Morello Italian Bistro (Greenwich) – Exquisitely Beautiful with Delicious Food

BL InteriorMorello Italian Bistro is architecturally one of the most beautiful restaurants in Connecticut and offers equally delicious cuisine. The exquisite interior of the landmark building on Greenwich Avenue was designed by Rafael Guastavino, Jr, whose father invented the golden amber tile vaulting system that grace the pillars, herringbone arches and ceilings. Art adorns the walls, and the soft, hand blown white tear-drop shaped glass chandeliers, descending from the ceiling create a beautifully romantic atmosphere for dinner. As we worked our way through appetizers, pastas, entrees and desserts General Manager Jimmy Branigan, Jr. was the perfect host, stopping by the table on several occasions to explain the composition of many of the courses and offer suggestions from the reasonably priced wine list.
BL FrittersWhile we leisurely perused the menu, we enjoyed the “Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters.” The large fritters delivered complementary textures and flavors. The crisp exterior was offset by the marvelously smooth interior, which presented a delicious combination of prosciutto and Fontina cheese. The dish was finished with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese which added the perfect level of saltiness to the fried exterior. An order or two for the table is an excellent way to start the meal.
BL HamachiWe next shared several of the appetizers including the “Hamachi Crudo,” the “Roasted Asparagus & Egg,” and the “Imported Pugliese Burrata.” My favorite was the crudo. Four thick, sashimi-style slices of Hamachi were accented with basil, pickled pear, lemon zest, chili, extra-virgin olive oil, and finished with sea salt. The Hamachi was more than capable of handling the slightly soured pear, the acidity of the lemon and the sea salt; the basil added a unique dimension that made for a delectable composition. BL AsparagusThe Asparagus & Egg was also delicious and would be perfect for a Sunday brunch. The asparagus were crisp and sweet, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and then topped with the fried egg. When the yolk was released, its creaminess was a delightful combination with the asparagus and cheese.BL BurrataThe Burrata was less than satisfying. The cheese was too tangy for my taste and overwhelmed the warmed tomatoes and pistachios.
CTB Squash RavioliPastas can be ordered as an entrée or as half-portions for an appetizer. My favorite of the three that we ordered was the “Butternut Squash Ravioli,” which was served with brown butter, and finished with diced squash and sage. Six raviolis comprised a half-portion. The pureed squash was sweet and smooth and the brown butter and sage were a perfect complement. BL BologneseThe “Morello’s Garganelli Bolognese” was a very good rendition. The all-beef sauce was deep in flavor and the house-made garganelli’s shape allowed the sauce to cling to each piece. The addition of the herbed ricotta added a few background accents that created a wide flavor profile. BL Pasta NegriThe third pasta was the “Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster.” I was not fond of this combination. While the pasta itself was delicious, it was slightly overcooked and a little gummy. The sauce contained a lot of sweet lobster meat, but lacked the vibrant flavors that the other dishes delivered.
BL DuckThe three entrées presented very different combinations. The “Hudson Valley Magret Duck Breast” was accompanied by gooseberries, pistachio pieces and red watercress, all served atop two brushes of cherry sauce. The duck breast brought the texture and richness of a great beef or lamb filet, deep and rich with a firm texture. The gooseberries and the pistachios offset the gaminess of the meat with sweet and nutty notes, respectively. The duck was a delicious choice. BL SalmonThe “Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon” was served atop fennel braised in orange juice, olives and raisins. The fish was prepared to my requested medium and was deep and rich in flavor and the accompaniments brought bright notes to the preparation. Offsetting and brightening richness of the fish were the sweetness of the orange braised fennel and the raisins; while the olive brought a hint of saltiness. The skin was over-salted and I removed it to better enjoy the fish. BL ScallopsOur third entrée was the “Roasted Scallops & Caramelized Cauliflower” with capers, caper berries, sultanas, and pancetta and served atop roasted cauliflower. The first taste included some of the capers, which were extremely salty and I needed to push them aside. Once the capers were eliminated the dish was significantly better. The scallops were perfectly seared on both sides, translucent on the interior and delightfully sweet. The sultanas delivered additional sweetness, the pancetta added the necessary saltiness, while the cauliflower added an earthy complement.
BL CheesecakeThe three desserts were outstanding. My favorite was the “Salted Caramel Cheesecake.” The individually prepared cheesecake had a thin graham cracker crust and was presented nestled in a dollop of perfectly prepared caramel sauce. The filling was not too sweet and when combined with the caramel sauce was fantastic. The whipped cream added a little creaminess and the dish was complemented with a crunchy almond tuile. BL Chocolate CakeAnother fabulous choice was the “Molten Chocolate Cake.” Morello’s version included a dark chocolate cake with a milk chocolate center sitting in a pool of caramel and served with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Each of the components presented a different amount of sweetness and when combined created a delicious and beautiful offering. BL Panna CottaOur last dessert was the “Yogurt Panna Cotta.” Whereas the other desserts were focused on sweet, the panna cotta offered a slightly tart alternative. The panna cotta was served with Nebbiolo poached pear slices, and topped with thyme accented semolina crumbs. The pears were incredibly flavorful from the wine poaching and complemented the tartness of the yogurt panna cotta. The crumb added a good textural difference.
Morello Italian Bistro is a beautiful restaurant with some outstanding dishes for both a romantic special event or a simple dinner with friends.

253 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich • (203) 661-3443

Really Liked
Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters
Hamachi Crudo
Roasted Asparagus & Egg
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Hudson Valley Magret Duck Breast
Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Molten Chocolate Cake

Liked
Morellos Garganelli Bolognese
Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon
Yogurt Panna Cotta

Not Fond of
Imported Pugliese Burrata
Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster
Roasted Scallops & Caramelized Cauliflower

This review was originally posted on CTBites at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/2/16/morello-italian-bistro-in-greenwich-beautiful-food-in-an-exq.html

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #5 Burgers Shakes & Fries

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For number 5 on my list of Best Bar Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven I bring you Burgers, Shakes and Fries. The brain child of owner Kory Wollins, BSF started the burger revolution in these parts several years ago and is still going strong, with a second, larger  location in Darien. Many want their burger on a bun, but I think the BSF burger is just fantastic on the griddled bread.

There are two locations, but the burgers were significantly better in the Byrum location. The meat was delicious and cooked to order. My selection was the single with bacon. American cheese and fried onions, plus fries and a chocolate shake. The meat was rich in flavor and perfectly prepared, the bacon and cheese added saltiness and creaminess, respectively and the grilled onions were the best in the area. I loved the buttered and grilled toast as the “bun.” The fries were also fantastic and for a change of pace the sweet potato tots were also a good option. The burger, shake and fries were a fantastic meal.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

(photo courtesy of CTbites.com)

Burgers Shakes & Fries on Urbanspoon

Harvest Wine Bar (Greenwich) – Outstanding Opening

BL exteriorHarvest Wine Bar, located on the lower end of Greenwich Avenue, elevates the restaurant offerings in downtown Greenwich to a much higher level. The Sigueza brothers, Vicente and Kleber, can now add another fantastic restaurant to their portfolio, which includes Cave Wine Bar in New Canaan, Scena Wine Bar in Darien and 55 Wine Bar in Fairfield. A beautiful casual dining space in the front area is dominated by a large brick wall and accentuated with wood tables and chairs.  You can continue walking to the rear of the restaurant and enjoy the long bar or tables, all with views through the large west-facing windows lining the entire rear wall of the restaurant.

BL Back DiningOverseeing the kitchen is Chef Eben Leonard who is migrating from Scena Wine Bar where CTbites enjoyed his creativity and culinary talent on numerous occasions. His opening menu combines aspects from southern Europe with a modern twist to American classics. “Snacks and Shares” to enjoy at the bar include a creative short rib mac and cheese, carpetbagger oysters with beef carpaccio, and grilled pork tenderloin sliders. ”Starters” include salads, crudos and seafood. The entrées (“Seconds”) include several pasta dishes (I was assured that theof other Ricotta Gnocchi Bolognese from Scena is duplicated), but the emphasis of the menu is wood-fired, grilled meats, poultry and seafood.

I sampled three of the appetizers and two were outstanding.

BL BrusselThe “Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad” with a Parmesan risotto cake and truffle vinaigrette is delicious. The tower of Brussel sprout rests atop a warm parmesan risotto cake, surrounded by a small dollop of parmesan sauce. The focus of the dish is the shaved, raw Brussel sprouts, accented with olive oil, lemon, truffle oil and parmesan. The Brussel sprout and Parmesan cheese combination is a tremendous flavor combination; the bittersweet Brussels sprouts work exquisitely with the saltiness of the Parmesan cheese. Texturally, the dish includes the crunchiness of the raw Brussel sprouts, the cake’s exterior and slight bite from the risotto offset by the creaminess of the cake’s interior and the Parmesan sauce.

BL Scallop CrudoThe “Scallop Crudo” with blood orange segments and topped with shredded Kombu (Japanese kelp) salt and micro greens is delightful and incredibly light. The mild flavors of the scallops are pleasantly complemented by the saltiness of the Kombu. The blood orange segments add a slight sweet-and-sour to the dish with a small amount of citrus. This was my introduction to Kombu and it reminds me of shredded beef jerky, offering a hearty saltiness. The addition of a few micro-greens adds a level of freshness to the dish. This is also an wonderful start to the meal.

BL OctopusThe “Charred Octopus” with red wine braised lentils, bacon, avocado, sweet Piquillo peppers and cherry tomatoes was not to my liking. The octopus itself is delicious, but the rest of the ingredients do not add to the overall dish; overall it lacks textural contrasts and many of the flavors meld together versus complementing. The bacon, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro attempt to add contrast and flavors but the avocado is subsumed by the lentils.

Both of the two entrées that I sampled were outstanding.

BL VealMy favorite of the two entrées is the “Wood Grilled Veal Chop” with creamy spinach, veal raviolis, baby carrots, truffle red wine glaze and a touch of parmesan. Chef Leonard told me he sells “a ton” of this entrée and after one bite I completely understand. The chop is perfectly grilled and seasoned, beautifully moist and full of a delicious veal flavor. The spinach is a perfect complement to the veal, slightly creamy with a deep flavor and the veal ravioli are delicate, which pairs well with the red wine glaze. To add a sweet component, the dish includes a few sweet baby carrots atop the chop. Overall this is one of the best veal chops I have tasted in a while.

BL SalmonThe “Wood Grilled Salmon” with cranberry beans, kale, preserved lemon and charred tomato vinaigrette brings a new dimension to a basic dish. The preparation differs from so many in Fairfield County where a simple grilled salmon filet and vegetables are served. Yes Harvest’s is grilled salmon, but the other ingredients add a totally different flavor profile to this interpretation. The kale and cranberry beans bring earthiness; and then the preserved lemon increases the dish’s complexity with citrus to take the palate in a different direction. This is a salmon presentation to satisfy both sexes.

BL HamburgerAnd for those interested in one of the best hamburgers in Fairfield County, Harvest delivers. The “Harvest Burger” is comprised of grass fed, all natural beef (from Minnesota), with Applewood smoked bacon, crispy onions, smoked tomato mayo, Grafton cheddar on a toasted English muffin, served with “everything fries.” This could be the best flavored meat in Fairfield County, a deep rich flavor and with enough fat to absorb a good level of smokiness. The thick cut bacon adds more smoke and saltiness and the smoked tomato mayo augments with just a touch of flavor to the muffin. I was initially suspect of the “everything” seasoning on the fries; but after several fries I am a fan, the poppy seeds bring a new flavor dimension to the traditional salty fries.

BL SundaeHarvest has a few fun desserts to end the meal. The banana split sundae includes a brownie (which is actually Chef Leonard’s grandmother’s recipe), with two scoops of ice cream, one of peanut butter cup and the other espresso nugget, and topped with strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce, chocolate covered espresso beans and nuts. I really like this dessert and what else needs to be said about a sundae, other than it is a great frozen treat and a perfect and relaxing way to end the meal.

After a few months, Chef Leonard and Harvest Wine Bar are preparing some excellent dishes. From crudos to pastas to grilled steaks and chops, the food at Harvest will make this a go-to restaurant in Greenwich.