Month: January 2023

Haven Hot Chicken opens in Norwalk

Haven Hot Chicken opens in Norwalk

Haven Hot Chicken opened yesterday in Norwalk, at 596 Westport Ave. The store is in the left end of the store group just to the west of Whole Foods. The grand opening featured balloons and a sandwich give-away, long over when we came to get our dinner around 5:30pm. At that time, it wasn’t all that busy. This is the third Haven restaurant in Connecticut: the others are in New Haven and Orange. The first two feature Uber Eats delivery, and this new one presumably will as well once they get fully open.

This is one of a number of chains featuring their take on Nashville hot chicken, which is this case is breaded chicken breast sandwiches at one of 5 degrees of spiciness:

  • Country – no spice
  • Mild – hint of spice
  • Medium – proper spice
  • Hot – will burn
  • Haven – for the Hot Head

You can just order the sandwich for $12.99, or a Combo for $3.25 more, which includes a side and a drink. We ordered a Mild and a Medium combo with fries, a Hot sandwich and additional sides of their coleslaw and banana pudding, which totaled $54.45 with tax but before tip.

The spice levels

I personally found the mild, so unspicy that you only noticed it as an aftertaste. By contrast the Medium tastes spicy on biting into it, and continues after each bite. I found the Hot sandwich only a little spicier than the Medium, although, remember this is opening day, and things may change as they settle in.

Most Nashville hot chicken recipes call for frying the chicken normally and then spreading the spicy paste on afterwards. However, it is clear that at Haven, the spice is part of the batter. The chicken breast is coated with the spicy batter and deep fried. This pretty much means that these sandwiches are cooked to order. This would be consistent with the 10-15 minute wait for them to fill your order. At the moment that clearly does not apply to the French fries, however. I would expect this may improve as they gain more experience.

The sandwiches that they call “THE Sandwich” are enormous: they have an awful lot of chicken breast in each one. If your appetite is somewhat smaller, they offer chicken tenders (Tendies in their naming scheme) separately or as a slider. Like THE Sandwich, they are topped with coleslaw, a garlic dill pickle and a bit of Rob Sauce. You can also order several sauces separately: Rob, Blue Cheese, House Ranch, and Sweet Sauce.

Finally, they also offer Chicken and Waffles: two Tendies on a Liege waffle with maple brown sugar aioli and powdered sugar. This looks like an interesting combination we’ll try on another visit. There is a side of pancake syrup available, too.

Sides

Like some other nearby emporiums, they give you quite a plethora of French fries, and you might do better to order one sandwich with fries and another with coleslaw, and share.  You can also get a Mac and Cheese side, but it costs $1.65 additional as the provided side, or $4.99 separately.

Finally, they offer just one real dessert, “Banana Puddin’,” that is sweet and huge. Two people or even three could share this hugely filling dessert. The topping at first sight appears to be whipped cream, but it isn’t exactly: its much too thick to be just cream, perhaps with gelatin or other thickeners added.

This is their first day in a new location, and I’m include to overlook their first day issues. We’ll report back to you in a  month or so. Meanwhile, Haven Hot Chicken, welcome to Norwalk.

Shrimp with lobster sauce

Shrimp with lobster sauce

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

This recipe from Joyce Chen doesn’t actually contain any lobster: it’s just that the sauce is the same one that she served with lobster.  She called this an Americanized Chinese dish.

But it is quite simple to make, and you can have it on the table as soon as the rice is ready. This recipe calls for ground pork. Often you can find it in the supermarket, but if not, you can chop up some pork in a food processor or by hand using a large knife. For black beans, ideally you should use fermented Chinese black beans but we used Goya black beans with sea salt as a substitute.

  • 1 lb raw shrimp
  • ½ cup ground pork
  • 2 tsp dry sherry
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 4 Tb cooking oil
  • 2 slices ginger root, minced
  • 1 ½ Tb black beans, minced
  • 2 cloved garlic crushed and minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Tb soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp MSG
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Rinse and shell the shrimp and remove the intestinal vein. In these pictures, we used Vietnamese red shrimp, which are not yet cooked, but come already peeled and deveind.
  2. Mix the shrimp with the sherry and ½ Tb cornstarch.
  3. Mix the remaining cornstarch into ¼ cup of water.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok to high heat and add the shrimp. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes and remove from the pan, and keep warm. Keep as much oil as possible.
  1. Reheat the oil and add the ginger root, garlic and black beans.
  1. After stirring for about 30 seconds, add the pork, salt, soy sauce, MSG, sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 2 minutes.
  2. Mix in the shrimp and the stirred cornstarch mixture, after heating, stir in the beaten egg.
  1. Serve immediately over rice.
Athithi: outstanding Indian cuisine in Wilton

Athithi: outstanding Indian cuisine in Wilton

Athithi opened in the Gateway shopping center last fall and we have found it a delightful addition to Wilton’s restaurant scene. The menu features a wide variety of classic Indian dishes and a few other regional specialties. Note that the Dine-In menu and the Takeout menus are slightly different, because not all of their dishes travel. However, the menu is extensive and everything we have tried has been excellent. The restaurant features two Michelin star experienced chefs: Executive Chef Hemant Mathur, and Chef Chandru Krishnasamy, who along with Executive Manager Prince produce an outstanding experience. The word “Athithi” means “Guest” and we assure you that they treat their guests very well.

We first visited in November, before they had their wine license, and I went last night to brough home an excellent take-out meal. They clearly have that license now, however.

If you dine there, you will start with crispy naan bread served with two dipping sauces: a green one: mint chutney and a red one (coriander chutney), that is warmly mild and spicy with notes of cinnamon. They are good on your bread and on whatever entrée you order.

We tried a couple of interesting appetizers: the salmon and crab cakes ($14) served on an elegant little dish with a suspended sauce dish of green chili aioli.  The other was Ragda Chaat ($11): potato cakes with white peas, tamarind and mint chutney. You could share the salmon-crab cakes, and you definitely can share the Ragda Chaat as it is a substantial portion.

For our main courses, we ordered Rogan Josh ($22), a lamb stew with Kashmiri red chili, and Chicken Korma ($20), chicken cooked in a rich and creamy cashew sauce. Note that for your entrees you can specify mild, medium spicy, or spicy. None of them are going to burn your mouth, though. The medium and spicy are only slightly different. In medium, you can taste the spices, and in the spicy version the spice taste lingers in your mouth between bites.

We found the Rogan Josh with tender pieces of lamb the be an excellent choice, but I’ll have to admit that my wife’s Chicken Korma in cashew sauce won the night for us. It was delightful.

Finally, the menu lists four desserts, a Mango Cheesecake, Kulfi Falooda, Shahi Tukda and Moong Dal Halwa. They are probably all delicious as one of chefs has specialized in desserts. We know what mango cheesecake would be, but Kulfi Falooda? It’s a kind of ice cream sundae, made with Indian ice cream (no eggs), sweet basil seeds, corn starch vermicelli and rose syrup. Sometimes chefs add nuts or dried fruit as well. This version was absolutely amazing and I’d order it every time, except that I know the other three desserts will be great as well.

Take-Out

I went back last night to try some more dishes while my wife dined elsewhere. I ordered Punjabi Samosa ($8), which is a common Indian street food, described as a crispy turnover stuffed with spiced potatoes, chick peas, and green peas. Without trying the main course, I can attest to the winning greatness of this snack.

For my main course, I order Chicken Biryani ($19) served with mint yogurt.  Indian chefs obsess of making perfect biryanis, where each grain of basmati rice should be separate. The spices may include saffron and garam masala. I ordered mine at the top level “Spiced” and found it smooth and aromatic without being overly aggressively spicy. Like everything else, at Athithi, it was excellent.

I didn’t order a dessert, because the takeout menu doesn’t include any, but there was this extra cup of something beside the mint yogurt sauce.  It was a complementary rice pudding!

Welcome to Athithi and we’ll surely come back many times!