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Restaurant Files: The Art of Southern Cuisine at Peaches in Norwalk, CT

March 19, 2017 4 comments

Eat Drink Boogie RepeatLet me make a bold claim – Southern Cuisine might be the only authentic cuisine in the United States. Yes, New England got lobster and clam chowder, Maryland got blue crab and crab cakes, but it hardly constitutes a “cuisine”. Even barbeque is more of a cult or a culture if you will, but more often than not, the word “barbeque” would simply associate with the specific method of cooking rather than a cuisine in general.

Say “Southern cuisine”, and immediately the words and images for “shrimp and grits”, “chicken and waffles”, or ‘fried green tomatoes” pop in one’s head. Same as Thai, Japanese, or Mexican, Southern cuisine is something we can easily identify with.

While the Southern cuisine is, of course, better experienced in the South, over the last few years we were lucky here on the East Coast of the USA with a number of restaurants representing the cuisine very well. Today I want to offer you a perfect example – Peaches Restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, officially known as Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint. Peaches is the newest endeavor of the serial entrepreneur Greer Frederick, who is deeply involved in Connecticut restaurant scene for many years.

I love the rustic decor at Peaches, very homey and calming, but very modern at the same time:

Of course the restaurant visit started at the bar. Spicy Okratini (Oola Aloo Vodka, dirty okra juice, pickled okra) had a nice bite and literally no sweetness, which I really appreciate. Bee’s Knees (Bar Hill gin, fresh lemon, Mad Hatter honey) was made with an artisan Mad Hatter honey, which we also had an opportunity to taste. Again, despite the honey base, the cocktal was perfectly balanced with right amount of acidity and sweetness. Peaches’ Old Fashion (Rittenhouse Rye, Damerara sugar, Angostura bitters, Fee Brothers Peach bitters), was very tasty, but also a bit too generous with alcohol.

Once we got to our tables, the little bowl with various pickles was the very first plate arriving in front of us – not overly sour, quite tasty. Then our first appetizer showed up – Devilled Eggs (beet brined eggs, braised bacon, pickled okra). Definitely a very creative dish, an unexpected color of the eggs, nice touch with the bacon crumble on top, creamy. Devilled eggs are very popular in Russian cuisine, so I’m more accustomed to a different style, but this was still a tasty dish.

The Chopped Kale (charred corn, pickled beets, green goddess dressing, cotija cheese) was one of the best kale salads I ever had. Additional of charred corn worked very well, and creamy dressing was outstanding, very flavorful. The Fried Green Tomatoes (tomato jam, country ham, buttermilk ranch), a timeless Southern classic was excellent as well – great interplay of textures, and I would eat that tomato jam by the bowlful. Our last appetizer, the Country Fair Bacon (funnel cake batter, braised bacon, black pepper maple) was good, but maybe a bit too simple to my taste.

We started our entree round with another Southern classic – Shrimp and Grits (andouille, smoked shrimp broth, pickled okra, heirloom grits) – the grits were creamy and super-flavorful, one of the best ever, and the shrimp had a perfect amount of spice and cooked very well – that was one delicious experience. The Pork Shank (black eyed peas cassoulet, pickled veg, onion jam) was a standout. It was a huge hulk of meat on the bone, marinated for 36 hours and cooked at 275F for 3.5 hours – I can’t even describe how comforting this dish was. The meat was falling apart, and all you needed to do was just to savor ever little bite. Outstanding.

Shrimp and Grits at Peaches

Pork Shank at Peaches

And then there was Bucket O’ Chicken (pickle-brined fried chicken + Nashville style cornbread, coleslaw, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese). Do you like properly made Southern style fried chicken? Then get away from the screen and head over to the Peaches right now – that dish was a quintessential Art of Southern Cuisine right on the table. We had both regular and Nashville Hot style – in both cases chicken is brined before cooking, but the Nashville Hot style has the addition of a hot sauce (smoked paprika, brown sugar, cayenne, oil) brushed on after the chicken is fried. It was also served with lots of different side dishes – cole slaw, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese and delicious corn bread – every bite of chicken was tender and bristling with flavor. It was also served with apple cider vinegar on a side, which, as Greer explained, is considered a Ketchup of the South. Great experience all in all.

Bucket o'chicken at Peaches

Peaches is not called the “Pub and Juke Joint” for nothing. The restaurant has a second floor with another bar, perfectly suitable for dancing or as an event space, as well as an outdoor patio – definitely the space with a lot of potential.

We finished this outstanding meal in style with Old Fashioned Southern Peach Cobbler (brown sugar peaches, vanilla ice cream) – delicious dessert, candied pecans packed a lot of flavor.

Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler at PeachesI hope that the pictures and my notes explain my point about the Art of Southern Cuisine – this was truly a soulful cooking, and we experienced the tasty food with unmistakable personality – like the familiar face we are always happy to see in the crowd, the Southern Cuisine is something we can now spot anywhere we go.

Hope I didn’t make you too hungry. And if I did – oh well, I’m not going to apologise. Cheers!

Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint
7 Wall St
Norwalk, CT 06850
Phone number (203) 831-0399
http://www.peachesnorwalk.com

Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Files: Tablao in Norwalk, CT – Wine or Cocktail, You Decide

November 12, 2016 2 comments

Translated from Spanish, the word “Tabla” has a few different meanings, but the one of interest for us here is a “board” or a “plank”. If you stop by the recently opened Tablao restaurant in SoNo district or Norwalk, Connecticut, the wooden planks on the walls will definitely attract your attention – and if you are a oenophile, you can’t help but to keep looking for all the familiar and coveted names (uncontrollable drooling will be excused, but please behave):

For sure I was very happy to observe all those wooden boards when I visited the restaurant for the bloggers dinner a few month ago. This time around, I arrived even a bit early, so I had an opportunity to snap a few pictures of decor and ambiance:

Tablao SoNo

Tablao SoNo

Tablao SoNoWhile I love wine, I would never skip the bar – after all, nice cocktail is a nice cocktail, a great way to start the evening. The bar at Tablao didn’t disappoint. To be entirely honest, it even exceeded my expectations, as soon as I saw a bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal. Del Maguey makes absolutely spectacular Mezcal, which is rare and almost impossible to find. If the restaurant carries it, it gives me a good pointer for what to expect.

Tablao offers a nice selection of cocktails and wines by the glass:

Cocktails and Wines by the glass menu Tablao SoNoWe had a few of the cocktails, and the wines were prepared for our dinner in advance. I really liked the cocktail called Charred! (charred Serrano pepper, Chinaco Blanco – another sign of high-class – rare and beautiful tequila, Vida Mezcal, lime, agave, optional egg white) – nice balance, good spicy bite. From the wines, my favorites were 2011 Guimaro Mencia Ribera Sacra which was earthy and showing nice ripe fruit, and 2014 Desierto25 Cabernet Franc Patagonia, Argentina, which was unexpected (Cab Franc from Argentina? wow) and stunning – smooth, balanced, with an excellent fruit profile:

 

While we were mingling, the food started to appear:


Cheese Croquettes were very tasty, with nice amount of spice. Potato Croquettes were my favorite, again, well cooked and very tasty, with good amount of seasoning, and then Grilled Chorizo – who can argue with Chorizo?

The first dish to arrive at the table Charcuteria, which is offered with a very nice selection of meats and cheeses at Tablao:

Our first course consisted of three different Tapas: Brussels Sprouts Salad (Fontina risotto cake, black truffle shavings, truffle olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese) – memorable presentation, the salad itself was tasty, but the risotto cake was a touch too dense to my taste. Next up was Salmon Tartare (Jalapeños, red onion, ginger, lemon juice served with house-made potato crisps) – nicely made, good flavor and then Calamari a la Plancha (Vinaigrette of vegetables and salad) with a good char on the octopus.

Brussels Sprouts Salad Tablao SoNo

Salmon Tartar Tablao SoNo

Calamari a la Pancha Tablao SoNo

The second course brought in Hanger Steak (Green chimichurri), Asparagus (Parmesan, red pepper vinaigrette, balsamic reduction) and Chorizo Español (figs, beans), all nicely prepared:

And then, of course, showing all the Spanish cooking heritage, the Classic Paella (Chorizo, Chicken, Port, Clams, Mussels, Shrimp). Let me explain how good this paella is: you know how every once in a while you are setting next to the dish, you are full – I mean, completely full – and you still are going “let me just get another bite, just one more, please, I promise” – yes, that was the Paella experience at Tablao.

To finish our night in style, we got the trio of the deserts – Tres-Leches (Dense 3 milk cake), Strawberry Panna Cotta (Served with coconut ice cream) and Housemade Chocolate Tart (Chocolate & Goat Cheese) – all very tasty.

Desert trio Tablao SoNoThat’s all I have for you, my friends. If you are looking for a tasty (and different!) drink, a glass of good wine and a tasty bite of food, Tablao in SoNo can provide them all – with a bonus of a perfect ambiance. Cheers!

Tablao Wine Bar and Restaurant
86 Washington St
Norwalk, CT 06854
Ph: (203) 939-9602
tablaosono.com

Tablao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Prime Time at Washington Prime

September 8, 2014 5 comments

Washington PrimeWhen you come to the new restaurant, first you discover the food. Then drinks and wine. Then ambiance and decor. Then service. Well, yes, all of the above – but in the random order. The experience is somewhat like peeling the onion, only with an element of surprise – you don’t know what your next excitement will be. May be a new dish. Or may be, as I recently had, a creative interior which all of a sudden dawns on you, after you already spent more than hour in the restaurant.

About two weeks ago, we visited new restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, called Washington Prime. The restaurant is located on the Washington Street, hence the first part of the name. And for the second part, there can be multiple explanations, but as restaurant is a steakhouse, and it serves only Prime cuts of beef (for the readers outside of the US – Prime is a definition from the US Department of Agriculture for the best quality selection of beef), hence the second part of the name.

We walked into the restaurant, immediately got to our table, and started studying the cocktail selection and got into the conversation with our dining companions. Only an hour into our dinner I had an opportunity to walk around and see how creatively the dining room was decorated, with the grape vines on the ceiling above bar and green plants (yes, artificial, not live) covering the walls in the corridor. It became quire dark when I made the discovery, so the pictures wouldn’t do a justice to the decor, but nevertheless, you will get an idea.

The cocktail list was quite interesting, and it was not easy to make a selection. I went with the Basil Smash (basil, simple syrup, tanqueray 10, lemon just) – nicely refreshing and not overly sweet. Moscow Mule‘s presentation also looked quite interesting. Then, of course, we went for the wine. The wine list overall was interesting and well composed – but it was not easy to make a selection as I always go out of my way looking for value, and it was simply not that easy (lots of selections were priced at about triple retail, and you know that I have a problem with that). For the white, we had a 2012 Martín Códax Albariño, Rias Baixas – simple, food friendly wine with clean acidity and touch of white stone fruit. We also had 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé Provence, which was light and loaded with strawberries.For the reds, we started with the 2012 David Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – young, smokey, light cherry flavor, good acidity. While this was a nice wine, we felt that it wouldn’t really stand up to our dinner which included steak, so the red wine we chose to stay with until the end of the meal was 2011 Ridge Three Valleys Sonoma County – notes of smokey raspberries, espresso, touch of dark chocolate, all weaved together over a firm structure with some earthy notes – excellent overall.

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And now let’s talk about the food. Everything was split into the courses. We started with a few appetizers – Seafood Tower (colossal shrimp, local oysters, little necks, Alaskan king crab leg, Maine lobster, spicy mustard, house cocktail sauce, classic mignionette) and House Slab Bacon (smoked, thick-cut). The bacon more resembled the pork belly than traditional bacon, and literally was melting in your mouth. The Seafood tower was excellent, great selection of fresh oysters and clams.

Our dinner continued with Small Plates. Lobster Bisque (parsley, crème fraische) was very concentrated, with nice flavor. Deviled Eggs (creamy yolk, prime meatball, pickled onions, foie gras powder) were unsuccessful, unfortunately. I love deviled eggs, one of my childhood favorite dishes – and we keep making it almost for each and every party. The deviled eggs served at Washington Prime were way too acidic, with pickled onion been just too much. I think this dish requires some work make it a success. Burrata (creamy slaw, sambal aioli, sesame, pretzel bread) was creamy and satisfying, just as you would expect the Burrata to be.

Poutine (oxtail ragu, house fries, cheese curds, green onions) was an interesting dish. The oxtail ragu was outstanding, with the flavor and texture creating irresistible, homey experience . However, the cheese curd didn’t fully integrate into the dish – at least with my memories of Poutine in Quebec.

Knuckle & Claw (blue cork grits, lobster sauce, tobiko) was okay – yes, I’m not really a big fun of lobster, so the blue corn grits and tobiko were the best components of the dish for me.

Octopus (pickled peppers, duck fat marble potato, pepper emulsion) was to die for. Perfectly cooked, with delicious flavor combination, it was definitely a star dish.

Wings (fried, kimchi sauce, scallions, soy, chilli) were crispy and very tasty (could use a bit less salt).

Finally (after about an hour of eating), the time had come for Salads. First, Prime Wedge (gem iceberg, pickled heirloom tomatoes, bacon, ewes blue cheese, chili, house ranch dressing) was spectacular. I love the Wedge, and I order it quite often – this was the very best Wedge salad I ever had – the bacon, the sauce, the sweetness of the lettuce were  just spot on. And our next salad dish, Chop Chop Salad (iceberg and romaine, bell peppers, onion, carrot, provolone, salami, red wine vinaigrette) was also very much on par with the Wedge – fresh, light and delicious, with the very tasty sauce.

And the time had come for Land & Sea.

We were in a steakhouse, so of course there was steak! USDA Prime Steaks – 8 oz filet Mignon, 18 oz Ribeye, 32 oz. Porterhouse (dry aged 28 days) – were all served on the beautiful wooden boards, in its perfectly simple beauty. The selection of steak sauces, which also included spicy mayo and Chimichurri, was served on the side. The steaks were just outstanding, all three of them had a slight difference in texture and flavor, but they were all simply done at the “wow” level.

Representing the “sea” part, first we had Grouper (Carolina gold rice, tomato, asparagus, carrot butter sauce) – if the steak was  “wow” dish, this was a double “wow”. I know that expression “melting in your mouth” is abused, nevertheless, this is the only way I can describe this dish – great flavor, and the fish was really melting in the mouth… And then there were Scallops (middlins, corn relish, nicoise olives, hunters sauce), my perennial favorite, done at the textbook quality – “perfectly seared, succulent and sweet” – the best way possible.

You didn’t think that we left without having a dessert, right? Of course not! Italian and New York Cheesecake, a Tartufo and an Ice cream cookie sandwich with cereal milk were all included in the sweet ending of our evening. All were excellent, but the ice cream sandwich with the cereal milk was a standout for me in creativity. In case you are wondering, the cereal milk of the day was Fruit Loops…

Executive Chef Jared Falco came out to check on us many times, and we had an opportunity to discuss the dishes and his approach to making his cooking stand out. All in all, we had a great time.

Executive Chef Jared FalcoThat’s all I have for you, my friends. Yes, we had a great evening of food and wine, and the restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you are in a mood for steak, or simply a creative bite of food. Oh yes, and I meant to warn you not to read this post hungry – I guess it is too late now, sorry. Cheers!

I visited restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.

 Washington Prime
141 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
Located at the corner of Washington and Water St.
TEL: (203) 857-1314
http://washingtonprimect.com/

Washington Prime on Urbanspoon

Let’s Do Brunch – Oak+Almond in Norwalk, CT

February 21, 2014 7 comments

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!
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
203.846.4600
http://oakandalmond.com/

Oak + Almond on Urbanspoon

Indian Cuisine Deep Dive, At Aladin Indian Bistro in Norwalk, CT

November 3, 2013 8 comments

DSC_0539Do you know what is curry? Well, may be you do, but it appears that I didn’t. To be more precise, I thought I knew – and I didn’t. Anyway, the explanation is coming down below – keep reading and looking at the pictures.

Aladin Indian Bistro located at the busy intersection in Norwalk, CT, literally around the corner from one of the best food stores in the area, Stew Leonard’s. Despite the busy intersection part, there is plenty parking in the back, which definitely helps. I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about going to the restaurant, parking is probably one of my very first concerns – I need to know if I will be circling around the busy street for half an hour or not, so again, I’m talking about important stuff here.

The Aladin’s interior is nicely appointed, with wood and leather, with enough space between the tables, and comfortable and inviting lighting.

DSC_0540As we got situated at our table, the neverending array of food started to appear. First, it was Papadum, the thin crisp flatbreads, made out of yellow lentil flour right at the restaurant – very tasty on its own and with the sauces. By the way, as I consider this visit more of a personal learning of the Indian cuisine, I will include here the links to the relevant articles on Wikipedia – here is the one for Papadum. We were also served a trio of accompanying sauces – Mint sauce, Braun Tamarind sauce and Onion Vinegar relish – all worked very well with papadum.

Our first dish was Spiced Sea Bass Pakoda (Sea Bass Fritters. Chili Yogurt sauce) – tender pieces of fish, deep fried in a special batter. This dish was quite successful in texture and had very mild spicy profile. I also really liked the presentation. By the way, continuing our education here, Pakoda ( often spelled as Pakora) is the common name for the deep fried snack in India and other Asian countries – here is your link to Wikipedia to learn more.

Next dish was Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda (Roasted eggplant Tamarind  aioli). Unfortunately, it was really dry and chewy – it looks pretty, though.

Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda

Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda

Ahh, almost forgot – of course we were drinking wine. The wine list at Aladin is small, but I found it to be quite appropriate for the type of cuisine the restaurant is serving. There is a good selection of the both light whites and reds, also the prices look quite reasonable. Overall we had 3 different wines during the course of a dinner. For the white, we had 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Saint M Riesling, Pfalz, Germany – very nice, simple, some honeydew notes on the palate, with a good amount of acidity and touch of sweetness, very refreshing – and most importantly, working quite well with practically all the dishes. Our first red was 2012 Gougenheim Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – simple red, with some good acidity and light raspberries profile. Later on we switched to the 2012 900 Grapes Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand – nice Pinot Noir profile, with some plump cherries both on the nose and the palate, may be a touch too sweet, but working well with the dishes.

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Our dinner continued with the trio of Chicken Kebabs – done in three different styles, all pieces perfectly tender, moist and juicy. When I cook myself, I generally avoid chicken kebab, as I typically have a hard time trying not to dry it out. The kebab which we were served, was probably one of the very best I ever had.

Chicken Kabob

Chicken Kebab

The next dish was probably one of the most favorite in the group – it is probably enough to say that we asked for the refill a couple of times. The dish was Karari  Bhindi (Crispy okra with red onion, cilantro and green  chili), as we called it a “crispy okra salad” – a perfect combination of spices and crunchy texture, very tasty.

Appearing next were a few dishes. Bagar Dal (yellow lentil flavored with cumin, curry leaves, fresh garlic and dry chili) was very tasty, and so was Rogan Josh Traditional (Goat with tomato curry with a hint of Yogurt):

Just to go on with our overall theme of learning, here is the link for Dal (a thick stew made out of dried legumes) and Rogan Josh – an aromatic lamb or goat-based stew. I don’t get to eat goat all that often, so it was an interesting experience and overall a very tasty dish.

Next up – Signature Lamb Dampak (tender Lamb cubes cooked in a sealed copper vessel) – this was a bit more familiar than the previous dish, very flavorful and aromatic, perfectly going over the jasmine rice, an excellent dish overall:

And then we had bread! Well, if you are familiar with the Indian cuisine, you know that I’m talking about Naan. It is generally served hot, and it is one of my very favorite types of bread you can get in the restaurant. It perfectly accompanies all of the stew-like dishes, and it literally melts in your mouth. We went through quite a few baskets of Naan, as you can never get enough of it.

Remember I asked you if you know what curry is? This was the question which Chef Roy, the Executive Chef and Owner of Aladin, asked us during one of his appearances:

Chef Roy talking to some of our dining crew

Chef Roy talking to some of our dining crew

I felt that the question is probably not as straight-forward as it seemed, but nevertheless, my answer was “of course! it is a spice!”. Well, this is exactly where I was wrong. Curry is a way of cooking with multitude of spices, but not the spice on its own! There all sorts of curry spices, all widely used in the cooking throughout the Asia, and they often share some common ingredients, like coriander and cumin, but overall, all those curries are different depending on the country and the dish which they will be used for. Apparntly “curry spice” as a nomenclature, was created a few hundred years ago, to sell a common blend of spices to the Westerners, as Asian-style cooking was becoming popular in Europe. And again, I have to refer you to the Wikipedia if you want to learn more.

Just to share my personal learning with you, I also learned that coriander is a seed of… cilantro! I love cilantro in everything, and I use coriander quite often, especially when it comes to the Fall cooking (roasted butternut squash soup is one example) – but I had no idea they are related! Live and learn…

Anyway, there are still a few dishes worth mentioning. We had Tawa “Surf n Turf” (combination Tandoori kebab platter of meat and seafood), very tasty:

There were more dishes, but I honestly lost track at that point of what was what, so here are the pictures (but I remember that everything was tasty!):

And, of course, the desert! Traditional Rice Pudding, nice, creamy, may be a touch too sweet for my taste, but still very refreshing after such an extensive meal:

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

All in all, this was an excellent “deep dive” into the world of the Indian cuisine, very unique and different. And as usual, the last thing left to do is to thank Chef Roy and his staff for the excellent meal and great education. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Aladin Indian Bistro
36 Westport Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
Phone: (203) 939-9040

http://www.aladinindianbistro.com
Aladin Indian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Southern Fun in South Norwalk

October 17, 2013 22 comments

mama's boy menuLooking for the Southern hospitality, great food, great cocktails and a great time? Shhhh… I got a place for you. Read on, but…may be you should eat something first, as there will be pictures. An aspiring food porn pictures. Yes, consider yourself warned.

And the Connecticut bloggers got together again! This time we visited a restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, called Mama’s Boy. The restaurant defines itself as “southern table and refuge”. On outside, the restaurant is located on the first floor of the ultra-modern glass-and-metal building. Inside, it is rustic, simple and inviting. You know you will be comfortable from the moment you walk through the door and set your foot on the dark wooden floor.

The first thing not to miss in Mama’s Boy is the bar. The bar is well stocked, showing the top shelf full of great southern favorites – bourbons and whiskeys. When you get the cocktail from the list, you know exactly what you are getting – it will not be just some vodka of questionable pedigree – depending on the cocktail you know that you are getting Ciroc, or Three Olives, or Fire Fly.

We had a few cocktails to start. The Dirty South (Homemade Sweet Tea, Fire Fly Vodka, Lemon) was outstanding and super dangerous – you have a full impression of drinking just a nicely sweetened iced tea with the slice of lemon, delicious and refreshing. You think you can have many of those. Until you realize that you talk slower. And need more time to move around.

Then I had the Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita (Chinaco Blanco, Blood orange puree, Jalapeno). First of all, I was very impressed with the fact that they actually used Chinaco – this is very rare and one of the absolutely best tequilas you can find. And the taste was purely spectacular – a perfect balance of spicy and refreshing, with just enough sweetness. This was definitely my best cocktail I ever had. Until Chris, the maestro behind the bar counter, offered something which was not even on the menu – gin-based, barrel aged cocktail which didn’t have the official name, so it was called The Drink.

The Drink, in the process of creation

The Drink, in the process of creation

The Drink was based on gin, but then there were cucumbers of a different kind, as well as many other ingredients – it was a pleasure watching Chris really engaged in the process of creation of this masterpiece, tasting, adding, tasting again – until he reached the point of perfection. Once I tasted it, I realized that while previous cocktail was spectacular, The Drink was simply amazing – it got my “best ever” title, with the refreshing and uplifting combination of all the ingredients.

And then, there was food. The bread was presented in the form of a basket of warm cornbread muffins, accompanied by butter and a tangy “jelly”. The first dish which already was on the table was Redneck Edamame (Georgia peanuts boiled in house spice blend) – believe it or not, but these peanuts had practically complete textural identity with edamame! Definitely this was a very interesting dish to start with.

Next up – Deviled Eggs (house-smoked Tasso, okra pickles). I’m very particular about devilled eggs, as this was one of the dishes I grew up with, and we make it quite often at home. The Mama’s Boy devilled eggs were outright delicious, very generous, with bacony goodness of Tasso perfectly coming through in the creamy filling.

Fried Chicken Skins (pickled beets, jalapeno-garlic honey) were perfectly resembling fired calamari – I actual think it should be renamed on the menu into Redneck Calamari – but then they already have one Redneck dish listed : ) Light, crunchy, delicious – if you don’t read the name “chicken skin”, you would never guess what this dish was made out of. The sauce was delicious, tangy with a spicy twist.

Fried Chicken Skins

Fried Chicken Skins

Charleston Crab Cake (creamed corn, house smoked bacon, red pepper, green onion) came up next. As we tasted it, Valerie, who was sitting next to me, commented that she spent many years in Maryland, and she knows real crab cakes – and this one was probably one of the best she ever had (I fully concur). Big lumps of crab meat, perfectly seasoned, nice creamy corn goodness surrounding it – that was one delicious crabcake.

Once we were done with the crab cake, we were given small bowls, and then the big pot showed up in a middle of every table – Low-country Bouillabaisse (Grouper, white shrimp, mussels, house-smoked andouille, baby corn, potato, shrimp broth). I’m big fun of bouillabaisse dishes – if there is one on the menu, there is a high probability that it would be my choice. I know I’m abusing the word “perfect” throughout this post – but it is very difficult to fully represent the food and try to stay within the precise culinary terms – so let me continue abusing “perfect” and “delicious”, as there is not much else I have to say. This dish was Delicious! Touch of heat from andouille sausage, sweetness of mussels and baby corn, all perfectly wrapped around together. I’m glad we had bread, as it would be a crime to waste a single drop of that broth…

So at this point I was practically full (okay, not yet) – but I didn’t expect anything to topple our experience so far. And then the BLT Salad (fried green tomato, candied bacon, artisan lettuce, buttermilk-herb dressing) arrived… What can be so special about BLT, right? Well, everything, if B stands for lightly candied bacon, L stands for super-fresh and crunchy lettuce, and T stands for fried green tomatoes – every bite was ahh so good!

BLT Salad

BLT Salad

Tired of the food pictures – here is the a little break for you – the back of the shirt of one of the waiters, and then Greer Fredericks, one of the owners of the Mama’s Boy, talking to Bonnie from The Home Place and her husband:

Next up – Shrimp and Grits (white shrimp, Fall’s Mill grits, house-smoked Tasso, spring onion, pimento cream gravy) – yes, I had no doubts that we will experience a southern favorite such as Shrimp and Grits. Beautifully presented, very delicious – creamy grits, perfectly cooked shrimp, nice complement of smoky bacon – all in all, an excellent ( and very filling) dish.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Next The Little Yardbird (marinated country fried game hen, corn bread waffle, braised collard greens, Brookside Farms maple syrup, habanero jelly) arrived – the cornbread waffle was perfectly supportive of the maple syrup, and the whole dish perfectly worked together, as you would expect of “chicken and waffles”.

Last but not least was Crispy Pork Shank (Sea Island red pea maque choux, herb infused braising liquid) – the peas and the borth were immaculate, and the shank was incredibly crispy and succulent at the same time. This was the only moment when people at  the table regret having each other’s company – this shank required quiet, intimate one on one time with two hands on the bone…

We finished our southern food extravaganza with Trio of “Home Made” Cakes – that included Red Velvet Cake, Spice Cake and Carrot Cake. While I think consensus favorite was the spice cake, my personal winner was the carrot cake – I’m a carrot cake junkie, and I love when it is balanced in flavor so cinnamon and cloves and overall sugar are all together – so this cake was exactly like that.

Red Velvet Cake, Spice Cake, Carrot Cake

Red Velvet Cake, Spice Cake, Carrot Cake

You know how it is easy to understand that you just visited a great restaurant? If the next day you crave the food you had the day before, that is clearly the sign of greatness. While the group was torn between Bouillabaisse and BLT, we were all chatting next day how great it would be to experience that wonderful food again – this constitutes glowing endorsement in my book. All left to say here is thank you – Thank you, Chef Scott Ostrander, for the wonderful meal. We will be back…

Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Mama’s Boy
19 North Water Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
203.956.7171
http://www.mamasboyct.com
Facebook: mamasboyct
Twitter: @mamasboyct
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