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6/19/10 The Suburban , Branford Ct.- Truly the Best of the Best!!


6/10 The Suburban , Branford Ct.- Truly the Best of the Best!!

For many restauranteurs, the one-two punch of city officials and landlords- can be a tough one to survive. So often, misguided regulations and bureaucratic mistakes can result in making cities less vibrant and enjoyable -by putting up roadblocks to creative thinking. Such was the case with Roomba, many New Haveners' favorite spot for its fun and welcoming environment , unique outdoor areas, and innovative Latin influenced food, a pan-Latin menu still unequaled in New England.

Roomba and its sequel, Bespoke, unfortunately are no more. But miraculously, the team that created them has retained its energy and contagious enthusiasm and moved to the 'burbs to create, befittingly, The Suburban, in attractive Branford Center. It's a 15 minute drive from Chapel St., but the drive is a fresh breeze and parking is abundant.

Franco and Suzette Franco-Camacho's new place is located in a 19th c. house with a front yard filled with lush plants and charming village street lamps. The outside is cleverly brought inside by the large plant-filled front windows and the many tiny votive candles adorning tables and mirror -backed book shelves along the walls. It's a handsome banquette- lined room of cream and black. A long narrow high top communal table and chairs runs down the room's center as you approach the comfortable rear bar and its surrounding tall 2-tops, with a view into the open kitchen. Behind the bar room is a dark romantic banquette lined hideaway. Throughout the restaurant, tables are adequately spaced for privacy and the noise level allows for quiet conversation, though glee and laughter are quite common in the background.

At any given moment, a leisurely look around the room reveals an array of relaxed smiling faces. The reasons for this are many. From your first step into The Suburban, manager and co-owner, Suzette, will make you feel warmly welcomed. As new as they are to locating their restaurant and family in Branford (they opened in early June), the Franco-Camachos want to be THE neighborhood spot, an active and team-spirited member of the community. That friendly customer-oriented attitude is evident throughout the wait and bar staff, who are professional, efficient and food knowledgeable. After your first encounter with one of them, you may come to realize that there is an unusual vibe running through the staff. What is it? It is Pride. Many have worked previously with Franco and Suzette and they exude the enthusiasm and confidence of hard workers who know that what they serve is the best.

The menu , the first for this new spot, is a big one. It is divided into Snacks, Cheese and Charcuterie, Small Plates, Bigger Plates, Sides and Desserts. In the spirit of becoming the go-to place for locals, dressed up or down, the owners offer a very large variety. Regular menu items and daily specials make for a choice of 6-10 dishes in each category. The fact that a brand new kitchen can consistently pull off this ambitious variety- is a testament to the well oiled workings of some talented and happy chefs. And we all know that happy chefs tend to turn out happy diners.

From the arrival of table popovers and our first course, the persona of Franco's cooking was evident. Renee Zelwegger may have said to Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire, "You had me at 'Hello' ", but for this reviewer, Franco had me at 'Salad.' No, these were not the same old same old, but combinations you are not likely to have ever seen before. In a rare tie between winners, we savored equally the Grilled asparagus with pancetta, a panko fried blue Araucana egg, and truffle vinaigrette, and the Haricots verts with beluga lentils, avocado, tomato and verjus. The dishes were artfully presented and abundant. The Small Plate winner was marinated and seared scallops on a bed of watercress and creamer potatoes with lemon confit and romesco sauce. With all the plates, visuals, textures, colors and flavors all joined to complement each other while retaining their individuality. Over two different evenings, the entrée hits came from the regular menu as well as the daily specials. Best of the four were the marinated rack of lamb with saffron couscous, eggplant confit and a demi of roasted candied garlic and mint., and the marinated double pork chop with chorizo corn bread pudding. Chef Franco likes big robust flavors and so, not surprisingly, his meats, poultry and seafood are usually marinated before being cooked, adding another subtle layer of flavor to their dish.

As much a sign of his iconoclastic nature as anything else, Franco also makes the restaurant's desserts and breads, and like the rest of the menu, these are not your same old same old. (Does this guy SLEEP? I mean, really!)The house bread is popovers! And the dessert menu has such innovations as Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse and Balsamic gelato (my fav.


We would be thrilled to have this restaurant in Boston. As it is, The Suburban has quickly become our go-to place in Southern Ct., giving us great motivation to return soon and continue our exploration of this beautiful part of New England.

**Take note that Franco and Suzette have also bought a property across the street from The Suburban; their "authentic Mexican" place will open in a few months.

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    1. Outstanding post! You brought me there vicariously ... it can only get better in person.

      1. Correction - Bespoke is still open and is still serving great meals. The Camachos sold the restaurant to a new owner.

        1. I haven't had a chance to try The Surburban yet, but after reading your review I CAN'T WAIT!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: joan mar

            great, joan! plse report back when you do get there!

          2. Balsamic gelato. Sweet Jesus, I must go. It's just down the street from me, so I may take my sweetie and write it up.

            1. Sorry but I have to disagree. Good restaurant but not as special as everyone makes it out to be. The interior stylish but I a bit TOO contrived. Crate/Barrel-Pottery Barn overdone. I was a huge fan of Roomba's - lukewarm on Bespoke and have yet to decide on The Suburban. I will give it another try but did not think the food was 'too die for' and very, very, very overpriced. The popover was over-salted. We ordered Moules Frites (Mussels and Fries) and Pork Chop. The Mussels were quite tasty - the fries were a bit soggy; my porks chops were tasty but a bit tough. Expensive - dinner or two, no appetizer- just two entrees, a glass of beer, one glass of their special cocktail followed by a glass of wine and dessert was over $150.00. NOT a place one can afford to go that often.

              4 Replies
              1. re: GoodFoodie

                gf, plse help me understand this $150 bill. just a quick estimation on my part got me to: entrees 2 x $28; beer 8; wine 12, drink 10; desserts 2x9; this all totals $104 before tax. are you including tax and tip in this $150? i personally found pricing quite in line with boston prices for what it delivers.so sorry you were disappointed; we'd go back (and did) in a heartbeat.

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  hi chef ~ I would go back because i truly appreciate what the franco-comachos have introduced to the New Haven area, food wise but I just wouldn't go as often. We went to Roomba's all the time but less so to Bespoke.

                  And yes- the bill did include tip and add wine to the list above. Chatted with friends over the weekend who've been at different times and the group was also split, interestingly enough. Some loved it while others were lukewarm.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    p.s. Chef ~ I was disappointed that I didn't LOVE it either. I really went there expecting to be "Wow'd"

                    1. re: GoodFoodie

                      darn. well, i'll hope that your next visit is a winner, and that we both ( and many more) are pleased with their mexican-place-to-be-named-later!

                2. Araucana egg? Full-blooded purebred araucana? That I would like to see. Not that it would taste any different than the egg of any other breed of chicken living under similar circumstances (lots of TLC, we hope), but pure araucanas have fertility issues, so there are not very many around. Americaunas (a.k.a. Easter egg chickens), which are half araucana and half something else, are another story. They are quite common and their eggs can be blue, green, pink (really a light version of a brown egg) or white. The blue of the shell is not so dark as the blue of a pure araucana eggshell.

                  I've kept americaunas, wyandottes, dominiques, silkies, bearded Belgian d'uccles, chabos, and old English games, among other breeds. The eggs were all fresh and delicious (except when the hens got garlic or onion as part of some table scraps, in which case they weren't bad, but not great for some purposes) but they all looked the same inside and all tasted the same. Even the eggs of silkies, which are very odd birds with black skin and extra toes, taste like any other chicken egg. They are all the same species.

                  I would have liked to have kept aracaunas, just for the fun of dark blue eggs. It would have been easier to come by an emu. Marans have pretty eggs too, a very dark brown, almost like chocolate. But eggs taste like eggs and there is no difference based on breed. It is the diet that matters.