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New to Norwalk - What are the Must Haves?

Hi Everyone,

After 34 years in NYC, most recently in Jackson Heights which was an amazing food neighborhood, I've moved to Norwalk with my wife. We're both unabashed chowhounds, always looking for the next great meal. She hasn't lived in CT in almost 9 years, and I don't know of anything that's around. So I'm asking my fellow hounds, what's your favorites in Norwalk, Darien, Stamford, Rowayton etc? So far I really dug the burger at Rory's, enjoyed a great meal at River Cat Cafe, and have been treating Trader Joe's like my local corner bodega (I'm in there everyday after my train ride home). What are the places that you LOVE? That you get overwhelming, uncontrollable hankerings for. That you insist on taking visitors to?

We're pretty much open to anything except for offal (we've both tried, just not our thing). Also we'd like to keep it reasonable, but we're always up for an occasional splurge (We celebrated our anniversary by going to Lola and Lolita in Cleveland just for the hell of it, and because Michael Symon was a huge influence on me when I was in culinary school.) Looking forward to hearing from all of you, and deeply appreciate your help!

Thanks!

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    1. In South Norwalk, my favorites are Match (eclectic), Wasabi Chi (asian fusion), Barcelona (tapas) and Osetra which just opened a few weeks ago and is all small plates, mostly seafood and very delicious.
      Pastra Nostra, also in SoNo is very good, but I'm not a big fan of the ambiance, so for italian we go to Paci which is in Southport.
      In Wilton, the Schoolhouse at Cannondale is terrific and worth the splurge!
      Stamford has a ton of places, but we don't go there that often, so I'll leave it to the Stamford hounds (but we do like Market and Duo).

      1. Jfood checking in for service. Another Chower hits the 'hood. Welcome, welcome.

        SoNo –
        -Ocean Dr - OD is a good fish resto that is better in the summer when they get better fish and do a better job with it, plus the whole front of the resto is a big garage door that they open to the street. The Mahogany Sea Bass is to die for. Great Oysters
        -Harbor Lights - Over the bridge towards Westport and bend to the right is Harbor Lights. Sitting on the deck with some pretty good food is worth the trip.
        -Kazu – Very good sushi and Japanese dishes. Also has the NYC energy level.
        -Barcelona (also one in G'wich) - is a high-energy great Tapas food place, most close to a NY atmosphere.
        -Habana – Not so great Cuban food
        -Strada 18 – Very good pizza but they do nottake reservations and Jfood does not go out on a Saturday night to wait. Have been there for a good pizza lunch.
        -Pasta Nostra – Atmosphere is nothing to speak of, but the food is great. Reservations nneded and you have to call weeks in advance
        -Match – Most on the boards love this place. Jfood is not a bif fan
        -Caromandel - Sister to the place in Darien. Great Indian food.
        -Burger Bar – Very good burgers and fries.
        -SONO Bake Shop – around the corner behind Lillian August. Bring your treadmill with you because you will buy and eat everything.
        -Chocopologie – Could be the best chocolate bakery Jfood has ever been to. Plus the chocolates themselves are out of this world
        BTW – separate reviews from Jfood are posted on Kazu, Habana, Match if you do a search

        Rowayton - One of the best seafood resto is FFD county is in Rowayton, Rowayton Seafood. Some think it is part of Darien but its really Norwalk. Fish exceptionally fresh and excellently prepared

        Stamford – Lots of turnover recently. Just one to speak of.
        -Duo is a CH favorite and Jfood agrees. Separate review from Jfood in the search function.
        -Colony – Best pizza between NYC and New Haven

        New Canaan –
        -Bistro Bonne Nuit - Top 3 in FFD County
        -Sole - has a new chef and is turning out some killer dishes.
        -Ching's Table - the best Asian in the area but the staff treats you like fried dumplings. Try to get you in and out in 45 minutes.
        -Aloi - better in the summer when the doors are open and you can sit outside. Best veal bolognese you will ever eat. Chef trained by Luongo (“A Tuscan in the Kitchen”).
        -Thali - Excellent Indian cuisine. Always an argument whether Thali or Caromandel is better
        -Cherry Street East - has the best burger around. Just reopened after 18 month reconstruction after a fire.

        Hope this helps.

        There is a very active CH community in FFD county. Ask anything from sandwiches, to grocers, to restos and you will get lots of help and guidance. Any specific requests many here will be extremely helpful

        1. Man - a million thanks ya'll - can't wait to try EVERYTHING!

          1. Welcome to CT.

            There is a lot of good chow in Bridgeport:

            Mexican:

            Taqueria La Michoacana - 1914 Main Street
            El Tenampa - Main Street

            Italian:

            Tuscany Ristorante - Madison ave

            West Indian:

            Mommies Patties - 2523 Main Street

            Lennox - Boston Ave
            Jam American Restaurant - Washington Ave

            Brazil:

            Pantanal Restaurant - 215 FRANK ST

            Terra Brasilis - North AVe

            Portuguese:

            O'Manel - Main Street

            1. One more welcome to the neighborhood!

              The following thread discusses good local places to shop for chow, in addition to Trader Joe's and Stew Leonard's:
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/468513

              1. So got a chance to check out Duo. While the service was a little off in terms of timing, everyone we dealt with was enthusiastic about the food and incredibly friendly, and WOW - the food was off the hook. We started with a sushi roll that was Eel and Foie Gras with truffle (...these are some of my favorite things...), and I had gotten the Duck, my girlfriend the Chilean Sea Bass for entress. We then went for the molten chocolate cake for dessert, and because of the lag time in between courses, we got comped another dessert (their Tira Misu with coffee ice cream) as well as two shots of their green tea infused vodka on the house. Totally reasonible bill too with 2 glasses of wine, a Laphroig for me to start, and this really delicious Japanese Microbrewed beer that's finished in cedar casks.

                I hope they're around for a while longer because I want to go back. The website is still not live, and the fact that it was pretty dead this past saturday leads me to believe they're having some troubles, but then again from what I hear, all restaurants are struggling in this economy.

                But thanks to Jfood and the hounds on his thread that gave it the recs it was really pretty amazing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: NYEpicuriosity

                  So glad you enjoyed Duo, it is IMO, one of the better restaurants in FC. Duo has only been open since the fall so we're all keeping our fingers crossed they have an amazing summer and stay open! I love their food and the sushi is amazing...and the molten chocolate desert is outrageous.

                  They also have an incredibly cheap happy hour and just spent some $$$ getting a bunch of outdoor tables.

                2. here is my post on a Puerto Rican place in Norwalk
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/519868

                  1. Very close to Rory's is a new place called Matsuri, which is absolutely the best sushi/sashimi I've had in CT in 15 years...

                    1. So here's one place I'll never step foot in again - Coromandel in the Good Wives shopping mall in Darien.

                      Now I'll be the first to admit - I lived in Jackson Heights, so I'm spoiled by both the quality, spice and price of the Indian food there. But I had heard great things about Coromandel, saw they had a buffet (more about that in a sec), and it's 5 minutes from my house.

                      Turns out the buffet is only for lunch, the menu prices are really steep (yes, I realize it's Darien but they were still double what I was used to for most entrees), but hearing just how great this place is, we decide to give it a fair shake. The air conditioning isn't on, and the doors are open and it's hot as hell in there. We're told they just turned it on, and once they close the door it'll cool off. 15 minutes goes by (and I was just about to get up and leave), and we're finally given water, and the waiter asks for our orders, no apologies, no sorry for the wait, nothing. Then not even a minute later our Samosas come out and they're microwaved AND bland (tasted like instant potatoes). I ask for a Taj Mahal, wait about 10 minutes, ask for it again, wait another 10 minutes, and ask one more time. 5 minutes later, finally the beer arrives. Then we wait about another 20 minutes (so this is now almost 45 minutes between courses), and after asking the waiter twice what's going on finally the food arrives. Now giving credit where credit is due, the entrees were pretty damn tasty, but at the prices they were asking, the service should've been spot on, and it was laughably bad.

                      We ask for the food to be boxed up, and for the check, and as is the coromandel way, the boxed food comes in 30 seconds, and we're waiting, waiting, waiting again for the check. At this point I'm digusted with the place, my girlfriend's furious, so she goes to the back, demands the check, hands her credit card over, and they bring the slip by.

                      We barely tip 10% knowing we'll never be back there. Shame too because they certainly hit on the entrees, but everything else was just so terrible it doesn't warrant paying those prices to go back.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: NYEpicuriosity

                        I'd suggest going to Thali in New Caanan, instead. I find Coromandel a bit more watered down and fancied up (personally, I like dark meat chicken better than dry white breast, for example)--excellent, but just missing something, IMHO.

                        At Thali, the wine list is well thought out and deep, not your typical Sutter Home chardonnay, cabernet, and maybe a pinot grigo. The host is a nice man named Raju (sp?), and not only does he treat everyone very well, I've always found the staff to be incredibly friendly. I have brought my girls their since they were about 3 and 5, and everyone has been incredible towards them.

                        1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                          Thali is a go-to Indian restaurant and jfood agrees wholeheartedly.

                          Jfood and friends went to Coromandel's location in SONO a month or so ago and although they really liked the food (same day as all the photos for the NYT review) the place was hot as well. And with Thali closer and better than the experience at Coromandel, no need to venture ouside the comfort zone.

                          Glad other love Thali as much as jfood.

                          1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                            Thali is a go-to Indian restaurant and jfood agrees wholeheartedly.

                            Jfood and friends went to Coromandel's location in SONO a month or so ago and although they really liked the food (same day as all the photos for the NYT review) the place was hot as well. And with Thali closer and better than the experience at Coromandel, no need to venture ouside the comfort zone.

                            1. re: jfood

                              Thanks to jfood and company; just returned from an outing to the New Canaan area, visited Philip Johnson's Glass House (signed up for the tour a whole year ago) and capped everything off with lunch at Thali, on the recommendation of you guys. It was terrific! They were friendly, and helpful, and welcoming, and the Konkan crab is out of this world. A very successful visit for four foodies from the sticks, so thanks!

                              1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                Jfood's pleasure BT.

                                Sounds like a perfect day. The glass house and Thali. It hard to imagine you had an appetite after the visit. Jfood had the pleaure before Johnson passed away and it took a day or two to recover from the emotional highs you experience.

                                Glad you enjoyed jfood's little town.

                        2. Thanks JFood and Chefboyareme - Thali's on the short list to check out.

                          1. If you like sushi, the other ones mentioned are nice, but I really enjoy Little Tokyo on New Canaan Ave (rt 123). It's a little place, has great ambiance, and high quality sushi. They are very friendly, and most of the times I go there, I just hand the menu to the owner and just have him bring me out imaginations of the sushi chef.

                            Not as pricey as SoNo places, and a little more intimate.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Tabasco77

                              T

                              Nice posts so far and welcome to the FFD county sub-group of the tristate board.

                              On the sushi front, how does Little Tokyo compare to Plum Tree and Sushi 25 up the road in downtown NC?

                            2. ferrante in stamford is pricey but oh, so good. go there if you like italian food.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: steve h.

                                SH

                                This morning's Advocate had a nice write-up on Ferrantes, especially their Osso Bucco (including recipe). Have you eaten the OB and is it a good and mushroomy as the article stated?

                                TIA

                                1. re: jfood

                                  yes. note that deb's osso bucco is both traditional and legendary so that speaks well about ferrante. be aware that it's a cold weather dish.

                                  ferrante is a favorite lunch destination for deb and me. prosecco, a few apps and two pastas usually satisfy. the have a decent wine cellar.

                                  service is both pleasant and professional. stemware, dishes, flatware are all top quality as are linens. give it a shot if you get a chance. i chose scarpetta in the meat packing district for a birthday dinner recently but ferrante was my second choice.

                                  not cheap.

                                  1. re: steve h.

                                    may the board please ask for Deb's Osso Bucco recipe?

                                    October is not too far into the future.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      fall cooking is the best.
                                      i'll get back with the recipe after the cocktail hour.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        hi jfood,

                                        here's the recipe. i cribbed it from marcella hazan's, "the classic italian cookbook."

                                        serves six.

                                        1 cup chopped yellow onion
                                        2/3 cup chopped carrot
                                        2/3 cup chopped celery
                                        1/4 cup butter
                                        1 teaspoon chopped garlic
                                        2 strips lemon peel
                                        1/2 cup olive oil
                                        2 hind shanks sawed into 8 pieces about two inches thick. tie the
                                        pieces around the middle.
                                        3/4 cup ap flour
                                        1 cup dry white wine
                                        1 1/2 cups beef broth
                                        1 1/2 cups canned italian tomatoes coarsely chopped with juices
                                        1/4 teaspoon thyme
                                        4 leaves fresh basil
                                        2 bay leaves
                                        3 sprigs parsley
                                        ground pepper (a few twists)
                                        sea salt to taste

                                        *choose a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid that is just large enough to contain the veal pieces later in a single layer*

                                        in the casserole, put in the onion, carrot, celery and butter and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables soften and wilt. add the garlic and lemon peel and remove from the heat.

                                        heat the oil in a separate skillet over medium-high heat. turn the trussed pieces of veal in the flour. shake off any excess. brown the veal on all sides in the hot oil. stand the pieces of veal on top of the vegetables in the casserole when finished.

                                        tip the skillet and draw off most of the fat with a spoon. add the wine and boil briskly for three minutes or so while scraping the bottom and sides of the skillet. pour over the pieces of veal in the casserole.

                                        in the same skillet, bring the broth to a simmer and pour into the casserole. add the chopped tomatoes with the juice, the thyme, basil, bay leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. the broth should come to the top of the veal pieces.

                                        bring the contents of the casserole to a simmer on the stovetop. cover tightly and place in the lower third of a pre-heated oven (350 degrees). cook for about two hours. turn and baste the veal every 20 minutes. when done, the meat should be tender and the sauce dense. remove the veal and place on a serving platter. take off the trussing string. pour the sauce over the top.

                                        i like to serve the osso bucco with a side of spaghetti in a homemade pesto sauce.

                                        1. re: steve h.

                                          Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield, CT. It is a "dive" with great dogs & fries. I love their dixie dog (dog, slaw, bacon.) Cannot go wrong with anything you order! Freshly prepared food and delicious!!!