With its new, 3 course prix fixe lunch, The National offers a commodity not always found along “The Ave” in Greenwich: a real bargain.
CTBites was recently invited to sample the new lunch menu, and we’ll fill you in on that delicious deal in a moment. But first, we wondered how the restaurant has evolved since it opened a year ago. So we asked owner and celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian.
"We are never on auto pilot," the restaurateur told us. "And we always listen to the needs and wants of the customers. One change that people are loving is that we put French Fries on the menu. We started with homemade chips, but the fries are a huge hit. Sometimes, it is just those small things that people embrace."
While catering to a neighborhood, suburban crowd, The National in Greenwich serves a menu similar to that of The National in Manhattan. “The biggest difference is that here we have a tremendous wood burning grill,” Chef Zakarian told us. “We can do all sorts of things that are not possible in New York City. I love pulling up to the restaurant and smelling that wood burning aroma.”
The Food Network star confirmed he will be opening a restaurant in South Florida. “I can't release too many details yet,” he said. “But it is in the works and will be ready very soon.”
Connecticut diners have fallen in love with the “Ugly Burger,” voted one of the region’s top hamburgers.
The burger is particularly popular at the bar. “People like that they can take a stool, read the paper solo and enjoy the burger,” Zakarian said. It’s a convenient set-up for people on the go.
Speed and convenience are especially relevant during the day, when some customers need to get in and out quickly so they can hurry back to work or pick up the kids from school. That’s why the new prix fixe was born.
“At all my restaurants, our service style for midday is different than night,” Zakarian told us. “Our lunch prix fixe lets people know ahead of time that for $21 they can come in, enjoy an amazing healthy lunch and be out the door with one of our signature cookies in no time.”
For our prix fixe lunch, we arrived precisely at 12:30, looked over the menu and placed our orders within a few minutes. Beverages were brought post haste.
Around 12:45 we began our appetizer course. First, we tried a salad of young lettuces and pistachios, mixed with Ricotta Salata (a variation of ricotta cheese that has been pressed, salted and dried), then dressed with a Tarragon Dressing. The delicate, slightly crunchy greens were complemented by the creamy, sweet herbal sauce, which in turn played off the salty pistachios and ricotta. Tasty, bright, and nicely constructed, the salad made for a light lunch time starter. Very good…
… but the chilled Corn Soup appetizer choice was even better. At the table, General Manager Daria Albert poured a smooth, coral-colored corn broth over a mound of Tomatillo, Cotija Cheese, and bits of smoked almond. That finished as a sweet and smoky mélange, redolent of an early autumn harvest. As in the salad, the nuts added an exotic, pleasing bite.
The second course came a few minutes after the apps were cleared, shortly after 1:00 pm. First, we tried P.E.I. mussels, presented in a creamy, rich sauce of anise-cardamom aioli studded with cotechino (an Italian cooked salami) and chilies. The mussels were crowned with a thick slice of grilled country bread. We devoured the plump, tidal tasting bi-valves while slurping the sweetly spiced aioli cream from shell-by-discarded-shell. Then we mopped up the remaining sauce with the hearty bread, which had been grilled, its coarse surface rubbed with garlic cloves and drizzled with olive oil. “Sumptuous” best describes the savory toast bathed in the saline mussel liquor and sweet, creamy sauce. This generous dish is also available on lunch ala carte menu, priced at $15, also a bargain. (Our server confirmed the portions were identical on both menus.)
We then tasted an alternate second course: chicken and lentil salad with cauliflower, marcona almonds, and cucumber, dressed with a spiced yogurt vinaigrette. Like all the prix fixe servings we tried, the salad was crafted to achieve a delicate balance of flavors and textures. While a healthy and refreshing main, this entre would not pair well with the starter salad. What’s more, the dish paled in comparison to the lush (albeit calorie laden) Mussels.
We did not try the third main, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, a traditional Roman dish comprised of pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pepper. The classical trio came steaming to a table nearby, and it looked fresh, mouthwatering, and appetizingly simple. Next time.
Less than an hour after we arrived, our server brought a take home bag of freshly baked cookies: Chocolate and Chocolate Chip. For diners on the run, the dessert is packaged to go, ready for a decadent afternoon snack or evening treat. If not in a hurry, folks can choose a leisurely table service for cookies and coffee, then, perhaps, a lingering afternoon conversation, watching shoppers stroll The Ave outside the restaurant, blithely unaware of the bargains within.
376 Greenwich Ave (203) 861-6851http://thenational-ct.com/
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:30AM - 3PM
Brunch: Saturday 11:30AM - 3PM Sunday 10AM - 3PM
Afternoon Menu: Daily 3PM - 5PM
Dinner: Monday - Friday 5PM - 10PM Saturday 5PM - 11PM Sunday 5PM - 10PM
Late Night: Friday & Saturday 11PM - 12AM
CTbites and the author were not compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.