Tag: Norwalk restaurants

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Since we last visited Sono Seaport this spring, they have remodeled the place and chef Matt Storch (of Match and Match Burger Lobster) has remodeled their menu. The seafood is still provided by the Bloom Family and is as fresh as ever. The seating in fair weather is still outside on picnic tables and under umbrellas, although there seems to more indoor seating available for the cool weather to come. The umbrellas have been upgraded to much nicer ones, and the chairs along the larger tables are much nicer, too. The picnic table seem the same: hard to get both legs under if you have big feet.

But the soups are delicious and a greatly improved part of the menu. The clam chowder ($7 a cup) is at least as good as ever, although now served in pressed cardboard inside of dishes. The Lobster and Ocean Bisque ($8 a cup), is excellent with real pieces of lobster in it as well as at least one scallop and pieces of several other fish included. Again, no dishes, though.

lobster roll

The Lobster Roll on the menu is available in ¼ lb, ½ lb and 1 lb sizes for $21, $36 and $69. This is a Maine lobster roll, which is to say made with cold lobster and citrus mayonnaise, and served with potato chips and slaw. By contrast both Match sites serve a hot Connecticut buttered lobster roll. However, the delicious ½ lb lobster roll we got had an enormous amount of lobster that we could barely finish.

fried clams

If you are looking for classic fried clams, however, you may be disappointed. The menu only includes Clam Strips ($14). (Shades of Howard Johnson’s!) If you want actual belly clams, you won’t find them. The waitress suggested ordering Whole Clams and have them fried. Six clams for $14 and twelve clams for $28. These are meatier, she said than the clam strips but pretty expensive.  The 12 clams we got had less meat than the usual order of belly clams.

They’ve also done something weird to their French fries. They seems to have been par-boiled and then single-fried, which leads to a sort of mushy potato with a hint of having spent a little time in the fryer. Not all that successful. Skip them and ask for the onion rings.

mouse cake

They only had about 3-4 desserts, not printed on the menu, but we split an order of Chocolate Mousse Cake. The mousse was fine but the cake was tough and dry.

Both the Fisherman’s Feast and the Belly Clams  we had this spring are off the menu, as is the Lobster Ravioli. We hope some of these return.

tables

Sono Seaport is at 100 Water Street in Norwalk, and is open daily 11am to 10pm.

 

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Sunday night we decided we had to try the well-known Blackstone’s Steakhouse in Norwalk. They also have restaurants in Greenwich, Stamford and Southport, each with similar but slightly different menus.

Despite it’s unprepossessing exterior at 181 Main in Norwalk, we are delighted to tell you that this is an excellent restaurant a a terrific atmosphere, excellent service and outstanding food. Of course, being a steakhouse, it is not inexpensive, but there are some non-beef items on the extensive menu that are more budget-minded.

tables

The decor is warm and elegant with white tablecloth settings and wine and water glass already in place. You know when you enter that this is sure to be an excellent meal. And it was.

When you sit down, you are served a dish of colorful olives and a basket of warm bread, with a dish of real butter, not that drippy olive oil.

crab cake

We each started with their Maryland Crab Cake ($14.95). It was pretty much all crab with very little filler and a mild, spicy flavor you could enhance with their cucumber/wasabi sauce. This was a great idea and added a lot to the crab cake.

The wine list is extensive and they do offer w number of wines by the glass.

For steaks, one of ordered the Steak au Blue, prime New York strip steak topped with Blue Cheese Gratinee’ ($41.95) The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful and cooked exactly medium rare. We loved it and brought home leftovers for a sandwich.

steak au blue cut

Our other entrée was essentially a bone-in Ribeye, although on sale that night for $43.95. We were impressed at how it was carved and served in little medallions, as well. Also, tender and flavorful.

Finally, we shared an amazing dish called “1/2 Cottage Fries and 1/2 Fried Onions.” The cottage fries were essentially potato chips, but the fried onions were spectacularly tasty and we alternated onion bites with bites of our steaks.

onion rings

We didn’t have room for desserts, but they are fairly conventional: apple pie, chocolate mousse, carrot cake, lemon/orange sorbet, tartuffo, tiramisu, cheesecake, creme brulee and lava cake. Maybe we’ll get to try some next time!

We were incredibly impressed with the staff’s charm and professionalism and are sure to return to Blackstone’s whenever we feel like a great steak dinner.

facade

Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

We haven’t visited Rizzuto’s excellent restaurant (and oyster bar) in too long, and we are delighted to report that it is better than ever. It’s a risk to visit any restaurant in a Saturday night when they are busiest, but the staff was right on top of everything even though every table was full. They were, thoughtful, fast, efficient and never missed a thing. And the food was outstanding.

crab

One of our appetizers was a Pan Seared Jumbo Crab Cake, Maryland style ($14) which may be the closest we’ve ever had to a Maryland crab cake outside that state. I was meaty, with a spicy, mustardy tang, and was served with an excellent remoulade along with tomatoes, salad green and lemon. Really worth the trip for this one alone.

chowderOur other appetizer was their New England Clam Chowder ($9) served with plenteous clams, potatoes and a bit of bacon. Another ideal starter for your dinner.

On their specials menu that night, they served pan seared Chilean Sea Bass ($36) on a delicious Wild Mushroom Risotto, with asparagus and lobster cream. And yes, there were a few pieces of lobster in it as well. Sea bass has proliferated just about everywhere you go these days, but this sea bass was perfectly cooked: tender, juicy and flavorful. And the lobster sauce topped it to perfection.

sea bass

Our other entrée was also from their nightly specials:  Rigatoni al Forno ($24), baked with  Italian sausage, eggplant, mozzarella, parmigiano Reggiano, plum tomato sauce and fresh basil. This, too, was simply outstanding and so filling we brought some home for lunch.

rigatoni

We had to split a dessert to see what they were like. The one we chose was called Chocolate Truffle Ring Ding ($8) which was chocolate cake with a chocolate cream filling,  chocolate ganache and freshly whipped cream. A nice finish to the meal.

ringding

We definitely have to go back there more often, as this was one of our best experiences in some time.

bread

Sono Seaport in Norwalk

Sono Seaport in Norwalk

We haven’t visited Sono Seaport for a while or written about it, but it is as good  or better than ever.  Located at 100 Water Street in South Norwalk, it is slightly off the beaten track, but well worth a visit. Opened in 1983 as a fish market and soon thereafter as a restaurant as well, Sono Seaport provides delightfully simple waterfront dining year round. But it is at the best, when you can eat outside on their substantial patio and accompanying bar area in warm weather.

While still providing picnic table-style informality, the service is fast and courteous, and the (mostly) seafood very good. It is, however, quite popular. We visited on a recent Tuesday and came early (6 pm) to avoid the crowds. It’s a good thing we did, because they are calling people waiting in the bar area for tables by 7 pm.

The menu features a raw bar, soups, starters, salads, sandwiches and entrees, none terribly expensive. Draft beers were just $5 and chardonnay $6.

chowder

We started with their thick and delicious New England Clam Chowder. A cup (shown) is $6 and a bowl, $7. Sono Seaport has come a long way from the early days when they served everything on paper plates with plastic cutlery, and the chowder in a Styrofoam coffee cup. Now, you get real plates and silverware, but the food is every bit as good.

splatter

Much of the menus is dominated by seafood, including lobster, clams, tilapia, shrimp and crab, although there is one New York Strip on the menu for $25. We had to have the old standby Fisherman’s Feast ($26), consisting of lightly fried shrimp, crispy scallops, belly clams and flaky Atlantic cod fillet, served with French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. It hasn’t changed a bit. We are also planning to return to have their Lobster Pot Pie and their fried Belly Clams sometime soon.

lobster ravioli

Our other entrée was a special that night: Lobster Ravioli ($19) served with bread and a rich tomatoey sauce. It was spectacular and filling.

We were too full to sample their desserts, one of which was Key Lime Pie that night. Maybe next time!

Sono Seaport is a great Norwalk landmark restaurant that you should be sure to visit. We’ll probably see you there!

The Tavern at Graybarns: Excellent

The Tavern at Graybarns: Excellent

The Graybarns Inn opened in mid-2017 where the old Silvermine Inn used to be. The Glazier Group has undertaken substantial renovations, and created six luxury suites from around $650 a night. More to the point, they completely redid the old Silvermine Tavern to the somewhat smaller and much more elegant Tavern at Graybarns, which opened last October.

Tables

The restaurant, unlike its sprawling predecessor with indifferent food, is a single room with around 20 tables and a crackling fire and excellent food created by Chef Ben Freemole. There is also a second smaller room for group events. Last night it looked like there might be a birthday party there, maybe a Sweet Sixteen party for about 15 young women.

It seemed difficult to get weekend reservations there because of the restaurant’s popularity, so we decided to go on a Thursday evening at 5:45. OpenTable gave us a choice of only a couple of early times, but in fact the restaurant was never more than half full, with about  seven tables occupied. This may have something to do with how many tables the restaurant releases to OpenTable or who might be coming for later dining.  However, even on weekends, the waitress told us you may be able to get a reservation by calling and asking if there have been cancellations.

barBecause of the foggy weather, we left and arrived early, and while we could have gone directly to our table, the hostess suggested we might want to have a drink at the bar before being seated. This was a great idea:  the bar was warm and comfortable and just steps from the dining room. It was beautifully decorated, with the mid-bar pillar being some of the tavern’s original lumber. In addition to the conventional drinks, they have a selection kooky sounding cocktails, including “Greyhound” and “Corpse Reviver.”

When we were seated at our table, we were immediately provided with some wonderful, crusty bread and unsalted butter topped with a bit of sea salt (you can get it without the salt if you want). And, soon after we ordered we also got a lovely bowl of mixed olives to munch on.

The menu is not huge, but consists of 9 Small Plates ($13-$21) and 10 Large Plates ($19 to $36), plus $50 Strip Steak and a 40 oz Porterhouse for two ($130). While you can order a number  of lovely things, you can also just order the beautiful Tavern Double Cheeseburger for just $19.

crab toast

The menu varies daily, with their additions printed on the menu that day. We were both taken with the Crab Toast ($21) as an appetizer, served on sourdough toast with espelette pepper in the sauce, and topped with chives. The crab was plentiful and the mildly peppery sauce way more interesting than the usual creamy goo you might have had elsewhere.

duck

For one main course, we ordered Duck Breast ($36) served with grilled radicchio strips, a bit of parsnip puree and parsley, along with some surprise sweet potato chips. The duck was tender, juicy and medium rare as we’d hoped, and the portion was substantial.

Our other entrée was Reginetti Pasta ($24) with short ribs sugo, rosemary and pecorino.  This is the sort of dish where the short rib meat was in hiding under the pasta, so we include a close-up to show the featured meat as well. This may have been the winning dish that night: the flavors of the pasta, beef and pecorino harmonized so well.

pudddingThe dessert menu was limited to just 3 items: Apple Crisp, Chocolate Mousse and Sheep’s Milk Triple Cream cheese, each for $9. We elected to split the chocolate mousse, and this was the evening’s only misfire. It was just chocolate pudding, with no liqueur flavor or anything else to distinguish it. Little different than the classc pudding I use in making a chocolate pie.

Even with the relatively small house that night, the noise level was significant, with some noise coming from the patrons and more from the bar area. If the restaurant had been full, it would have been quite a bit more so.

Our bill, with tax but before tip, including 2 drinks($22) and 2 glasses of wine ($32) was $187.18.We also needed to tip the valet parking and the coat check.

However, over all, this was a top notch experience with excellent and service and décor and excellent food and drink. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

outside

Harbor Lights Restaurant in Norwalk

Harbor Lights Restaurant in Norwalk

facadeWe had dinner at Harbor Lights in Norwalk last Saturday and found it to be uniformly excellent. Despite the unprepossessing façade, this is a very fine restaurant that gets everything right: the food, the service, and the atmosphere are all top notch. While primarily a seafood restaurant, they do have steaks and lamb on the menu as well.

Located on the waterfront, Harbor Lights provides a view of the harbor and, in good weather, outdoor seating as well.

harbor

CrabcakeWe both started our dinner with a substantial Crab Cake, served with tartar sauce and a small Greek salad very similar to the what we had at Orlando seafood. The crab was plentiful and bits of chopped red pepper added just the right amount of spiciness.

One of our entrees, shown above, was called French Sea Bass, served with strips of carrots, asparagus, potatoes, olives, mushrooms and tomatoes. Not only was it delicious and substantial, it was a fascinating presentation.

shrimp

The other delicious entrée was Shrimp Mykonos, served on rice with feta cheese, peppers, and red onions. Again, imaginatively prepared and delicious.

Finally, one of our desserts was Profiteroles: three scoops of vanilla ice cream in a puff pastry with chocolate fudge and whipped cream.

Our other dessert was the traditional Crème Brulee, with a warm crunchy top and a creamy filling. Like the crab cake, this traditional dish was elevated by its thoughtful preparation.

Everything about Harbor Lights shows how much the staff cares about your experience. As an example, we noticed that a woman at the next table spilled her water glass. They were there in seconds to dry the table, mop up the floor and provide a new glass of water. Simply excellent attention to detail: you will enjoy this restaurant again and again.

Even the salt and pepper mills match, and smaller tables get smaller versions, with larger versions on the longer tables.

salt