Christmas was in the air in Greenwich this past weekend as the town’s Annual Holiday Stroll offered something for everyone: a chance to meet Santa, a ride in a horse drawn carriage, and for me, the opportunity to try out The National’s Holiday Brunch.
I had not yet been to Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s newest and his first restaurant in Greenwich. The celebrity chef has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS Morning Show and has starred in many Food Network programs including Chopped, The Next Iron Chef and Cooks vs. Cons, the network’s newest show.
The tone is set immediately as guests enter the restaurant through velvet sage-colored curtains to find an elegant, yet relaxed, space that perfectly combines old world charm with modern day sophistication. The National describes itself as a new kind of American Café featuring seasonal ingredients, hardwood grilling and craft cocktails. Careful attention to décor and detail throughout the restaurant and menus is evident. As we sat down Chef Zakarian made his way over and welcomed us. He was charming and affable.
The wait staff was attentive without being overly so. (I hate nothing more than to have my meal interrupted a half dozen times by someone asking if everything is to my satisfaction.) We ordered a Virgin Mary and an Old King Cole. The Virgin Mary was indeed bold and while I loved it, it might have a bit too much of a kick for some palates. The Old King Cole, made with cognac, mulling spice syrup and Prosecco was served in a coupe, which I adore, a perfect choice for a holiday weekend.
When it came to choosing our meal my dining partner ordered up the Long Island Duck Hash. I, on the other-hand struggled to make a decision and when our waiter came over I asked him to help – I was torn between the Free-range Scrambled Eggs with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Tomato Confit, Country Toast, the Three Egg Omelette with Marinated Artichoke, Piperade, Ricotta Salata and the Egg White Frittata with Rapini, Smoked Mushroom, Boursin Cheese. He suggested the latter and that’s what I ordered.
The Long Island Duck Hash was just what I hoped it would be. Two beautifully poached eggs glistened atop a mound of crispy, chewy duck with a deep, smoky flavor, potatoes that were both crisp and tender. The peppers offered a nice heat to the palate that lingered just long enough. This dish, as delicious as it was, is incredibly rich – one needs to approach it with a hearty appetite.
By contrast I ordered the egg white frittata thinking it a healthier choice. I would overlook the Boursin – a favorite - just this once. I will be so blunt as to say the frittata missed the mark for me. Completely. The bitter flavors of the rapini overwhelmed the egg. I don’t think such bold greens belong on the same plate, let alone on top of the egg. I pushed the rapini aside to focus on the frittata. It took several bites before I got any hint of the Boursin and I was disappointed with the lack of smoked mushrooms. The egg’s delicate flavor and light consistency was completely overwhelmed by the greens.
Delivered to our table was a side of crispy broccoli. At first bite I thought it was crisp and flavorful but as I ate more it seemed greasy and heavy. This missed the mark too, sadly.
Next was dessert. While I ordinarily would have passed my taste buds beckoned for something sweet and I wanted to give something else a try. With many tempting items from which to choose we selected the Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Segments & Lemon Sorbet. I find olive oil cake to be terribly underrated and often outshines the rest. We also opted for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Raspberries, Candied Walnuts, Mascarpone Ice Cream. The Olive Oil cake was divine and just as I had hoped it would be. The spongy cake hinted of olive oil and citrus. The whole cranberries were a welcome tart treat, as was the sorbet – though ours wasn’t lemon – perhaps cranberry or raspberry served as the perfect complement. The Sticky Toffee Pudding was rich and decadent, sweet and divine and the mascarpone ice cream was a fun deviation from traditional vanilla.
We washed our desserts down with coffee which I feel the need to mention. I find it almost impossible to find a really good cup of coffee at a restaurant. (Cappuccino and espresso, yes, but not so for regular coffee.) The coffee was divine – bold and smooth, and extra points for the pitcher of warm milk that accompanied it.
I need to go back and try a few more items to be able to give this a proper review. I will say this; my experience was a positive one. The restaurant is handsomely decorated and comfortable with a subdued energy in the air. The wait staff is kind, courteous and attentive and I am eager to give The National another chance.
376 Greenwich Ave
Greenwich, CT 06830
Reserve on Open Table
Neither CTbites nor the author were compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.