Tag Archives: Foodie

Chef Prasad attains culinary Nirvana. Thali-Westport, CT

10 Apr

Our uber-cool seat right by the kitchen. Slam!

Thali, led by Executive Chef and owner Prasad Chirnomula, sits in a little strip mall nearby Trader Joe’s in Westport.  The very same Prasad Chirnomula who owns Thali in New  Canaan, Ridgefield, New Haven, and Westport.  He’s also opened up the vegetarian Thali Too in New Haven and a new Mexican bar and restaurant, Oaxaco Kitchen.  Did we mention that Prasad is a James Beard Honoree?  Yeah, you know this place will be off the hiz-ook before you even look at the menu.

Semolina dosa crisp crepe...'nuff said

As we made our way to our seats, we were greeted on the left by a massive white Ganesh, the bringer of beginnings and the remover of obstacles.  Our seats were nice and cozy and were set right next to the kitchen, seen through funky lit strings (seen in the picture above).  I think this really shows what Thali is about:  classic, gourmet Indian food with a modern twist.

We decided to go with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner which proved to be a great pairing with the spicy and flavorful food that awaited us.  It was fruity with a nice crisp apple taste and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like Riesling can be.  This balanced out some of the heat that was about to hit us.  Rather than start with an appetizer, then have an entrée each, we decided to get more of a sampling of Thali.  After all, you’ll notice that their menu really puts the focus on small bites!

We began with the semolina dosa crisp crepe (say that 10 times fast)– a crispy and light crepe that was stuffed with potato, onion, and chile.  This was a monster dish, taking up the entire plate, but we quickly devoured it.  Four sauces on the side were great accompaniments to the crepe:

1) Coconut:  a thick sauce that was light in flavor and had a very subtle coconut taste.  It was good, but we wanted more coconut taste.

2) Mint:  this sauce was probably the best mint sauce we’ve ever had–it wasn’t too minty at all.

3) Tomato:  this was an excellent sauce with nice smoky flavor throughout.

4)  Vindaloo:  spicy and so good–warning, will cause pain if too much consumed. ;)

Baaahhdd? No freakin' way! Grrreeeaatt lamb croquettes

As we finished the crepes, we were brought the lamb croquettes.  They came out looking like meatballs, but the taste was drastically different from how Grandma used to make.  Mixed with cumin, coriander, ginger, mint, mustard, and other spices, the meaty goodness of the lamb really took this dish sky high.  There was a very subtle amount of sweetness to this dish, adding a nice touch.  The lamb croquettes were dense, that’s true, but Kristien and I disagreed about the moistness.  I thought that it was great this was, but Kristien wanted it to be a bit more moist, though she still did love them.

Finally, we got our entrée:  Chicken Vindaloo!  Beautifully cooked chicken smothered in a spicy tomato sauce that had just the right amount of kick to it (of course, we like it pretty spicy).  Chunks of potato were mixed in, too, giving this dish some nice contrast.  We poured this on top of the rice they gave us and, once again, we were in nirvana with Lord Ganesh by our side.  With the Vindaloo, we also ordered the garlic spinach–a light and creamy puree mixed in with cumin and other spices.  Kristien dipped the hell out of everything in sight into the cucumber yogurt side which was cool, refreshing, and oh so cucumbery.  Last of all, we enjoyed the walnut and raisin naan.  The naan was baked so well and came out crispy, yet doughy.  The walnut taste was great and took over the dish, but we wanted more raisins to balance things out.

Chicken Vindaloo, our naan, and the killa garlic spinach

Thali in Westport is an incredibly solid restaurant that won’t disappoint you.  With Prasad’s focus on small plates, you can try an amazing amount of dishes, over and over, amen and hallelujah!  If you want Indian food, done right, this is your spot.  This takes me back to my second birthday that I spent with Kristien.  She had a bad experience with Indian at Kashmir Indian Kitchen in Norwalk.  I think at that point her stomach felt like it would implode, then explode.  The ever brave soul she is, she took me on my birthday to Thali in New Canaan a few years ago.  Guess what?  Prasad made us both disciples, and I feel that we’re even more devoted to him now after this visit.  We will go where you lead, o mighty chef, because Thali is by far the best Indian in Fairfield County!

Noms: 4.25
Price:$$$
Address:376 Post Road East
Westport, CT 06880
Phone:  (203) 557-4848
Site:  http://www.thali.com/wp1.html
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/ThaliWestport/391402881736

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Pickle infused vodka, Fez Burger, killer fries, and avjar. Avjar? The Fez–Stamford, CT

31 Jan

Kristien’s parents, Tom and Linda, were in town and wanted to try The Fez after reading our review.  We were certainly not going to protest considering we declared The Fez our favorite restaurant in Stamford!  Again this time we were lucky enough to have Thami as our waiter. Thami is the kind of waiter you hope for at restaurant, friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable, so much that he even great he remembered exactly what wine we ordered last time and even some of the food.  And, the owner, Eric, said hi to us again.  I have to say, it was nice being back…they really make you feel welcome and make the whole evening a fun experience.

There’s been lots of talk about the infused drinks at The Fez.  First, our friend, Terri Zimmer, talked about them on FB, then Amy from ctbites.com asked us about them.  Well, I am proud to be your culinary and drinkiary ambassador.  So, I asked Eric about them.  Turns out they serve pickle infused vodka, orange blossom infused vodka, and cherry infused vodka.  I stuck with the first two in the list, though the cherry did sound good.

Well, onto the meal.  Unlike last time, I decided to switch things up and go with small plates.  I started with a very creamy hummus that had toasted pine nuts on top.  Served on the side was avjar:  a kind of salsa, only they use red peppers, some garlic, and possibly some eggplant.  A light, smoky flavor runs through the avjar.  We dipped into the hummus and the avjar with crispy (Fez) pita chips that were sprinkled with cinnamon–nice touch.  Even though this was my dish, Kristien and her parents couldn’t help themselves from stealing from me–even with dirty looks.

So, you’re probably wondering…what’s up with the pickle vodka? The waiter asked me how I wanted it and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Then I said something I never thought I’d say, “Pickle infused vodka on the rocks please.”  Scary! Well, the pickle taste wasn’t overpowering at all and the vodka was good, though I realized that it was better to drink with food, not by itself.  The cucumber added a nice flavor when I took a bite then took a sip.  It’s worth trying, definitely!  I know my sister, Ren, used to drink pickle juice, so just consider this the adult version.

I also needed to get the Pizzet Aroub again because it was just that

amazing.  Last time I really wanted the Fez Burger, so I thought, hey, today is all about adventure so let’s do it!  This burger was really amazing.  First of all, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare.  Secondly, crispy and thin fingerling potato shoestring fries.  Damn, damn, damn.  Thirdly, we’ve got the burger, a mixture of lamb and beef.  I liked the mixture because the lamb was balanced out by the beef.  Crispy lettuce and juicy tomato lay beneath the patty and on top were some savory roasted onions and peppers, kept together with a green spiced sauce.

I also tried the orange blossom infused vodka which was quite different than my pickled vodka.  The vodka seemed much stronger with this infusion with a very subtle orangey/citrusy taste.  In a moment of pure inspiration I squeezed the blood orange on the rim into the vodka and that actually cut into the strong vodka taste a bit.  I enjoyed the pickle vodka more, actually, wouldn’t you know it?

Surprise, we ended with the briwats again.  Still a fabulous dessert that kicks baklava up a notch!  We really noticed this time a floral accent in the briwats and Thami told us it was orange blossom.  Thami also offered me a complementary port so I tried the 20 year old Tawny.  This was probably the smoothest port that I’ve ever had and I’d recommend it as a kick ass aperitif.

Before I wrap this up, I should mention that Kristien loved her sag and feta rolls that had Kalmata olives on the side and her small plate of succulent lamb chops with anchovy bread crumbs.  Tom enjoyed the meatball tagine and took any vestiges of the dish home to Upstate NY.   Linda enjoyed the chicken stuffed with feta and peppers that came with a side of cubed sweet potatoes–one of the specials that night.  As you see, Kristien was asked to come up and dance with Adina, their very sweet belly dancer!  I was actually hoping Tom or Linda would go up and dance!  I would have loved to have seen that and would have recorded it for all of you to see.  Sorry, next time maybe? ;)

Noms:  4.5

Cost:  $$$

 
 
The Fez
Address:  227 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone:  (203) 975-0479
Site:  http://thefez1.com

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New Italian spot offers inventive menu – Tappo, Stamford

7 Nov

Ah, to try new restaurants, in hopes that you might find the one that becomes your favorite, that jewel to place in your proverbial crown (or something like that).  Tappo, only opened a few weeks ago, and based on our friend Dave’s recommendation, we were really wishing this would be true.  When we arrived, we were struck by how nicely the dining room was decorated.  The space is small, with a limited amount of tables.  We checked in with reservations, but still had to wait, though the hostess was very friendly about it.

To start, we ordered the Insalata di Rucola con Pomodorini e Scaglie:  arugula, cherry tomatoes, and shaved grana.  The lemony/acidic hints of the dressing were cut nicely by the earthy and sharp taste of the grana cheese.  By itself this was a very good salad, but we added the softest, most delicate Prosciutto di San Daniele from their nice menu of Italian meats.  Making this combination ourselves was good and made up for a limited amount of salads to choose from.

For my main dish, I didn’t have much trouble deciding on the Guanciale pizza.  This dish really had everything that I love in the world on it:  browned fingerling potatoes, cured Italian bacon, white cheese sauce, and a sprinkle of truffle oil.  Start with a light, fluffy crust that isn’t too thick or too thin.  It reminded me of the consistency and taste of a zeppole.  All the tastes together synced so well and were amazing.  The only thing that I wished was different was varying textures because everything was soft/chewy.  The Italian bacon was in strips and few parts were crunchy.  If the chunks were smaller and crisped up a little before putting on the pizza, I think this would be a killer dish.  It was a bit hard to swallow when you were down to the last slice, so this is a dish that would be better to be shared.

Ending off the meal, I had a nice thick and strong duo shot of espresso and had two scoops of gelato:  chocolate/hazelnut and olive oil.  The scoop of chocolate/hazelnut was definitely strong and had a nice light hazelnut taste, though there was quite a strong after taste of cinnamon that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  I was left with that “gritty,” “drying” taste that cinnamon can often have.  On the other hand, the olive oil gelato was creamy, fresh, and had that nutty, fruity taste of olive oil.  It was surprisingly good and left me wanting more.

In all, this restaurant has a unique and creative view on Italian food.  The food was great, but the wine was overpriced as compared to the price of the average dish.  We ended up paying $45 for a bottle that would probably cost $15 at a wine shop, and should cost $30 for a restaurant like this.  There was only a handful of wines under $50, the lowest being $35.  The dishes were reasonably priced, though, which brings us to a rating of $$$ out of 5.  Nomability?  We’ve got to give this new Italian a very respectable 3.5 Noms out of 5.  Ciao!

 Also, check out our review on their San Danielle pizza, featured on CBS Connecticut.
 
Noms:  3.5
Cost:  $$$
 
Address:  51 Bank Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone:  (203) 588-9870
Site:  http://www.tapporestaurant.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001655225989

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It’s all about the margaritas baby – Riviera Maya, Stamford

31 Oct

Let’s lay it all out on the table right now–I consider myself to be somewhat of a Mexican food snob. I’m not sure where in my life I earned that right, considering the closest to Mexico I’ve ever lived is Atlanta, but nonetheless, here I am. In fact, when I moved to CT, I thought there couldn’t possibly be any GOOD Mexican food around here. Clearly, I was mistaken.

Riviera Maya is one of those restaurants I’d categorize under GOOD Mexican. Not fantastic, but definitely good and reliable. On our recent visit I ordered the Atlixo (which I clumsily flubbed the pronunciation of 3 times): two crispy fried tortillas topped with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado, sour cream, and best of all, strip steak. While the steak was cooked medium rare, just as I like it, and very nicely seasoned with a little salt, garlic, and perhaps some cumin, I don’t think I’d order it again. Overall it was a bit bland compared to other items they have on the menu (like the Taquitos Pastor de Pollo Danny’s going to tell you about).

Ok, now here’s where Riviera Maya goes from just good to GOOD: FRESH GUACAMOLE and JALEPENO MARGARITAS. Yep, both take the award home for best I’ve ever had!

The guacamole is made fresh at your table, exactly as you like it. Choose from any or all of the typical ingredients: onions, cilantro, tomato, salt, pepper, fresh-squeeze lime juice, and jalapenos to go as spicy (more please) or as mild (lame) as you want. The finished masterpiece is served up in a heavy stone bowl placed in the center of the table (or right in front of my face if you’re dining with me).

To wash it all down is the most fantastic margarita that both cools the senses and burns the tongue at the same time: the jalapeno margarita. Not too weak, not to strong, get it frozen or on the rocks, you really can’t go wrong with this ying and yang cocktail, which is just spicy enough to give you that tingle, but refreshing enough to wash down the spiciest meal.

And, to round out our score of 3.5 noms, the wait staff is friendly and accommodating, service is fast, but unhurried, and the prices are reasonable.

Noms: 3.5
Cost:  $$
 
Riviera Maya
Address:  20 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone: (203) 588-9400
Site:  http://www.rivieramayact.com
 
 

Riviera Maya on Urbanspoon

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