We were in an interesting position when we were asked if we’d like to attend a Fairfield County Food Writers’ Dinner at the new Mediterraneo in Hotel Zero Degrees on the Rt 7 connector in Norwalk. See, we’ve been to every single restaurant in the Z Hospitality Group (Terra, Sole, Aurora, Acqua) and recently even wrote up Mediterraneo in Greenwich, so, we weren’t sure if there would be a lot of the same stuff at this new spot. Luckily, though, Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis and Chef de Cuisine Ethan Morse were feeling creative and were offering up many different options on this menu. Before we sat down to eat, we got a tour of the newly opened Hotel Zero Degrees. What we love about it is it’s modern, slick and trendy, but it won’t break the bank. We especially loved the big, open spaces with plenty of room to move around and relax. Our little tour ended in the big, expansive dining room, overlooking the Norwalk River and a rushing waterfall (who knew there was a waterfall in the Norwalk River?). The windows open out into a V and you get that beautiful cool breeze that makes dining so nice and relaxing. Ok, so the food. There was definitely an ambitious menu set before us with 10 courses and paired wines for 9 of them. Yes, we know, it’s a tough life that we lead. So, let’s go through a heavily seafood-focused dinner…hey, we ain’t complaining.
Black sea bass crudo with citrus, sesame seaweed, and Dauno Gargano EVOO: beautiful presentation. The lime was bright and the fish was fresh and was of excellent quality. The pink peppercorn added a nice crunch and flavor contrast with the bite it packed, while the seaweed added some saltiness and toastiness (from the sesame) to the dish.
Chilled cucumber-avocado purée with Colossal Crab: one of our favorites of the night. Creamy, herby, a slight spiciness (from sriracha), cold, delicious, and perfect for warmer weather.
PEI mussels with spicy red curry cream, fava beans and cilantro: the broth was creamy and spicy, but not overwhelming at all. The flavor and texture of the fava beans didn’t exactly jive with the mussels though.
Mini Maine Lobster roll with harissa and a pickled ramp: this is another dish we loved. Starting off, the lobster roll was served on a buttered and grilled brioche bun that was fantastic and not too bready. The lobster (big chunks and cooked perfectly) was served cold, light on the harissa mayo. How light? Even Dan ate it and enjoyed it, and Kristien, who usually only likes hot lobster rolls, even loved it.
Grilled sucrine with Niman bacon, buttermilk dressing, and chunks of Maytag blue: a hearty salad dish. The lettuce was grilled nicely, the bacon was crispy and added a nice crunch, and the sundried tomatoes added a nice tang. The dressing was creamy and chive-y, just right. Definitely not a light salad, though!
Crispy soft shell crab-citron vinegar with espelette pepper: the crab was delicate, breaded and cooked very nicely. The cool veggie slaw underneath was a great contrast to the rich fried crab.
Scallop ravioli with roasted cauliflower and Marcona almonds on the side: the butter sauce was nice, but the thyme didn’t really come through leaving the sauce one-dimensional. The raviolis, however, were prepared very well, were delicate, and were very fresh.
Parmesan crusted West Coast halibut with tomato chive buerre blanc and sautéed spinach: The parmesan “crust” on top was very subtle, but that’s good. That flavor played nicely with the sautéed spinach and the beautiful tomato chive buerre blanc. And, the fish itself…like butter. This, again, was one of our favorite dishes of the night.
Zatar spiced lamb chop with braised artichoke and tomato confit: the combo of the artichoke with the tomato inside is great. The artichoke, especially, was beautiful and full of flavor. The lamb was charred very nicely on the outside but had that beautiful juicy red middle that you beg for. Another favorite from the night.
Warm anise shortbread over rhubard-berry compote, served with vanilla gelato: warm, fruity, not overly sweet…this was a definite winner. The crust was gooey and the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries went so well with the gelato. Kristien could eat this every night!
Biscotti and truffles: the biscotti was great and not too crispy and the truffles were just amazing. We asked about them and Executive Chef DeAngelis told us they are from Chocopologie…we love that community sharing and vibe. We also got to see what happens when you order tea. Rather than giving you a choice of little tea bags, you decide which flavor you want by picking a tube filled with loose tea. You then sniff it, see if you like it, then pick it. It’s an awesome presentation.
It’s hard not to appreciate the focus on fresh seafood, the beloved influence of Italian and Mediterranean flavors, and the variety of dishes at Mediterraneo. The relaxed, slick dining room is hard to beat and Executive Chef DeAngelis is certainly taking hotel dining to the next level. Speaking of Chef DeAngelis, he took some breathers from time to time and stopped to chat for a bit. As we talked he said, “Hey, you’re the blunch people!” Yes, we’re the blunch people! He’s a really nice guy and we’re so happy to see his food received so well and to see him be very successful. As we talked more, he told us that there would be some menu differences at both locations because he didn’t want to do the same exact thing. Yes, he’ll have some of people’s favorites, but you’ll also find new favorites here. We also had a great time with our tablemates Maria of Pappa Don’t Preach, John Turiano of Westchester Magazine, and Camillo Ferrari of Weston Magazine.
So, laying all the cards on the table, we are excited for people to try Mediterraneo because Norwalk definitely needs a great restaurant that serves up fresh, excellently prepared seafood and Mediterranean. Also, people will be very happy to see that there is a great number of options for vegetarians as well as pizza (cooked in an EarthStone oven) and pasta options. And, hey…if you eat too much or drink yourself silly, don’t worry: just walk down the hall and check yourself in. We won’t judge.
Noms: TBD after a full dinner, but definitely a great score and we recommend
Address: 353 Main Ave.
Phone: (203) 229-0000
Address: 366 Greenwich Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830
Phone: (203) 629-4747