Before I met my husband, I gave nary a thought to the most important meal of the day. I’d rather sleep. But since becoming enlightened to the art of eating this meal, weekend breakfasts have become sacrosanct to my family. One of our houses of worship is Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro, located in an indistinct shopping center in Norwalk. The food snob in me has learned that you cannot judge a restaurant by its geography. Such is life in suburbia – some restaurants are in strip malls. They are not all as transporting as this one. Robert Troilo, owner and chef, was schooled at the French Culinary Institute in New York and it shows, both in his inspired cooking and its artful presentation. Equally impressive is that he seems to always be there, greeting customers warmly, cooking in the open kitchen, serving and waiting on tables.
Last summer, at a friend’s suggestion, I ventured to the strip mall at 75 Main Street for a Saturday night dinner (read our review). The food was so outstanding, we asked the requisite question of each distinctive restaurant in Fairfield County: “Are you opened for breakfast?” Not expecting that they would be, I almost jumped up and hugged Robert when he answered yes. My husband and I were back there the next morning. And the next weekend for breakfast...twice. This is the kind of food one could become a bit compulsive about and we are guilty as charged.
The menu at this divine Ikea chic find is mostly all local, sustainable, natural, and organic. The beef is grass-fed and the pork is obtained from D’Artagnan, the leading purveyor of natural meats. Vegetables and greens come from the local farmers as available.
When my family goes out to eat we are enmeshed in each others food, so we have learned to share nicely. Luckily NR serves generous portions, perfect for multiple forks. Last Saturday, it took three tries from the waitress to take our order before my family of four could figure out what to choose. Savory or sweet? (Both). Lite or caloric? (Caloric!) An Omelet ($12.95) made with no less than 18 additions? Brioche French toast (seen below for $9.75), Potato crusted frittata ($9.75), or one of the seven Egg burritos featured on the menu ($3.25-$9.95)? Each of these Burritos combines eggs with three to five other delectable filling combos including: Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, tomato salsa, sour cream and bacon; chorizo; caramelized onions, mushrooms, Monterey Jack and chipotle; short ribs jalapeno and sour cream; crab cake, spinach and chorizo. My son was drawn to the New Guy Burrito ($6.25), a flour tortilla filled with eggs, caramelized onions, bacon, cheese and home fries. Not the most interesting choice but its slight crunch and hint of cumin elevated it from being another ordinary breakfast burrito.
The Cheesy Egg ($5.35), a poached egg on toast with well seasoned spinach, Applewood bacon and melty Swiss cheese, appealed to my daughter. The kitchen graciously allows substitutions so she got her eggs scrambled instead. The Fried Egg Corn Tortilla (seen right for $10.95) caught my eye. This is a “meatatarian” (as opposed to vegetarian) version of huevos rancheros. What you get are two fried eggs on top of a small stew of NR’s spectacular short ribs, black beans and plum tomatoes that literally pop with flavor. The short ribs are cured in coffee and chili peppers then braised in Guinness (and can be found on the dinner menu as well). All of this is layered on top of a corn tortilla. I didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day after that luscious and gratifying dish.
My husband graced the table with pecan butternut pancakes, which seemed to be about 3/4” thick, and come with fresh cut fruit and maple syrup, charmingly served in Ball Jars. At other restaurants, the pecans are sprinkled on top. Here, they are embedded on bottom of the pancake, creating a bottom layer. Usually I want one bite when it comes to pancakes, but between the crunch of the pecans, the fluff of the pancake and maple syrup absorbed throughout, my taste buds were hijacked and had no choice but to further indulge. I counted five forks (there were only four of us) on that dish and we ended up ordering more for dessert, along with the beyond decadent pots de crème, or pots of cream. This custard concoction was made with chocolate, cardamom and espresso, decaf for those who’d like to indulge at dinner time. The combination of the chocolate and coffee create a divinely inspired caramel-ly, creamy custard , I’d just call it “pots de dream.”
In addition to the daily seasonal menu, a Brunch Specials menu is available, both offering compelling and varied selections. The brunch specials offer lunch food as well, such as salads ($7.00 - $11.00), burgers ($10.00) and lobster mac and cheese ($12.00). Seated next to us was a self-proclaimed eggs benectict aficionado from Manhattan’s West Village. The restaurant has a friendly atmosphere and we often make friends with our “neighbors.” He shared that never nor anywhere, has he had such delicious eggs benedict. I kvelled for Robert!
Speaking of coffee, in order for a breakfast spot to become hallowed, it must serve coffee that is transcendent at best and, at the very least, seriously superb. Nicholas Roberts does not disappoint in this arena, either. New Canaan’s award winning Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee flows freely, adding another wonderful reason to love this place.
Other great aspects to Nicholas Roberts in addition to the food and great prices, are the reasonable hours. On weekends you can get breakfast served up until 4 PM. Very good news for people who have other sacred places to be, such as a sports field or their bed. You can also get this amazing breakfast seven days a week (!) because they open Sunday at 9 AM and 8 AM the rest of the week.
Lunch is served at 11 AM and the abundant choices, range from crawfish beignet wrap, duck club, lamb kebab to a good selection of organic salads and a variety of seasonal roasted veggies. During breakfast there is also the chance to get "lunchier" menu items such as salads and hardier selections such as a vegetable stew, tuna avocado burger, cheeseburger, salmon burger with wasabi mayo and their famous French fries, as well as a flank steak salad. If you're really ready to eat, try the duck confit, frisee and bacon salad topped with a poached egg, crispy duck, or chorizo and shrimp jambalaya. It's al good.
Chef Robert’s dedication to procuring the highest quality ingredients while creating innovative fare is palpable. Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro is nothing short of a tour de force. He is a truly gifted chef and we are so fortunate to have him here. Happily, the restaurant caters and has a full menu of Foods to Go. Your first time there won’t be your last.
Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro 75 Main Street, Norwalk. 203.229.0035