Although we went to the Friends and Family event to celebrate the opening of Cask Republic, we still felt like we were the last people in the world who hadn’t been there for a regular meal service. Check-in after check-in, beer brag after beer brag, each friend telling us they were there made us green with envy. So, after spending a few hours around Stamford doing errands, we decided to hit up this new spot (check out more details here) and experience the awesomeness everyone else already experienced.
It wasn’t just the sick selection of beer that we wanted to try out, either! It was also the food from newly appointed Chef Juan Gonzalez that we were excited to try. Like many chefs, he had started off washing dishes and prepping food, but he worked hard and graduated from culinary school at the International School of Tourism and Hotel Management in Puerto Rico. From there he worked as a chef on a cruise ship and became Executive Chef of Pepin’s Cafe & Tasca in San Juan. Then he came to America and worked at The Homestead 1766, Ocean Reef Club, and Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, and most recently was Chef de Cuisine at Post 154 with Executive Chef Alex Rosado. That’s quite a resume!
But back to that beer…
Even though they have 60 taps total, there was a choice of 53 that night (not including the bottles and cans, either.) The brews are categorized nicely, generally from lighter to darker, style by style. This helps to make it easy for you to find a style of a beer that you might enjoy, then go out exploring and try a new beer or brewery. You’ll want to pay close attention to the cask ale featured because you’re bound to find a rare beer or something mind-blowing. It’s also important to note that there are a few wine choices and quite a good selection of Single Malt Scotches, Whiskies, Bourbons, and Ryes. And, while there are cocktails on the menu, we feel they’re not as creatively inspired as lots of other places in Fairfield County. Hopefully this is something they’ll work on.
Among the brews we tried were the Stillwater “Debauched” #5, the Widmer Bros. Ginger Barrel Aged Brrrbon 13, the Shebeen Rye Porter, the Off Color Troublesome, and the Cask Conditioned Harviestoun Old Engine Oil that Miguel (one of the managers) let us try. We loved all our beers, especially the Shebeen (a first taste), the Offcolor, and especially that Old Engine Oil. Somewhere around the 3rd or 4th beer (you lose track after a while) our friends happened to come in, so we surprised them with a flight of beer. We knew the beer arrived to their table when we heard glorious shouts of joy rising from the front of the gastropub. We love flights because you can try lots of brews and settle down on one for a pint or just go crazy and try a helluva lot. Just a note, the beer flights are listed on the menu with two separate options.
Ok, now onto that food…
To get the party started, we both worked our way around the menu, consisting of shrimp and oysters from the Raw Bar, Snacks, Boards with your choice of meat and/or cheese, Small Plates, Large Plates, Wood-Fired Pizza, and even Sides. We decided to share the Duck Confit salad and the Curried Chick Pea Platter. First to our table was the Duck Confit salad, a complex and flavorful dish. The duck is earthy, rich, yet delicate, playing well off the sweetness of the red grapes and apples. The goat cheese also cut into the fattiness of the duck with a creamy tartness. And, bringing it all together was the arugula with a sweetly acidic caramelized honey vinaigrette. Fantastic!
And then we dug into the Curried Chick Pea Fritters, Cask Republic’s deconstructed version of a falafel sandwich. But, here’s the thing that we want to talk about: lots of falafel we’ve had taste like balls of lead, dense as a meteor, and drier than bars during Prohibition. So, for that reason, we tend to be wary of falafel, but Cask’s version rocked it. The outside had that required crispiness, while inside was soft, moist, and was balanced nicely with spices. The fritters were placed atop toasty slices of pita and sprinkled with cucumber and onions, adding a nice brightness.
From here, Kristien got the Housemade Lamb Pastrami Reuben. First up, major props because Chef Gonzalez and the Cask kitchen crew cure the lamb and make the pastrami themselves. This sandwich came with a “shit-ton” of lamb pastrami, as Kristien said. It was big, it was fresh. The caramelized onions added a nice sweetness to balance out the very slight gameiness of the lamb. Also, Kristien was happy to see that they were light on the smoked gouda and thousand island dressing. Both of these ingredients have overwhelming tastes, so it was definitely balanced nicely. Plus, it came with fries. Oh, the fries…
…the fries! They also came with Dan’s dish: The Cask Burger. They were salted just right, freshly cut, crispy on the outside, and soft and potato-ey on the inside. The Cask Burger was a nice fat patty topped with caramelized grilled red onions, a thick layer of cheddar cheese, and fire roasted tomato jam, all served on a crispy English muffin. The burger itself was full of flavor and Dan loved how the toppings jived so well and really made this dish sing. He was disappointed, though, that the burger was served closer to Rare, rather than Medium-Rare. Not a big difference, but enough to turn off certain guests. But, we’d rather have something be undercooked because it can always be refired for a bit. Later we talked with Miguel and shared this with him and he was very responsive, saying that he had heard that before and that they are working on the cooking temps.
And, that’s the end of the meal. Seriously? Who the, what the? Don’t you know us at all?
Yes, there was dessert…
We wanted something on the lighter side, so rather than go with the Chocolate Espresso Creme Brûlée, or the Blueberry Walnut Cheesecake, we decided to try out the Big Dipper Ice Cream, made right in Prospect, CT. The flavors they have available are always rotating, so be aware that the selection may be different when you go, but hopefully you get the chance to try the Mint Cookies & Cream flavor. This was creamy, had nice chunks of Oreos, and had just the right amount of mint to add that cool freshness.
When we take into account the awesome “soon to be famous” Short Rib Meatballs, the Pork Confit Spring Rolls, the BBQ Roasted Peanuts, and Bacon Popcorn that we tried before the opening and all the food that we tried a few weeks ago, we can safely say that Cask Republic is a great go-to spot. It’s got class, it’s got style, it’s got plenty of great booze, and it’s got some great food. While the burger was undercooked and some other friends mentioned having similar problems, we had an excellent overall experience. This is what gastropubs should all be about: great beer selection and elevated classic American and international dishes. On a personal note, we’re interested to see where Chef Gonzalez takes the menu given his background of Caribbean and international food.Cask Republic Noms: 3.5 Cost: $$-$$$ Address: 191 Summer Street Phone: (203) 348-2275