Tavern 489 (Stamford) Serving Some Solid Dishes

ctb_489_octopusThe newest addition to the Springdale-Glenbrook neighborhood is Tavern 489, located at 489 Glenbrook Avenue. A stone’s throw from the Glenbrook train stop, the restaurant sits in the space that originally housed the Moosehead Bar decades ago (thank you “Hey Stamford”) and shares the building with the newly relocated and reopened Tawa (reviewed here). The restaurant is the brainchild of owners Eric Monte and Partner/ Executive Chef Regis Saget. Stamford residents also know Monte as the the owner of The Fez downtown, which brought Moroccan cuisine to center stage.

Chef Regis is no stranger to various international cuisines and the Fairfield County culinary world. He spent his childhood in southwest France before receiving joint degrees from culinary school in Morlaas, France as a chef and pastry chef. Before settling in Greenwich in 2000 he worked in various regions including Spain, England, Andorra, Switzerland, South Africa and the East. He settled in Fairfield Count and worked at La Colline Verte and St. Tropez in Fairfield and opened Savvy Restaurant in New Canaan, which earned the highest “Excellent” rating from the New York Times in July 2006.

The fully redesigned interior of Tavern 489  is reminiscent of an Adirondack mountain lodge complete with exposed M-Trusses, a canoe dangling from the ceiling, a full front-to-back 18-seat wooden bar along the right wall, additional wooden high-top tables and chairs plus a large wooden “picnic” table for larger groups, all drawing focus to the imposing floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the rear. The walls are adorned with photos of Ernest Hemingway. When I asked Monte about these photos, he told me that Hemingway, in addition to being a great writer, was the ultimate outdoorsman, a true man’s man, and his photos fit the rustic, outdoorsy feel he was striving to achieve. In addition to the rustic décor, Tavern 489 offers live music six days a week.

The current menu is very eclectic, reflecting the various regions from Chef Regis’s background. CTbites was recently invited to a dinner at Tavern 489 where Chef Regis prepared items that both appear on the current menu as well as several specials that oftentimes appear on the menu. They each showed a focus on bold flavors that emphasized the inherent flavor of each ingredient, while balancing and complementing the combinations. (Since this was a sponsored event the photos may not reflect the regular portion size.)

We enjoyed three appetizers.

ctb_489_tomato_soupThe first was a Cold Tomato soup. The chunky texture was “gazpacho style” and accentuated the sweetness of tomatoes, offset with just a touch of pungency from some onions and a touch of vinegar. This rendition was delightfully refreshing.

ctb_489_venison_meatballsI also enjoyed the Venison Meatballs. They were served in a “bone-canoe” and were firm in texture while maintaining a moist interior. The venison absorbed a good amount of smokiness and were complemented by a thin glaze of a red wine green peppercorn sauce. The meatballs were served with simple fingerling potatoes that complemented the venison with a little earthiness.

ctb_489_fried_oysters_singleThe third appetizer was the Taunton bay fried oysters. They were coated in a thick seasoned corn meal and deep fried to a golden brown. They were paired with a lemon tamarind tomato curry sauce to bring a little sweetness to the dish. The crust was a little tick, detracting a bit from the sweet oysters.

ctb_489_bison_burgerThe next course was a trio of hamburgers, two beef and the third was bison. The bison was served with lettuce, tomato, shallots, melted Burrata. The bison was rich and expertly prepared to medium-rare. The shallots were a good addition but I was not as fond of the inclusion of the Burrata.

The seasoned hunter angus beef burger was served with lettuce, tomato, and a truffle pesto The medium-rare patty was medium in flavor and I really liked how the earthiness of the truffle pesto complemented the meat.

ctb_489_blackened_angus_burgerThe last burger was the Blackened angus burger, served with lettuce, tomato, and topped with melted Bleu cheese. Similar to the pesto, the Bleu cheese elevated the mildness of the meat.  All of the burgers were served with home-made fries that were very good.

ctb_489_octopusThe burgers were followed by my favorite dish of the evening, the Charred octopus, served in a mélange of kidney beans, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley and pomegranate chimichurri dressing. The slow cooked octopus sections were soft and moist, some of the most tender octopus I have ever eaten. It was combined with the other ingredients to create a vibrant array of bold flavors. The roasted tomatoes exploded with sweetness and the al dente prepared kidney beans offered a wonderful textural contrast. The entire profile was elevated by the pomegranate chimichurri sauce. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

ctb_489_tomohawk_steakThe table next shared the Tomahawk Steak, which the menu describes as 36 ounces. The wood platter was covered with the pre-sliced steak was accompanied with bowls of red potatoes, mixed greens, and broccoli rabe, a few grilled shallots, prosciutto wrapped asparagus and three sauces, a porcini, a green pepper and a poutine. The meat was served rare and was simply and properly seasoned. It was very tender and slightly juicy, but did have a fair amount of fat. The sauces were excellent and increased the profile of the steak. My favorite of the sauces was the poutine which added a wonderful level of earthiness to the steak.  The potatoes and broccoli rabe were simply prepared and delicious, but the asparagus were a little salty from the prosciutto.

ctb_489_chocolate_mousse

To finish the meal, we enjoyed a platter of chocolate mousse. This was ultra-creamy, light in texture and delivered a medium level of chocolate goodness.

Overall, Tavern 489 is a solid neighborhood spot that is also a good choice as a go-to restaurant for people looking for a menu with eclectic choice that deliver bold flavors in a relaxed environment. With a varied selection of beer and wines, there are also numerous beverage options to satisfy everyone.

Really Liked

  • Charred Octopus $14
  • Hunter Angus Burger $13
  • Blackened Angus Burger $12
  • Chocolate Mousse

Liked

  • Venison Balls
  • Cold Tomato Soup
  • Taunton Fried Oysters $12
  • Bison Burger $13
  • Dirty Tomahawk Steak $MP

 

 

Hapa Burger – Food Truck Killin’ It

16_ctb_hapa_burger

Almost a year ago I visited Hapa Food truck and ordered three tacos. Little did I know that the smiling face of owner Chris Gonzales, who prepared those delicious tacos was hiding an incredible talent of delivering bold, balanced and creative cuisine. After I finished the tacos he told me I needed to try the burger. I was too full at the time and told him I would come back. Shame on me for waiting a year. Since that time Hapa has developed quite a following and Chris recently opened Miro in Fairfield, and a colleague who visited Miro told me it was fantastic,

Well…fast forward and I recently returned to Hapa for the burger. The smiling face of Chris was replaced by an equally smiling and friendly face of his wife. I ordered the HAPA burger with fries and she asked if I liked Brussels sprouts, of course I do.

The HAPA burger consists of grass-fed beef topped with pork belly, Vermont cheddar, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, house aioli, encased in HAPA’s signature ube bun.

Let’s start with the bun. Ube is a purple yam. The HAPA bun was a sweet potato bun (made with pureed ube) which gave it the distinctive purple-blue hue and a high level of sweetness, a brioche on steroids. Inside the bun was a large beef patty, which was prepared exactly to medium rare. The meat was delicious, with a loose, medium grind and slightly seared. A delightful and creamy melted slice of Cheddar cheese was melted on the patty., and then the culinary boldness appeared with the accompanying ingredients. There was a slice of pork belly atop the burger that contributed a wonderful layer of smokiness and juiciness from the fat. Now the HAPA burger offered another level of flavor…the caramelized onions. These were cooked low and slow to create a soft and delicate texture, with the inherent sweetness elevated with the addition of brown sugar. The aioli intensified an already bold combination with another level of sweet and spicy, with a touch of wasabi to kick up the heat. A thick slice of tomato and lettuce rounded out the outrageous combination.

The fries were equally creative and delicious. Topped with a cheese sauce and sweet and spicy seasonings, they were the perfect accompaniment to the burger. There was tremendous flavor in both.

Let’s not forget the Brussels sprout. They were equally outstanding. Deep fried and then finished with pico de gallo, papaya seed dressing they are some of the best sprouts I have eaten.

Overall the HAPA burger can challenge any from restaurants in the area and is a contender for best burger in Fairfield County…it is that good.

 

 

 

Barrel House in Stamford: Pizza, Beer and Burgers

What is the result of combining an incredible selection of local beers, a wide choice of meats and vegetables to join delicious Mozzarella and red sauce atop a great pizza crust, with an atmosphere that is simultaneously relaxed and exciting? Barrel House in Stamford.

Barrel House opened last December in the space that formerly housed Market and Patrizia’s restaurants with a focus on pizza, burgers and and a vast array of local small brewed beers. The second restaurant by the owners of Cotto Wine Bar down the street, Claudio and Silvy Ridolfi, designed a very different atmosphere and menu. Silvy told CTbites, “We wanted people to come to Barrel House and enjoy pizza and burgers with friends.” From the moment you walk through the door, you know this will be a lively and fun-filled experience.

The restaurant seats over 100 guests in a combination of banquettes, high-top communal tables, and regular tables, all surrounded by rough hewn reclaimed wood walls and illuminated by retro-bulbs hanging indiscriminately from the ceiling. The entire left side of the dining room is occupied by the bar, with three TVs and a twenty-dispenser beer tap offering an array of local limited edition brews. Silvy mentioned, “Some of our beers are only available at Barrel House for a limited time. We work with many local breweries to offer our guests some very special beers.” The twenty-beer aluminum tap dispenser is like none I have seen, and many of the names were new to me including Triple Karmeliet, Left Hand Stout Nitro, Evil Twin Biscotti Break, Beer’d Whisker Witt and Troegs Scratch Series Choc Stout. In addition, Barrel House offers several wines by the glass, cocktails, and a few specialty cocktails.

The menu is divided into several sections, including Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Entrée, and Pizza…CTbites was invited to sample some of the appetizers, a few pizzas and one of the burgers.

The first appetizer was the Limoncello Wings, which can be ordered in a group of 6- or 12-wings. They were served with a side of chunky Gorgonzola cheese plus carrots and celery. The wings arrived, split at the joint, and lathered in a sauce that mixed Claudio’s Limoncello recipe with a spicy red sauce. The wings were slightly crisped on the exterior and moist on the interior. The resultant Limoncello sauce was more Buffalo-style, not too spicy. Dipping a winglet in the blue cheese created the traditional Buffalo-Gorgonzola cheese combination, and a great start to share with a few beers.

The other appetizer I enjoyed was the Eggplant Croquettes. Three golf-ball sized orbs were sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and served alongside a small dish of Marinara sauce. The croquettes were crispy on the exterior with the filling comprised of eggplant, smoked Provolone cheese, and Mozzarella cheese wonderfully gooey. These mini-eggplant parmesan balls were even better when dipped into the Marinara sauce.

Since a majority of the menu is focused on pizza, it was time to move to the main event. Barrel House offers two sizes, the regular, which is ample for two (or one with a very large appetite) and the “Pala.” The server mentioned it would serve 3-4, but it can easily be shared by 5 or 6. When it arrived I was overwhelmed by its size, and pleasantly surprised that the kitchen decided to create three separate pies on one large crust. The toppings were (a) a traditional pepperoni with Mozzarella and red sauce, (b) a “Broccoli” with rabe, sausage, red peppers and Mozzarella, and (c) a Diavola” with hot soppressata, Mozzarella, cherry peppers and black olives. When I asked the server about the three sections she stated that you can order the Pala with one, two or three separate combinations.

The first test of any pie is the crust, it sets the stage for the quality of the rest of the pie. Barrel House’s crust is outstanding, light and airy, like biting into a cloud, with just a hint of salt and a little chewiness. It is definitely one of the best in the area. The Pala was pre-cut into twelve pieces, each quite large, and the crust was ultra-thin throughout, and it was a bit difficult maneuvering the slices onto the plate Once there, each of the three sectors presented very distinct, and incredibly flavorful, combination.

The boldest was the “Diavola.” The diced cherry peppers were spicy, but not incendiary and the saltiness of the olives created a great salty-spicy balance, which were complemented by the soppressata and a wonderful red sauce. The pepperoni was my next stop and many judge a great pie by the pepperoni and Barrel House’s was as good as any. The pepperoni slices were razor thin, crispy, and delivered great flavor. A simple pepperoni pizza would be a great choice. The white broccoli rabe and sausage was a mild alternative to its two spicy neighbors. The sweet sausage ovals were a great accompaniment to the broccoli rabe and the Mozzarella cheese.

I also enjoyed a regular-sized “Veggie” that can be ordered either as a “white” or “red” pie. Mine was made without the red sauce and included eggplant, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and zucchini atop melted Mozzarella cheese. Each slice was dedicated to one of the toppings and they were delightful, mild, and earthy. The red sauce would be an excellent addition and I would order it “red” on the next visit.

I also sampled one of Barrel House’s Bacon Cheese Burgers, which is an 8-ounce patty served with melted Cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, on a brioche. The meat, bacon, cheese and bun were delicious, but the onions were much too sweet, distracting from the rest of the burger. I will call this burger a work-in-progress and I would order next time without the onions.

Overall, the downtown Stamford culinary scene has a new, and great place for pizza, burgers and beer. With a hip vibe, a great selection of beers and loads of toppings to make a fantastic pie, walk in, sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and the food with friends.

249 Main Street – Stamford, CT – 06901

203-890-9922

Really Liked

  • Eggplant Croquettes
  • Diavola pie
  • Pepperoni pie
  • Sausage and broccoli rabe pie

Liked

  • Limoncello wings
  • Veggie pie
  • Burger (without onions)

EOS (Stamford) – Contemporized Greek Cuisine in Romantic Setting

ctb eos 16 dessert 2Eos Restaurant opened in 2008 by Nikki and Jimmy Glekas and his mother Dina Glekas Loukrezis with the goal of serving contemporary Greek cuisine. Chef Minas Sotirakopoulos recently joined the EOS culinary family and Nikki Glekas invited CTbites to sample a few of the newest additions to the menu, which blends the family’s Greek heritage with modern-day flair.

The interior of the restaurant is relaxed and inviting. The single dining room features a banquette along the entire right wall with seating for twenty plus an addition thirteen four-guest tables, nicely spaced to allow for normal conversation. Above the banquette are photos from the family’s recent visit to Greece while the opposite wall is adorned with wavy modular art, creating a relaxed aquatic feel reminiscent of a seaside restaurant along the Mediterranean. The mood is soft and romantic from the indirect lighting in the tray ceiling and carefully spaced, yet unobtrusive spot lights.

ctb eos 16 beans 2The evening started with three selections from the Mezedes (small plate) section. My favorite was the Gigantes. The giant butter beans were baked and served in a rich tomato sauce, and topped with small chunks of feta cheese. The beans were perfectly prepared to maintain a touch of bite and delivered a wonderful earthiness that was complemented by the rich, spicy-sweet tomatoes. The feta added a mellowness to the robust tomato sauce. This simple 3-ingredient dish was bold and superb.

ctb eos 16 salad 2The Prassinos Pyrgos was an amazing salad. It included fresh baby spinach, feta cheese, dill, and scallions, layered between toasted sheets of phyllo and finished with sesame seeds and a honey balsamic vinaigrette. The presentation was beautiful. The baby spinach was complemented by the pungency of the scallions and dill, neither of which I normally expect in a salad…and they worked. The feta added a mild creaminess and the dressing elevated the dish with a delightful sweetness.

ctb eos 16 octopus 2The newest addition to the small plate section is the Ospriatha. The dish consisted of grilled octopus sitting atop a mélange of lentils, white beans, chick peas, fresh vegetables (that included peppers and cucumbers) and finished with lemon vinaigrette. The dish balanced the tender octopus with a variety of textures in the vegetables, which also offered just a touch of spiciness. The octopus, itself, was a little over-charred, which lent a mildly unpleasant burnt taste to the dish.

For the main course, the Chef Sotirakopoulos prepared a table-sharing adventure with three entrees, including the Lavraki, the Paidakia, and the Pork Souvlaki.

ctb eos 16 entrees 2The best dish of the evening was the Lavraki, which included a whole char-grilled and de-boned Branzino sitting atop a sheet of toasted phyllo, itself covered with a Kalamata olive spread, roasted tomatoes and onions. This dish was spectacular. The filet was moist and delicious, and when combined with the olive paste, tomatoes and onions created an overabundance of brilliant flavors. It was one of the best fish combinations I have eaten in quite some time. A small sip of the Muses Mouhtaro further enhanced the dish.

The other delicious entrée was the Paidakia, a char-grilled lamb rib chop. The chop was first marinated in olive oil and lemon juice allowing the meat to absorbed just a hint of citrus. The texture was soft, yet firm and the chop was perfectly charred to enhance the richness of the lamb. The chop was served with a variety of grilled vegetables including roasted red peppers, Portobello mushroom, eggplant and zucchini, which added great earthy and sweet contrasts to the meat. The chef also included a few of EOS’ long standing Lemon Potatoes, which were delightful. The Megas Oenos red blend was well paired with the lamb.

The third entrée, the Pork Souvlaki was the singular mis-step of the evening. The cubes of pork tenderloin were marinated in a lemon-oregano marinade and char-grilled. Unfortunately, they were over-cooked, dry and chewy and I was not a fan of the seasoning.

Our dessert consisted of a trio of Greek specialties. My favorite was the Baklava. The filling was very dense and included both walnuts and almonds, plus cinnamon. This mixture was nestled between sheets of phyllo, and drizzled with honey. It was one of the best Baklavas I have ever tasted. The second delightful dessert was the Millefeuille, a wonderful dark chocolate mousse, served with chocolate-covered phyllo. The smooth and chocolatey mousse was delicious and it was the favorite of others at the table. The dessert trio also included a house-made yogurt, served with orange segments, strawberries, blueberries, all sitting in a small pool of honey. The yogurt was delightful, dense and was a great canvas for the sweet berries. Save room for all of these desserts. We enjoyed a split of Blink sparkling wine with the desserts.

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to EOS. The hospitality of the Glekas family is second to none, and the family’s hands-on dedication to the flavors of Greece are evident in each dish. Add a wonderful atmosphere in a lovely room and EOS is a restaurant I will return to often.

Really Liked

Gigantes (Butter Beans)

Prassinos Pyrgos (Salad between Phyllo)

Lavraki (Bronzino)

Paidakia (Lamb Chop)

Baklava

Millefeuille

Liked

Ospriatha (Octopus)

Yogurt with fruit

Did Not Like

Pork Souvlaki

490 Summer Street – Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 569-6250

Amore Cucina (Stamford) – Outstanding Pizza

amore_5There is another entrant onto my Great Pizza List. Amore Cucina & Bar recently opened on Hope Street in Stamford and is serving outstanding pizza. On a recent Monday, Owner Bruno DiFabio, opened his doors with 100% of the proceeds earmarked for the Susan G Komen Research Foundation for Breast Cancer. DiFabio is no stranger to the limelight. He is a six-time World Pizza Champion and Television Personality and owns eleven restaurants in the US.

amore_4Amore serves two types of pizza and on this visit I sampled the “Ferentini” square pie. The making of the dough requires a 96-hour fermentation process, using condensed milk that breaks down the gluten in the flour. Bruno told me this creates close to a gluten free product and he recommends to people with gluten issues.

amore_6The Ferentini is topped with spicy salami, green olives, tomato, Mozzarella cheese and San Marzano purée, and was the winner in the Best Traditional Category at the Las Vegas Expo. The square shape is reminiscent of Chicago pan pizza and the thickness of the dough may give some concern, but after one bite you will understand that you are in the presence of pizza greatness.

amore_7The pizza was perfectly baked, with a tan crust and underside, the cheese was firmly holding all of the ingredients in place (I do not like when the cheese covers the ingredients) and they were evenly distributed so each bite of the six slices would capture all of the flavors. My first bite of the crust was similar to biting into air surrounded by a thin crispy crust…it was divine, and the flavor was fantastic. I moved onto the full slice and they were fantastic. The sweetness of the San Marzano purée combined with the spiciness of the salami and the brightness of the olives was perfect. The cheese added a hint of luscious creaminess. This was one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten.

amore_1Overall, Amore is a great place, the décor is wonderful, the owner is a great person who can deliver exceptional food and gives back to the community and the pizza is world class.

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Best Restaurant Burgers in Southwest CT – #8 Napa (Stamford)

Carrying on in the tradition of previous chefs, Bill Taibe and Arik Bensimon, current Chef Adam Truelove still produces one of the best burgers in southwest Connecticut. After only a few weeks at the helm of this renowned kitchen I decided to try the burger that has been one of my favorites for years. As a game changing burger over the years, the Napa Burger is the only entrant on the list that uses 100% American Wagyu beef, was the first to include the onion jam, and then topped with Gruyere, which has become this burger’s trademark.

bl2 NapaExecutive Chef Adam Truelove continues producing the Napa Wagyu Burger which has appeared on this list since its inception. The large, marbled meat was perfectly prepared and then topped with an onion jam, aged Gouda cheese, and pepper mayo, all encased in a brioche roll. The meat was rich and juicy and the onion jam was fantastic. The aged Gouda cheese was perfectly melted and brought a deep nutty flavor to the burger. The fries that accompanied the burger were delicious.

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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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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