she told me, “the late night crowd buys the Bud Lite and the Mermaid Pilsner.”

The menu includes fried appetizers, sliders, chili, four different salads, burgers, pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, ribs, fried chicken, fish and chips, and steak. Prices range from $6-11 for the apps, $9-$13 for the salads, teens for the sandwiches and entrees. I also asked the bartender which item sells the most and she said, “we sell a lot of burgers.”

We started with a few pick-up, lick your fingers appetizers; first the Philly Egg Rolls. The fried wonton wrappers were stuffed with shaved Philly steak, onions, and cheese, and served with Johnny’s BBQ sauce. Memories of burnt tongues forced me to wait until the incendiary melted cheese cooled. There was more fried wonton than filling, which lacked any discernable flavor. They were served with a BBQ sauce, not sure my friends from Philly would approve.

This was followed by a plate of Pickle Chips with chipotle mayo. The slices of sour dills were coated and fried. This was a whole lot of sour, and for a little heat dip them in the accompanying chipotle mayo. Again, they may be an interesting mate to a cold beer but not to my liking.

A trio of wings arrived next and the chef sent the Guinness, the PB&J and the sriracha. I was happy to see both the drummette and the wingette parts of the wing. The wings were meaty, a good first sign, lightly coated and still moist inside. I decided to work my way up the spiciness ladder. First the PB&J. It may take a little getting used to but these were not bad. A bite of sweet and the nutty butter. Onto the Guinness. These were sorta non-descript. Wings should have character, these were neither sweet, nor spicy, nor tangy, not a big fan of this rendition. Then the Sriracha. They were the traditional Buffalo wings’ iridescent red. And the spiciness was there, good kick and with a little dip into the blue cheese sauce, I would order these again. One out of three ain’t bad.

A small bowl of chili arrived next. This contained both beef and beans, but was more liquid than meat and beans. It was first cloyingly sweet and then the spiciness kicked in. I was not a fan and would probably pass on this.

Johnny Utah’s touts itself as a rib and burger joint and the ribs arrived next. The chef immediately told the table they did not have a smoker. They start with full slabs of ribs, dry-coat and slow roast for a few hours, then finish in a covered roaster with sauce in the oven. The meat was fall off the bone tender, but the texture was almost spongy and there was little smoke and less BBQ flavor, it was more steamed meat than what I was hoping would be a down home slab of full-flavored pork. Another pass, but was served with some delicious cole slaw, which I really liked.

The special 10-ounce grass fed burger is served on a brioche bun for $5 and with numerous toppings, each guest can design their perfect combination. Since we could each order our own combination for the burger course, I asked for my normal bacon-cheeseburger medium-rare and added the sautéed onions. This combination, with fries, would raise the price to $12, still a very reasonable price. The first burger that arrived was missing the bacon, the server did a quick round-trip to the kitchen. When I cut it in half it was more well-done than my requested medium-rare so they offered to re-fire. The second burger was raw in the center. Not a good thing from a place that sells tons of burgers. I did taste around the edges and the meat was OK, medium flavor, with a good level of juiciness. The brioche bun was great, from neighboring Winfield Street deli, but the bacon was non-descript. These two main events were disappointing. On the positive side the fries were good and the thinly sliced onion rings were outstanding.

No trip to Johnny Utah’s is complete without an enormous milkshake. Ours was the Oreo. A foot-tall marshmallow dipped glass arrived filled with a vanilla milk shake and topped with whipped cream and more Oreos. It was a fun way to end the meal.

Overall, Johnny Utah’s is a fun place serving bar food. All of the dishes are designed to accompany numerous beers, laughter, a few unintended falls off the bucking bull and watching sports on TV. Go for the food? Not really. It is what it is…go for a fun time.

Really Liked

  • Sriracha Wings (6 for $7.95 12 for $13.95 24 for $26.95
  • Onion Rings
  • Cole Slaw
  • Oreo Milk Shake ($10)

Liked

  • PB&J Wings

Needs Improvement

  • Philly Egg Rolls ($10.95)
  • Pickle Chips ($5.95)
  • Guinness Wings
  • Homemade Beef Chili ($5.95)
  • BBQ Ribs (1/4 Rack $11.50 1/2 Rack $17.50 3/4 Rack $23.50 Full Rack $27.50)
  • Burger ($12)

80 Washington St. Norwalk, CT

203-299-0711

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.

Stick with the Burgers @Bareburger

The second Connecticut location for Bareburger, in Harbor Point, opened six months ago, its second Fairfield County location (the first opened in downtown Ridgefield in 2013) as the micro-chain-gone-global expands its Connecticut offerings. For an overview of Bareburger and an exclusive interview with its founder, Euripides Pelekanos, click here.

Several months ago CTbites was invited to a media event at Bareburger in Stamford. Downpours and personnel issues left a less than favorable impression of the cuisine. After a three-month hiatus CTbites was invited back and treated to several appetizers, a few burgers and a dessert. Visit number two left a better impression; Bareburger serves very good burgers, with bold flavors and combinations; unfortunately, the appetizers are still a challenge.

The second visit started with three of the smaller selections. The first was the “Macho Fries,” which were ordered with both regular and sweet potato fries. The fries were topped with guacamole, pepper jack cheese, spicy pico de gallo, pickled Jalapeño peppers, and buttermilk ranch dressing, almost a Mexican poutine. The guacamole was very watery and more oniony than I prefer, the pico de gallo delivered even more onions, the Jalapeños and dressing added some kick and creaminess, respectively, but the pepper jack cheese was barely present, and the onions overwhelmed everything. The sweet potato fries were perfectly cooked, but the regular fries were limp.

The “Crispy Brussels Sprouts” were served with Manchego cheese and lemon. Unlike the first visit, the Brussels were well prepared with nice crispy edges and the Manchego was a good complement. I kept looking for the acidity of the lemon to brighten the dish, expecting the next bite to contain this ingredient, but the lemon was MIA, and it was needed to balance and brighten an, otherwise, uninspired dish.

The “Guapo Chop” salad was served with little gems romaine lettuce, topped with scoops of Queso Fresco cheese, guacamole, pickled Jalapeño peppers, pickled red onions, spicy pico de gallo, tortilla chips, and avocado basil dressing. There was a significant miscue on the first attempt and required a replacement. I really enjoyed the pickled onions and Jalapeño peppers but the thin guacamole and pico de gallo were again present and, not surprisingly, the onions overwhelmed the lettuce, which should have been the main focus of the dish. I thought the buttermilk dressing would balance the dish, but there was none present and I was a little reluctant to ask for a third attempt.

The evening took a significantly positive turn when burgers were ordered and delivered. Bareburger offers fourteen pre-determined combinations, plus the option to build your own, and my host was persistent that I sample a diverse array of meats since the menu contains beef, bison, wild boar, duck, elk, turkey, as well as vegetarian options.

The first was the “SoCal,” (seen above) which included a turkey patty, aged Cheddar cheese, pickled red onions, alfalfa sprouts, guacamole, on a griddled sprout bun. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor and moistness of the turkey patty as well as how the various toppings complemented each other. The guacamole made its third appearance of the evening and this time it was a welcome addition. Since it is more a spread than a true guacamole it worked well to bring a creamy pungency and its heavy onion accents, and the pickled onions added crunch and sour notes. The bun was a good choice and the SoCal was my favorite burger of the evening.

The “Blue Elk” was the polar opposite side of the flavor spectrum, and if you are looking for bold flavors, this is a great choice. The elk was less gamey than I assumed, more a clean, rich flavor similar to a grass-fed beef patty, with a richness you would expect. The key to this combination was the inclusion of two strong, sweet components, the stout onions and the tomato fig jam, each was a fantastic complement to the elk. The country bacon added just a touch of saltiness, and the Amish Blue cheese kicked in a completely different profile, some would love the addition, while others would feel it fought with the other ingredients.

Since Bareburger does not offer a bacon-cheeseburger as one of its pre-determined combinations, I decided to “Be My Burger.” I started with an 8-ounce beef patty, and added country bacon, Colby cheese and Stout Onions. The meat presented a medium richness, and the sweet onions added a wonderful complex profile from the stout. I was not as fond of my cheese choice, the scant amount of crumbled Colby did not work well in the balance of flavors, and the Colby would have benefitted from a better melt. Likewise, the onions were diced and I would have preferred that they were served in larger pieces. The country bacon was soggy and offered little to the dish, I wish strip bacon was an option.

To accompany the burgers, I ordered a side of “Fries and Rings.” The fries were excellent, perfectly prepared with moist interiors surrounded by a thin crisp crust. The rings were coated in a very think, wheat flour based coating. The amount of coating and the boldness of the wheat overwhelmed the moist onions, like biting into fried wheat bread. Stick with the fries.

For dessert I ordered the “Flourless Chocolate Cake.” It was a cross between a chocolate lava cake and pudding. It was accompanied by a few marinated cherries. It was a very sweet way to end the meal.

Bareburger’s business model is to offer organic, healthier products, with unique and creative combinations. This is a not an inexpensive burger joint, more in line with restaurant prices than Shake Shack and Five Guys. A bacon-cheeseburger, fries and a soda will total more than $20 before tax and tip, probably $100 for a family of four. Look carefully at the pre-determined options as each could save $2-3 compared to a build your own. Overall, the burgers were very good, but numerous miscues on both visits need to be addressed, especially with these prices.

Really Liked

  • SoCal ($10.85)
  • Blue Elk ($12.95)
  • French Fries (3.50)

Liked

  • Bacon Cheeseburger ($12.95)
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7.50)

Needs Improvement

  • Macho Fries ($11.95)
  • Guapo Chop ($10.95 / $16.95)
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($6.85)
  • Onion Rings ($4.50)

21 Harbor Point Road – Stamford, CT 06902

203-890-9686

This was a private event. The author were compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

Basso Cafe (Norwalk ) – Adds Wine Bar and New Menu

basso_15_barSeveral years ago I visited Basso Café Restaurant o New Canaan Avenue in Norwalk and was very impressed with many of the dishes created by Owner / Chef Renato Donzelli. Since that time Chef Renato has maintained his vision of creating a wine bar to complement the food, and that is now a reality as Basso Café Restaurant is now Basso Café Restaurant Wine Bar.

basso_15_interiorThe interior has been updated with large, vibrant paintings along one wall, smaller modern pieces along the other wall overseeing the 60 seat dining area. The lighting is soft and inviting and acoustical tiles have been installed to reduce the noise level. After the recent receipt of a full liquor license, guests can now benefit from Chef Renato’s pairing of wines to balance the vibrant flavors of his cuisine and the rear of the restaurant now showcases the bar area with a selection of personally selected spirits, including organic vodkas. The new wine list features twelve reds and a similar number of white, plus sparkling selections. Each was selected to pair with items on the menu. The prices range primarily from $30 through $70 with most of the labels available by the glass for $9-12.

I was invited to sample the newest menu prior to the formal re-opening and was very impressed. The cuisine still reflects the chef’s Venezuelan roots combined with his upbringing in southern Italy. It offers selections for every palate, some bright, some bold, some mellow…Chef Renato constructs the menu carefully and thoughtfully.

basso_15_brieThe “Brie Croquettes” were served with a passion fruit and ginger glaze drizzled with white truffle oil and droplets of Balsamic vinegar. They was slightly coated in bread crumbs and fried to present a textural difference with a crispy exterior and a slightly melting interior. The mildness of the brie was complemented by the sweetness of the passion fruit glaze and further elevated by the earthiness of the truffle oil. The Balsamic added a sweet-sour component.

basso_15_cauliflower_2The simplest of ingredients can present complex flavors and the “Coliflor al Pimenton” presented a smoky interpretation of this often unappreciated vegetable. The bite sized florets were seared to create a crispy finish and the Spanish paprika added a nice level of smokiness and a touch of spiciness. The dish also included slivers of garlic and finished with a splash of sherry to add sour notes to balance the other ingredients.

basso_15_bellyThe “Pork Belly” was topped with crispy crackling and served alongside pearl onions, a sweet pea purée and finished with agrodolce. The richness of the belly was beautifully complemented by the outstanding sweet-sour agrodolce and pearl onions, this was a perfect combination. The pea purée brought additional creaminess and a touch of sweetness and a great balance to the agrodolce. The crackling was chewy and I preferred the dish without it.

basso_15_tuna_bellyA current appetizer special is a small filet of “Tuna Belly.” Served “cooked through” and glazed with Dijon mustard and chopped pistachios, this interesting combination balanced the nuttiness of the pistachios spiced with the mustard. It was served atop diced capers and orange zest that complemented the other ingredients.

basso_15_filetMy favorite of the entrées was the “Filet Mignon.” An eight-ounce filet was wrapped in pancetta and topped with a chanterelle and shitake mushroom duxelle, a potato cake and a dollop of sour cream, and nestled in a Cabernet reduction. The steak was prepared to my requested medium-rare and was rich in flavor with a soft texture. The pancetta added a lovely smokiness and saltiness, the mushrooms a wonderful earthiness and the luscious Cabernet reduction was enhanced by the addition of veal stock. The creative addition of the potato cake and cream added a crispy and creamy addition. This is highly recommended.

basso_15_scallopThe “Maine Diver Scallops” were served over a creamy polenta and topped with a watercress and ruby red grapefruit salad and a drizzle of black truffle vinaigrette. The four U-10 scallops were perfectly cooked, seared on the exterior with just the slightest of opaqueness in the center and seasoned with salt and pepper. The polenta was full flavored from pancetta and diced mushrooms and offered a nice land-sea balance. The grapefruit segments brought acidity and brightness to the presentation

basso_15_chickenThose with a hearty appetite will enjoy the “Tuscan Grilled Chicken Under a Brick.” A half chicken is de-boned, marinated and grilled and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed baby carrots and beets and finished with a lemon and rosemary sauce. The “brick technique” created a wonderfully crispy skin that enveloped a soft and moist chicken. The lemon and rosemary sauce was delicious and the mashed potatoes were full of flavor and ultra-creamy. The simply sautéed vegetables added a lovely earthiness to the presentation.

basso_15_tarteSave room for dessert since the “Tartallete of Duce de Leche” is one of the best desserts in the area. The tartallete was filled with an outstanding duce de Leche and the coated with a chocolate ganache. Sitting alongside the tartallete was a scoop of one of the best house-made vanilla ice creams I have tasted. The last component was a raspberry reduction that added just a hint of additional sweetness. There are a couple of Venezuelan chocolate ribbons that were fantastic.

Overall Basso Café Restaurant Wine Bar is still serving a wonderful selection of dishes that combine various flavor components. From the brightness of the passion fruit sauce on the croquettes to the rich, wonderful filet ingredients, each was a finely composed presentation. I look forward to returning to sample more of the Chef’s creative and thoughtful cuisine.

124 New Canaan Ave, Norwalk, CT 06850

(203) 354-6566

  • Really Liked
  • Pork Belly 11
  • Filet Mignon 36
  • Scallops 32
  • Tuscan Grilled Chicken 24
  • Tartallete of Duce de Leche 14

Liked

  • Brie Croquettes 11
  • Coliflor al Pimenton 8

Not a Fan

  • Tuna

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

 

Bogey’s (Norwalk) – Just an OK Burger

bogeys_ctb_prime_burgerI was driving by Bogey’s on Cross Street in Norwalk last week when I saw a new, large banner proclaiming “Voted Best Burger in Fairfield County.” When a restaurant proudly proclaims that distinction I am excited about the prospect of enjoying another quality product and hopefully add it to my growing list of great burgers.

After a little research, I discovered that this is not the first venture for the owners of Bogey’s, they also owned the same named restaurant in Westport. Earlier this year it relocated to its current location, again offering a wide array of pub fare, from sandwiches to chicken to steaks. The space in the new location is separated into two areas; to the right of the entrance is the dining area with tables and booths while the left side offers a four sided bar plus several tables.

There are two distinct burgers on the menu. The first is the “Angus Burger” ($11), which is simply 8-oz of Angus Beef, plus lettuce and tomato. For an additional $1 it can be prepared with cheese. The other burger is “The Prime Beef Burger” that includes 8-oz of Allen Brothers USDA Prime blend topped with Applewood smoked bacon, Blue cheese, and a fried egg (not mentioned on the menu but included on my burger were lettuce and tomato), served with French fries ($16). When the server approached I asked her which was the recipient of the award and she responded “they both were.”

I was a little confused by her response, but ordered the Prime Beef Burger medium-rare. It was both wide and tall; the patty sat atop slices of lettuce and tomato, with the bacon, cheese and egg layered on top of the patty. The fried egg was cooked perfectly, slightly crisped on the edges, the bacon and melted cheese were hidden beneath the egg with the edges of the bacon jutting slightly out from under the egg. I cut the burger in half, releasing the yolk and saw the patty was cooked exactly to my requested medium-rare, with an excellent char on the exterior. When I saw that the grind was very compressed I was a little disappointed; it appeared that it was pressed several times to achieve the exterior sear.

I really enjoyed my first taste of the meat, the flavor was excellent and delivered a great, deep richness. This might have led to a great combination and deserved the honor, but unfortunately this is where I diverge from the award. The bacon was well cooked but it was much too salty and the Blue Cheese overwhelmed the wonderful meat flavor. The egg added a delightful creaminess but also fought with the meat, and all were served on a non-descript bun, which added nothing to the overall composition. Each of the ingredients, by themselves, was very bold, but the combination was not complementary at all. In addition, after one bite, I removed the tomato as it was an over-ripe grocery store variety. The fries were good, they were crispy on the exterior and soft on the interior and served piping hot

Overall, Bogey’s definitely chose a fantastic meat for the Prime Beef Burger (I was told on a previous visit that the meat in the other burger was not the same blend) and with a better balance from the other ingredients, there is a possibility that I would agree that it is an excellent burger, but I enjoyed other options in Fairfield County much better.

Chef Tony Delicias – Not Bad Tacos

bl1Located on Riverside Avenue in Norwalk just south of the Wendy’s on Route 123 and across from the cemetery (I kid you not), Chef Tony Delicias is a colorful truck offering tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. When I approached the window on my first visit there were several people already enjoying their lunches and each assured me that the food at Chef Tony’s was delicious. I ordered three tacos, the steak, chicken and chorizo. Each included a double tortilla topped with grilled meat, onion, cilantro and the diner chooses from a few sauces on the counter. A few wedges of lime plus slices of radishes joined the tacos on the plate

rsz_dsc_0172I placed a small amount of the green sauce on each and returned to my car. The steak was my first choice and I was disappointed after the first bite. It was very bland, just small chunks of beef, griddled and placed on the tortillas. I did not taste any seasoning. The cilantro was mild and the green sauce added a good level of spiciness. The next taco I tried was the chicken and it was a twin to the beef, very bland. The last taco was the chorizo; fortunately this was different with a good level of spiciness from the chorizo

bl4Something did not feel right. Tony was fastidious in the prep, after handling money he washed his hands, he used new gloves with each order, I just could not believe what I ate was indicative of the food, so I returned for a second visit. On visit number 2 I again ordered three tacos, a steak, a carnitas and chicken. It was a different experience

bl3The tacos on the second visit were served nestled in a Styrofoam container with three lime wedges and a small side container of green sauce. The tacos contained the meat plus a small handful of onions and a fair amount of cilantro. There were no sauces on the counter and Tony included a small container of salsa verde with the order. After returning to the car I added a good squirt of lime and drizzled the salsa on each. The chicken was much better with a touch of seasoning and the lime, onion and salsa worked very well together, but the cilantro was somewhat bland. The next taco I sampled was the beef, which was also lightly seasoned and very good. The carnitas was the last I tried and was the best of the six tacos I tasted over the two visits. The pork was seasoned properly, grilled nicely and the meat maintained a good level of juiciness. Like the other two tacos, the balance of the onions, salsa and tortillas was very good.

Although somewhat inconsistent, the second visit to Chef Tony’s feels more indicative of the food and presents another choice for good tacos, albeit in a somewhat out-of-the-way location.

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