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

 

Harlan Social (STM) – Delicious After Two Years

rsz_collageTwo years ago Harlan Social opened as a part of the Lockworks project in Stamford amidst questions on whether the area would support the restaurant or whether the restaurant investors and the developers were visionaries. Two years later Harlan Social’s success shines as a local hang-out, an after work meeting spot, and a destination restaurant.

Harlan Social was the brainchild of Owner & Executive Chef Steve Lewandowski, who was previously the Sous Chef at Manhattan’s Abby restaurant, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Fantino in the Ritz Carlton before joining Tribeca Grill and becoming its Executive Chef. Currently overseeing the kitchen is Executive Chef Michael Sobelman, whose resume includes Sardis and Tribeca Grill with Lewandowski. When Harlan Social opened Lewandowski immediately reached out to Sobelman to join him and oversee the kitchen.

Harlan Social recently introduced its new Fall menu and CTbites visited to sample some of the new additions. The interior of Harlan Social is divided into three areas, a bar area to the right, and a large dining area to the left separated two-thirds of the way to the rear with a floor to ceiling wine rack; ample to host private parties. Guests can choose between a table or a booth in either area. The open kitchen occupies the rear of the restaurant. The atmosphere is hip and vibrant, and offers one of the best after-work bar scenes in Stamford.

The menu is divided into several sections, from Small Plates to full Entrées, which allows each guest to enjoy an individualized experience, and flexibly designed for those looking for either a full course of appetizer, entrée and dessert or those sitting at the bar desiring 2-3 smaller plates.

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My favorite of the smaller options was the “Artichoke Muffaletta” a meatless interpretation of the New Orleans icon sandwich. It paired a glass jar filled with an artichoke / olive salad with a scoop of the wonderfully creamy Stracciatella di Burrata. The artichoke salad delivered bright and earthy flavors offset by the slight tartness of the Burrata, plus a little spiciness from red pepper flakes. There was great balance between the Burrata and the artichoke salad. Served with four slices of grilled bread this is a great start to the meal.

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Another delicious small plate was the “Local Burrata” served atop red wine caponata. The Burrata was a touch sweeter than the Stracciatella and was complemented by the brightness of the olives in the caponata, which also contained raisins for a little sweetness plus capers and red peppers. The raisin bread added additional sweetness to the dish.

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If you are looking for a milder first course the “Ahi Tuna Crudo” is a good option. It was served with slices of jicama, radish, and finished with greens and a Jalapeño yuzu vinaigrette. The soft, mild sashimi tuna was paired with the yuzu vinaigrette. The finely diced and fried garlic chips and red onion added a sudden shot of pungency. This presentation was a careful balance of soothing and mild flavors.
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The small plate that delivered the deepest flavors was the “Braised Lamb Flatbread.” This horizontal version of a traditional Greek gyro was served with pickled red onion, tomato, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. The grilled bread was sweet and a great canvas for the toppings. The braised lamb was delicious, fork-tender, and in combination with the sweetness from the tomatoes and the pungency from the onions created a delightfully rich dish.
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My least favorite of the smaller selections was the “Potato & Onion Pierogies,” served with beer braised cabbage and topped with grain mustard sour cream. The dough was a little thick and overwhelmed the potato and onion stuffing. The cabbage was also bitter and left an unpleasant aftertaste.
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The “Baby Kale & Blue Cheese Salad” was outstanding and included a mélange of textures from sliced apples to spiced pecans, and finished with cider vinaigrette. This hearty salad delivered great combinations of flavors from the nutty cheese to the earthy pecans to the sweet apples. The kale added a little pungency. The blue cheese was a mild variety and did not overwhelm any of the ingredients. This is an excellent choice for either a starter or as a main course.
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My favorite entree was the “Grilled Flat Iron Steak.” The perfectly prepared steak was served atop a medley of roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cranberries, almonds, plus a side of pomme frites. The steak was cooked to medium-rare, sliced, and delivered a deep, rich beefiness. When the meat was paired with the season’s best vegetables, it created a fantastic combination. The addition of the cranberries added a little sweetness to the dish and the almonds a touch of earthy crunch.
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The “Seared Sea Scallops” were served over a spinach and pancetta risotto and finished with a truffle vinaigrette. The highlight was the risotto, which contained pancetta, tomatoes and spinach. The pancetta delivered a great smoky notes to the entire dish, and perfectly complemented the sweet tomatoes and the scallops. The scallops were topped with a few pieces of black truffle pieces that added an earthy note.
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The “Garganelli Pasta” was served with a short rib Bolognese sauce and a dollop of herbed Ricotta cheese. The pasta was cooked to al dente and the sauce (more a meat sauce than Bolognese) contained chunks of soft and flavorful short ribs and a smoky tomato base which were offset by the creamy herbed Ricotta. There was a great balance in the meat, tomatoes and ricotta.

Harlan Social is one of the best restaurants in Stamford, delivering great food in an environment to satisfy all ages, from the vibrant bar scene to the relaxing dining area. The carefully designed menu allow each guest to plan a meal with either a selection of small plates or a traditional appetizer and entrée.

121 Towne St, Stamford, CT 06902
(203) 883-8000
http://www.harlansocial.com

Really Liked
Artichoke Muffaletta $10
Local Burrata $12
Braised Lamb Flatbread $9
Baby Kale & Blue Cheese Salad $12
Seared Sea Scallops $32
Grilled Flat Iron Steak $21

Liked
Ahi Tuna Crudo $14
Garganelli Pasta $12/23

Did Not Like
Potato & Onion Pierogies $12

Top-10 Restaurant Burgers in SW Connecticut – #5 Harlan Social Burger

One of the great aspects of gentrification is the restaurants that come with. Harlan Social was one of the first restaurants to open in the area formerly dedicated to industry, sharing a vision and a parking lot with Fairway Markets. Executive Chef/ Owner Steven Lewandowski is creating incredible flavor combinations. With every ingredient of every dish thoroughly thought through the Harlan Burger delivers an array of flavors found in none other that I tried. And then the Portuguese Muffin adds a sweet component.

BL2 Harlan SocialThe “Harlan Burger” included a special blend of short rib, chuck and brisket from Pat Lafrieda and then Executive Chef / Owner Steve Lewandowski elevated the flavors with his unique toppings. He first basted the burger with his house-made “Japanese Worcestershire Sauce” and then added his “Cheddar Ale Sauce,” comprised of four varieties of cheese, mushroom stock and cream ale. He topped these items with a Bacon Onion Jam. The sweet, sour, salty, umami elements were all present. Then Chef Lewandowski encased the burger in a Portuguese Muffin from Boston, which added a delicious sweet accent.

Read the entire list of best Restaurant Hamburgers at http://www.ctbites.com at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/19/ten-best-restaurant-burgers-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

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