Pros + Cons, Hits + Misses @ Oak + Almond – Norwalk, CT

15 Oct

Earlier this year (see our post for more details) we shared the news of Oak + Almond‘s opening and we were most excited about two things:

1)  The chef is Jeff Taibe, (brother of chef Bill Taibe from LeFarm and The Whelk) formerly of Southwest Cafe in Ridgefield.  He has received lots of great press, so we definitely wanted to try out his food.

2)  We love their beautiful patio and were excited for a restaurant to come in that could fulfill its potential.

So on a beautiful summer night, we decided to see if we were right on both fronts.

The Oak + Almond bourbon cocktail

The vibe was lively, the fire was roaring in the patio fire pit, the service was attentive, and the drinks were flowing.  The space definitely felt revived from its Tuscan Oven days!  We started with some drinks, because, well, when don’t we? The wine list was pricey, the cocktails creative, and the beer list a bit disappointing.  Nowadays, I think we’ve come to expect some local beer on tap, or at least some awesome craft brews in restaurants that tout themselves as farm-to-table…yet there were none of these things.  So, with that, we both started with the Oak + Almond Cocktail which consisted of Four Roses bourbon, luxardo triplum, almond syrup, fresh lemon, Elemakule Tiki Bitters, and a smoked sea salt rim.  Wow, this is quite possibly our favorite Bourbon drink ever.  Above all, this drink had finesse and balance.  At first you get an orange-y kind of taste, but that quickly fades as the great quality bourbon comes to the front.  The nice touch is the giant ice cube that keeps the drink cold with less water diluting it.  This is a must-order if you love bourbon drinks.

Now onto the food. We went a little crazy here with the small plates…as usual, but what we really loved was how our waiter paced everything out very nicely, and never put too much food on our table at once.  If you’ve been reading our blog for a bit, you know this is a pet peeve of ours, so kudos to them! Ok, here it is…

Griddled Octopus at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Griddled Octopus:  the charred flavor added a nice contrast to the sweet and crunchy salsa beneath.  The char smell was very strong, which we loved.  There was a lively spicy sauce on top and the bits of peach really gave it a burst of flavor. Unfortunately, though, the octopus was tough from being overcooked and was burnt to a crisp in many areas.

Pork + ricotta meatballs  at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Pork and Ricotta Meatballs:  the sauce was the highlight of this dish. It had a nice spicy kick, was garlicy, and had a bit of sweetness to balance it out.  But, the meatballs were luke warm at best and they were tough and rubbery.  We would not order this again.

Burrata  at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Burrata:  ah yes.   The burrata had a nice outer firmness and an ooey-gooey center.  A little heavy on the salt, but still good overall. The tomatoes were great quality and definitely made this dish pop.

Corn and tomato salad with pork belly

Holbrook Corn + Tomato Salad:  the sweet corn, fresh cucumbers, and fresh tomatoes with a delicious dill dressing were amazing!  A fresh and lively flavor and texture combo all around.  Atop the salad was one of our favorites: pork belly.  But, here again, it was way overcooked.  Like hurt your teeth, even a knife can’t cut through, overcooked.  You can even see the toughness in the picture above.  This was a major disappointment as pork belly should be tender and melt in your mouth.

Bucatini  at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Bucatini:  this dish was heavy with spices and garlic (wow, a lot of garlic) but we didn’t mind that so much. The pasta was cooked nicely al dente.  There was very little bacon in it though, so we would like to have had bigger chunks for a more dominant flavor.

Skirt steak with tomato and cucumber salad  at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Skirt steak:  The steak was rich and full of flavor and the panzanella, tomato, and cucumber salad added a nice, tart, refreshing kick.  The steak was very nicely cooked as well.  All around a nice dish that we’d definitely order again, though all the croutons did become a bit overwhelming after a while.

Rhubarb tart  at Oak + Almond in Norwalk, CT

Rhubarb Tart:  this was made with Anson Mills oats and topped with an olive oil gelato.  The tart could have been warmer (it was served almost luke warm which is a bummer with tarts), but it was still delicious.  A major highlight of this dessert was the EVOO gelato.  It was fruity and nutty and oh so silky.

Speaking of gelato, Dan ordered more of the house spun gelato:  Salted Peanut.  There were big chunks of salt on top of the scoop and the gelato itself was great.  You got the peanut buttery taste, but there was also a nice mixture of peanuts in it to give some added texture.

Overall Thoughts

There were some definite pros to every dish, and the flavor combos worked, however there were also some cons with each dish. Mainly the kitchen was a bit heavy with the seasonings and spices, but the major problem is that most of the meats and seafood were overcooked.  With the expensive prices and such a talented chef, we hoped for more.  We did try some of his food at the Food for All fundraiser and Greenwich Wine & Food Festival and it was delicious and cooked very nicely, including a sandwich made with crispy head cheese.  So because of that, we’re wondering what exactly went wrong.  We’re definitely willing to give Oak + Almond another shot, especially since the outdoor space, the cocktails, and the creative menu are major selling points.  But, based on the price points and the problems we encountered with each dish, we have to give Oak + Almond a 3.0 Nom rating.

Noms: 3.0

Cost: $$$

Address: 544 Main Ave. (Route 7)

Norwalk, CT

Phone: (203) 846-4600

Oak + Almond on Urbanspoon

14 Responses to “Pros + Cons, Hits + Misses @ Oak + Almond – Norwalk, CT”

  1. M. Lepew October 17, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    JFW…….. What to gloves do? Especially when preparing cold food that is not heated to kill bacteria, a greasy slimy hand tossing a salad and then using that hand to touch everything in sight and god knows what else out of sight is unacceptable.
    Tell your view to the health department, see how they feel about it.

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    • JFW October 17, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      M. Lepew, I think you are missing my point. Having a glove on doesn’t guarantee anything. Think about it. I could put a glove on and then stick my hand under my armpit and then handle your sandwich. Alternatively, I could not have a glove on and not stick my hand under my armpit and then handle your sandwich. The glove doesn’t change where my hand has been and what I’ve touched. Per your logic, you’d be more comfortable with scenario #1.

      When you cook at home, do you wear gloves?

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      • M. Lepew October 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        JFW…..nipplehead, you change the glove with each plating!
        Eureka….. You just learned something!!!

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  2. JFW October 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Confused by the ‘no gloves’ comment. What do gloves do? A cook can sneeze into their gloves as much as they can sneeze into their bare hands. If you think gloves ‘protect’ you from dirt, disease, or otherwise, you are misguided.

    We really like Oak + Almond. Prices aren’t actually that high…for the area. Yes, there have been some misses for us, too. But, by and large, the food is good. The crudo dishes are often very, very good. They use buttermilk with raw fish and it works wonderfully. Unexpected, for sure.

    Pastas are clearly homemade and handled well. The pasta dish with rabbit has repeatedly been sturdy, but also crisp with peas and bright flavors.

    Speaking with management, they are excited to take some chances. Pig tails? Fun. Overlooked. Tasty. Head cheese? Also atypical and done well at O+A. I look forward to blood sausage, sweetbreads, or kidneys in the near future.

    This might not be a destination restaurant, but for those of us who live locally and only have a handful of comfortable, slightly contemporary, grounded, decently priced options within a 10-mile radius, this is a good addition.

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  3. M. Lepew October 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Been there 2x because the 1x was mediocre. 2nd time was worse. Especially the open kitchen allows one a view of unsightly food handling. No gloves, no hats…….yuck!

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  4. Michael Bick October 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I recently ate there with a friend. I had read about this place and I was excited to eat there. I am sorry to comment that I walked away very disappointed.Until you posted your thoughts I had decided to keep my opinions to myself not wanting to speak out publicly about a fellow chef. I also had the octopus, while not burnt, it was tough and overcooked. The buratta cheese was delicious but the entire dish was overly drizzled with oil. I had one last dish which I hoped would be amazing , the clam and bacon flatbread. I took one bite and realized the clams had gone bad. I told the waiter, he told the pizza chef, I watched the chef smell the clams he had in the lowboy, then dump them out. This is totally unacceptable by any standards. The waiter was very apologetic, and offered to replace it with something else and removed it from our bill. I decided to try dessert at this point. I ordered the bread pudding, all I can say is that I wish I hadn’t.

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    • Dan and Kristien Del Ferraro October 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Hey Chef Bick. Thanks for reading, we appreciate that. You are certainly allowed to give your thoughts and share your food experiences. We wish you had a better time, buddy. :S

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  5. Karen October 15, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I agree, we have been 4 times, the service has been really bad every time. I think we expect more knowledgeable, friendly service, but the waitstaff has just seemed uninterested in the food and the patrons. The food has been a little uneven, however the last time we went we thought it was the best overall.

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  6. paul October 15, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    I’ve been twice the service is horrendous.

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    • Dan and Kristien Del Ferraro October 15, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      We’ve seen that comment from many people, but we were happy to see that we had nice and attentive service.

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      • evel October 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

        i would imagine you guys get recognized around here

        “look out for the girl with the red hair!”

        ;)

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        • Dan and Kristien Del Ferraro October 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

          Sometimes we get recognized, sometimes not. If we do, we’ll definitely let you know so you can see any influences. We really try to stay under the radar.

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