Char. That word evokes beautiful nights outside grilling, steaks perfectly done, smoky cross marks on chicken, and that woodsy flavor. The char on food takes us back to simpler times. And, as you enter Char, opened just July 2, you get that kind of vibe. 100 year old reclaimed wood from top to bottom adds rustic charm and Long Island brass chandeliers add a contrasting glamorous charm. And this all comes from the Rugova family who also owns Dolphin and Cafe Hudson in Yonkers. If you enter from the road, there’s a nice bar with a great lounge area if you’d just like to soak up some cocktails…more on that later. Or, if you enter from the parking lot, you’ll enter the host station of the dining room.
We took a nice booth in the nearly 240 seat restaurant and were greeted by our server. He knew the menu extremely well and even had suggestions for us, so it was obvious to us that the staff had great training. And, finally after months of wondering what the menu would be like, it was set before us: hand crafted cocktails, small plates, salads, and entrees in a Modern American and Mediterranean influenced style. There were at least twenty items that we wanted to order, but there was only so much room in our bellies, so we thought it over with some drinks.
Kristien ordered The Char featuring bourbon, muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup served on the rocks. Dan had the Twisted Peach made with absolute wild tea vodka, peach puree, lemonade, and fresh iced tea on the rocks. Both were excellent and showed great control and balance. Nothing was too sweet or too strong…just right. We decided to start with the tuna tartar. It came on crunchy bread which brought a nice contrast to the raw fish. The color looked a little off, but we figured it must be the way it was prepared so we dug in. The fish itself was fresh, delicate, and had a subtle amount of saltiness from the capers. Nothing was too overpowering here but this made it lean on the side of bland. It’s a light starter if that’s what you’re looking for, but it could’ve used some oomph!
After that we got the crab cannelloni and had the pleasure of talking with Chef David Snyder. He was asking diners how the meals were and was talking up some dishes. The crab cannelloni, he told us, is different than your typical cannelloni dish because he wraps the crab in a French pastry called feuilles de brick, not pasta. It was served atop a lobster emulsion that was so silky and sexy that we made sure not a drop was wasted. This was a rich, elegant, and nicely prepared dish. And, the arugula mixed with the savory and earthy beech mushrooms added a great contrast to all the flavors. Next up were the scallops, served with sweet corn, guanciale, shiitake, and truffle crema. There was a perfect char on the scallops and they were cooked just perfectly. The corn added a nice sweetness, while the mushrooms added an earthiness. Very complex, well balanced, and some baby cilantro mixed in makes this dish a must have.
And, this is where we parted ways from sharing. Dan wanted the grilled asparagus, pork belly, and the grilled octopus, while Kristien needed to devour the lamb bolognese…but, we’re not talking about just any bolognese. We’re talking ’bout lamb bolognese served with Kristien’s favorite pasta, fresh housemade bucatini, and served with Kristien’s favorite cheese, soft goat cheese on top. Kristien just about died, bite after bite. But the most amazing touch was the lemon gremolata that really brought the dish alive with a citrusy undertone, keeping it from becoming too heavy. The bolognese itself was extraordinary with a earthy richness peaking through. What was really interesting is that, despite the gameiness of the lamb and the richness from the sauce, this dish managed to feel light, which again, we attribute to the lemon gremolata.
While Kristien finished off her dish, which she declared one of her favorite ever, Dan took on the maple braised, all natural pork belly with an apple and fennel slaw on the side. The glaze on the belly was made with cinnamon sticks and some star anise. The smell coming off the pork was caramely and just damn intoxicating. The slaw was great, had a nice crunch, and was refreshing. This was a great contrast to the rich and deep flavors of the pork. And, oh, the pork…this was a meatier cut with less fat, so Dan was able to finish it off. The pork was juicy, slightly sweet, had that exotic flavor from the star anise and cinnamon, and was just amazing. Another must have.
Then, you best know Dan was taking down the char grilled octopus. It was served with watercress, fingerling potatoes, garlic confit, and lemon oregano dressing. The octopus had a beautiful char on it and was soft. Chef Snyder later told us that it took many times to perfect it so the octopus wasn’t mush or rubbery. Under the octopus, the most amazing part of the dish was the garlic confit that just melts away and has the consistency of butter. Chef told us that he was proud to say that the octopus has been selling way more than the calamari, a true testament to the tastes of the people hitting up Char.
And then Dan finished up the meal with his veggies…kinda: grilled asparagus with bacon candy, shaved melon, and a honey-mint vinaigrette. This was unexpectedly awesome. The bacon is sweet, crunchy, thick, and a bit smoky and plays very well off the Honey Kiss melon. Again, Chef Snyder snuck over and told us that this was a play on melon and proscuito…Char style. And, that grilled asparagus was just too damn good. There was a nice char, it was earthy, and slightly bitter and played so well with the other flavors and the vinaigrette. Dan began to lay down a piece of melon, put some asparagus on it, then a piece of the candied bacon, then wrap it all up for a full flavor explosion.
Around this time, Chef Snyder brought out Pastry Chef Ana Kristina Wambach. She went through the dessert menu with us and, based on our likes, she had recommendations. Kristien went with the white chocolate NY cheesecake with graham cracker tuile and a blackberry compote on top. The dessert was savory and dense…maybe a bit too dense. The tuile was very good, thin, and light and the fruit added a nice contrast to the richness. Dan had to order the espresso semifreddo, made with actual espresso. This was an excellent dessert that was cold, refreshing, and light thanks to the semifreddo. It was sprinkled with crumbled chocolate covered coffee beans and the caramel sauce was salty and oh so good.
People really don’t cut Greenwich much slack when it comes to the culinary scene. While many might think the restaurants are past their prime, there are many restaurants like Bistro Latino, Harvest, and Char that are shaking things up. We are excited to see Char flourish because we enjoyed our meal and drinks very much. Our only concern is the location. It’s tucked away in Byram, a little past Burgers, Shakes, & Fries and close to Tarry Lodge in Port Chester. But, if they get enough attention then we feel that this could be the hottest new place to check out in Greenwich.
2 Water Street
Phone: (203) 900-1100
Lunch, Monday-Sunday 11:45-2:45
Dinner, Monday-Thrusday 5pm-10pm
Dinner, Friday and Saturday 5pm-11pm