Seven is Breno Donatti’s lucky number. His restaurant, “Bistro 7,” is located on Highway 7 in Wilton. “Seven is God's favorite number,” he told us, “And I also got the inspiration for Bistro 7 in the 7th district of Paris in a place called ‘Cafe Central.’”
Well, hopefully we won’t jinx anything by dubbing his re-programed farm–to-fork café in Wilton as “Bistro 7.1.”
With a new chef, sous chef, general manager, and a reimagined food and beverage menu, Donatti has updated his operating system, and from what we tasted at a recent Grand Reopening, the app is not just new, but vastly improved: less complicated and well-priced.
We began with a Roasted Root Veggie Bisque, blended with slow cooked carrots, butternut squash, parsnips, sweet potato, root spices, and garnished with a bacon chip. Breno claims it’s even better than his award winning Butternut Squash Bisque and we don’t disagree.
Bisque 7.1 has a subtle kick and a lingering aftertaste, courtesy of a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Though the menu listed the soup as a “Teaser,” the more than generous and very hearty portion seemed a “Filler” – a meal in itself – and perfect for those cold winter nights approaching.
As in the bisque, much of Bistro 7’s ingredients are seasonal and local, sourced by Donna Simons, who maintains daily contact with farmers and producers in the region. Chef de Cuisine Marcelino Martinez assured us that his menus will be driven by what is fresh and available.
Martinez has introduced a few Latin inspired offerings to the menu, such as the Empanada teaser, an homage to the cuisine he grew up on. His rendition is amazingly satisfying, a no frills classic: ground beef, red onions, scallions, cheddar with a spritz of cilantro-lime sauce. Martinez omits the olives, only because he doesn’t enjoy them.
“I cook for me,” he told us. “If I don’t like something, it won’t be on my menu.”
Marcelino likes to keep his dishes simple. “If it’s too complicated,” he explained, “the primary flavors can get lost.”
Pork is one of his specialties. “Chef Marcelino’s Roulade” -- a pork loin pounded thin and stuffed with spinach and Applewood smoked cheddar cheese, is served atop tasty Zucchini and Squash “Linguine” -- veggie ribbons sliced on a mandolin. The flavors are simple and strong.
Martinez‘s signature dish is Arroz con Pollo, moist chicken breasts and thighs, perfectly sautéed, roasted and braised, then served over deeply flavored Spanish rice, amplified with a roasted spicy tomato sofrito. A totally traditional Latin dish. No reboot needed.
We particularly enjoyed “Harrison’s Ginger Salmon” -- a pan seared, skin-on steak served over sautéed bok choy, and glazed with a maple sauce, which rendered a golden luster to the presentation and a sweetness that played nicely with the ginger. Though we neglected to order the fish medium rare, the salmon arrived moist and lightly flaked, one of the best we have ever tasted. The dish was conceived by Sous Chef Harrison Schaefer. We wondered about the chili sauce, which seemed to have been lost in the glace. Chef Martinez freely admitted it was lost, literally, having been omitted in the jitters of opening night.
Vegan Squared was also featured on the tasting menu: grilled Zucchini and Squash “Lasagna,” served with Basil and a chunky Marinara. (Appropriate menu items are identified as vegan, gluten free, and vegetarian, with asterisks denoting small modifications.)
The Hamburger menu has also been streamlined. “Rather than all these different versions we used to offer,” Breno told us, “We make it less complicated. Now we are offering a Build Your Own option, so you can choose your favorite combinations.”
The decision tree begins with a choice of protein: beef (a blend of chuck, shortribs and brisket), chicken or veggie burger, then a bread, followed by a selection of four cheeses and 6 toppings. Diners can also add sauces liked garlic aioli or creamy cilantro lime. Every burger comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and a housemaid Ketchup. Diners can add a side of fries or a small salad for only three dollars.
General Manager Christian Caldarariu comes from Bermuda’s Fairmont Southampton, and he has designed a wine and spirits menu that features a nice selection of craft cocktails. We tried a Fenneltini: Hendricks gin, a sprinkle of vermouth and fennel bitters, garnished with a lemon twist. Smooth, flavorful and refreshing.
Breno brought over a new house labeled Zinfandel that he has commissioned from a winery in Paso Robles, California. “It is a blend of 7 different grapes,” he told us. And then he showed us the Label.
The wine is branded “The Seven.” With a new wine, menu and kitchen, Breno, like any proud father, was in 7th heaven.
Bistro 7 @ 991 Danbury Rd 203 587-1287 www.bistro7wilton.com