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 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: 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 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: 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.
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: 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: 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: 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.
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.
Address: 544 Main Ave. (Route 7)
Phone: (203) 846-4600