Who doesn’t like brunch, raise your hands. Yep, I thought so. It is literally impossible not to like the slow flow of the delicious food on Sunday, when you still have some of your weekend left, and the late breakfast becoming an early lunch is one of the indulgences of the weekend time with the family.
When it comes to brunch, you have to make some choices. I don’t mean “to drink Mimosa or not”, but most fundamental choice is between brunch buffet and the regular a-la-cart brunch menu. There are pro and cons for both, but this is not a subject of today’s post. What I want to talk about is a recent experience at one of the newest restaurants in lower Fairfield county in Connecticut – Oak+ Almond in Norwalk, CT.
Oak + Almond opened in the Fall of 2013 at the same location where Tuscan Oven restaurant was located for almost 20 years. Oak + Almond is classified as new American cuisine, which I think is quite fitting – lots of focus on local farms and products – you know where the cheese came from, you know where the chicken came from, you know where the eggs, berries and produce came from. As much as possible, everything is fresh and local, which is definitely a trait in the new American restaurant style.
The place is nicely decorated, reusing some of the components of the old Italian restaurant to their advantage, such as the pizza oven (those are always nice to have on hand, aren’t they). The decor overall should be classified as retro modern (or modern retro, whatever way you see it), with some very unusual lighting and heavy dark oak furniture. Here are the few pictures for you:
I never was a cocktails guy in the restaurant – until our first experience at Nola Restaurant in Norwalk last Fall, where I tried the real and true artisan cocktail, made with love – ever since, I’m always looking forward to the new and interesting cocktails before I would start my meal – so why brunch should be an exception? As I really like Scotch, I started with the cocktail called “where there is smoke” (islay mist 8 yo scotch, sherry, almond syrup, cocoa + cayenne powder) – it was nice, but I would say a bit too much in therms of the amount of the cocoa, which was not dissolving in the icy cold liquid, making the cocktail a bit chewy. The spice pear was not bad, and so was the Bloody Mary, which also was sporting premise-pickled veggies. And mimosa was, of course, the staple of the brunch, very nicely made with the nice dry Prosecco, very refreshing.
Our actual meal consisted of two parts – first, we shared a number of dishes, and then each of us ordered an individual entree. Here is what we had for the sharing:
Pork + Ricotta Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce – very nicely done, meatballs had just the right density, and the sauce was very pleasant.
Charred Octopus (guajillo squid ink sauce. potatoes. andouille. celery) – well done, octopus was just as exact “chewiness” where it is pleasant (I think cooking octopus without making it into a rubber is an art).
Funghi Flatbread (charred green onion. fontina. balsamic) – this was a masterpiece – with all due respect to all other dishes, the mushrooms were soooo … mushroomy! If you like mushrooms – don’t miss it.
O+A Margherita Flatbread (Hamden burrata. tomato. calabrian chile) – this was okay, but slightly… pedestrian, especially comparing to the previous flatbread.
We also had 3 “communal” boards to share – the Artisan Cheese Board (fruit preserves. nuts. crostini), the selection of 6 local cheeses – Cremont, Nancy Camembert, Nettle Meadow Kunik, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, North Coutry Blue and Ocooch Mountain, all from the Artisanal Cheese); Meat Board (hand selected meats, pickles, crostini) and House Cured Salmon. All three dishes were well done and quite tasty.
And then there were our main dishes. I have to honestly admit that somehow myself and my wife made a mistake ordering two of the simplest dishes on the menu. I had Two Local Farm Eggs Any style (toast. potato hash or grits. bacon or sausage), and while eggs were distinctly fresh and applewood smoked, thick-cut bacon was tasty, there were only two tiny pieces of bacon, and the potatoes were, how should I put it, not at the level you would expect from the restaurant like this ( think IHOP breakfast potatoes). My wife got B.E.C (griddled farm eggs. bacon. cheddar. brioche roll), and while it was tasty, the ratio of a huge brioche ban versus really small egg and cheese definitely took away from this dish.
In no particular order this is what the rest of the group had (I believe they had higher degree of success than us): Buttermilk Pancakes (ct maple syrup, roasted apples), Mussels + Fries (blue lip mussels. harissa. fennel. shallots. fries), Chittara Carbonara (guanciale. pecorino. farm egg. black pepper) – ahh I regretted I didn’t get this dish, Grass Fed Hamburger (bacon. gorgonzola dolce. roasted cippolini. fries) – humongous!
Two Farm Eggs
Mussels + Fries
We concluded our brunch with traditional Italian dessert – Affogato, with hot espresso poured over the ice cream:
All in all, this was a good experience (also I didn’t mention service, which was outstanding), so next Sunday, think about it – this might be just the place to relax. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
Oak + Almond
544 Main Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851