Change is again in the air as Picador recently announced that sous chef Frank Barrese has assumed oversight of the restaurant’s menu and kitchen. As co-owner Ray Rivera explained to CTbites, “Leo (Rivera’s business partner) and I wanted to offer the best in Spanish Tapas and Chef Frank has proven his ability to create the level of dishes that we were looking for since we opened.” To introduce several items that will be included on the new autumn menu, Rivera invited CTbites to sample an assortment of Chef Frank’s creations. Many were delicious and others are still in the final stages of their development.
The tasting began with a few slices of Garrotxa cheese, served with house-made Turkish apricot jam, Marcona almonds and currants. The cheese delivered an earthy profile, which paired perfectly with the nuts and currants. The jam was delightful and made for a great start to the meal.
Of the small plates that I tasted, my favorite was the “Baked Egg with Tomato and Chorizo.” Served in a small bowl, it included an egg that was baked in a chunky tomato sauce with chorizo, topped with fresh basil leaves and served with bread. The baking concentrated the sweetness of the tomatoes, which were complemented by the spiciness of the chorizo. The egg added a creaminess to the dish. Spooning the combination onto the bread allowed for it to meld with the crunchiness and slight tang of the bread.
A choice that is perfect for sharing was the “Cockles with Chorizo.” This rendition delivered a good level of spiciness with the combination of Arbol chilies and sautéed chorizo, all served in the spicy broth. The cockles were sweet and a great canvas for the spiciness of the accompaniments. Both the chorizo and chilies were fried and provided a crunchy textural difference.
Offered as either a Tapas or an entrée, Picador’s “Chorizo crusted scallops with saffron aioli, Piquillo puree” are served atop two sauces: a saffron aioli and a purée of Piquillo peppers. The scallops were perfectly cooked to retain their translucent and moist interior; the chorizo crust offered a different twist, a crispy and spicy change from the traditional bread topping. The Piquillo pepper purée was delicious and added a nice level of spiciness, while the subtle flavor of the saffron aioli was lost amongst the other bold flavors.
For guests looking for a little crunch, the “Crispy fried Brussel sprouts, Serrano ham, aioli” is an excellent option. Picador’s version paired the sprouts with thin slices of deep fried Serrano ham. The process concentrated the flavors and saltiness of the ham, which worked well with the sprouts and the light and citrusy aioli offset the saltiness of the ham.
I sampled two entrées. My favorite, and the highlight of the meal, was Chicken, roasted and served with smashed, roasted Fingerling Potatoes, sautéed fennel sausage and asparagus. This Spanish version of Chicken Scarpariello was outstanding. The chicken was perfectly roasted to a crispy exterior while the interior was moist and flavorful. The potatoes were also crispy on the exterior and moist on the interior. The spicy sauce was outstanding and combined veal stock and vinegar to give a delightful balance. The fennel sausage were first sautéed with a little chorizo to give a slight kick, and slices of cherry peppers added a significant amount of spice. This was a great Spanish interpretation of a classic Italian dish.
The Salmon was a recipe that has not been fully developed. The filet was perfectly roasted to medium-rare and topped with pepita seeds, shaved Brussels sprouts and Gala apples, served atop braised lentils, and a cardamom-accented butternut squash purée. The Atlantic salmon was a little bitter, offset by the sweetness of the apple. The preparation provided a variety of textures and flavors but requires additional seasoning plus another component to bring together the presentation.
Picador is now heading in a good direction with several bold Spanish tapas. Once Chef Frank places his final touches on the varied menu this should be a great addition to Elm Street in New Canaan.
15 Elm St.
- Roasted Chicken
- Tomato and Chorizo Baked Egg
- Cockles with Chorizo
- Chorizo Crusted Scallop
- Brussels Sprouts and Serrano Ham
Did Not Like
- Roasted Salmon