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Entries in Lunch (216)


New Chef @ elm Restaurant in New Canaan: Enter Chef Luke Venner

Chef Luke Venner has been at the helm of elm Restaurant for several months and was invited to participate at the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival as one of the Innovative Chefs. The two small bites that he prepared at the festival were delicious. In hopes that these were reflective of his newly revised menu, CTbites returned to the restaurant to sample other dishes on his recently introduced Autumn menu. The appetizers and entrées that we enjoyed highlighted the inherent flavors of the ingredients utilizing Chef Luke’s balanced vision and delicate touch.

We shared three dishes from the “smaller” section of the menu. 

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Junzi Kitchen Opens in New Haven

Photo: Reed Immer, Junzi Kitchen

A chun-bing (spring-pancake), is traditionally eaten to celebrate the arrival of spring in chinese culture. Its origins as a humble culinary tradition are tied to the Qin dynasty (265 - 240 ad), when chun-bing was prepared with fresh spring ingredients to signal the spring harvest and a return to the land. It’s become a year-round staple in northern China where you can find it in street carts, restaurants, and on sunday dinner tables. And now on 21 Broadway in New Haven at Junzi Kitchen which opened this week.

Junzi co-founders Ming Bai, Wanting Zhang, and Yong Zhao grew up in a transitional time in northeast China when the population was experiencing many modernizations. Instead of growing food on their own, supermarkets became a predominant food source for families out of convenience, but it was clear that something special was being lost in the process.

Nostalgia for the spring flavors of home led the fellow Yale grad students to launch Junzi Kitchen. "I wanted to show people that Chinese food can be simple, healthy, and satisfying, something you can eat every day," said co-founder Yong Zhao. The result is an experience that challenges the way you think about Chinese food.

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Breaking News: Fortina in Stamford Opening This Week

Grazie a Dio. The long wait (and drive to Westchester) is over.  Fortina is ready to rock in Stamford’s  Harbor Point.   Luigi Bianco Pizza, welcome to Connecticut!

Expecting to begin serving any day (as soon as they get their Certificate of Occupancy),  partners John Nealon,  Christian Petroni, and Rob Krauss invited CTBites to stop by for a sneak peek before the official opening.  

Actually that debut won’t be so formal.  Nothing soft.   No Friends and Family.  Not even a ribbon cutting.  Just a sigh of relief.  “When we open the doors, we’re open,”  Nealon told us.  

That’s because everything is set, the menu (almost identical to Armonk), the staff (many from Rye Brook and Armonk),   the kitchen (the same wood fired ovens from Naples and charcoal grill from Spain) the playlist (specialized  for Stamford’s millennials and empty nesters),  and yes,  hundreds of those familiar San Marzano cans just waiting to boost their pizza trays with a luscious Luigi Bianco.   The whimsy is waiting. 

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MECHA Noodle Bar Opening in Downtown SoNo, Norwalk

Fans of Mecha Noodle Bar in Fairfield, residents of Norwalk, and noodle lovers everywhere will rejoice in the news that Mecha will be opening a second location right in SoNo’s downtown Washington Street. “We believe in the resurgence of SoNo, that this type of cuisine is a good fit for this urban area,” says Pham. SoNo residents can already be seen peering curiously into the spot that once housed Joe Bruno’s renown Pasta Nostra, now boasting windows lined with garden variety Ramen packets…a sign of things to come.  

Mecha owner and chef, Tony Pham, will be joined by longtime friend and owner of Mézon, Richard Reyes. The team grew up together in Bethel with extended families who loved to gather around food, specifically Pho and Hot Pot, courtesy of the Phams. Sharing food with people they love is part of their collective DNA, and Pho is a “Universal comfort food,” says Pham.

For those not already familiar with the menu at Mecha, we’re talking ramen, pho, steamed baos and a well curated selection of Asian plates. Slurping is encouraged, as clearly stated on the menu. 

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Meet The New Culinary Team @ Vespa Restaurant in Westport

Vespa Restaurant recently introduced its new culinary team, Executive Chef David White and Pastry Chef Susanne Berne to create a vibrant menu to complement the relaxing décor and wonderful water view. The duo will collaborate in creating a menu for the full dining experience, from the first bite of Antipasti to the last bite of Dolci. In addition, the restaurant recently unveiled its lunch service, a new dessert menu and the commencement of “Apertivo Hour” from 4-6PM, offering half price beer, wine, $8 select cocktails and a small plates menu.

Chef David joins Vespa from The Inn at Pound Ridge, where he was the Chef de Cuisine. Prior to working with Chef Jean-Georges, he sharpened his skills in Europe before returning to the US to further refine his talents with award-winning Andrew Masciangelo at Savona. Chef Berne’s passion for the culinary arts was sparked by a pastry course in college before receiving her Grande Diploma in Pastry Arts in 1999. She subsequently won back-to-back ACF Florida Pastry Challenges in 2003 & 2005.

CTbites recently visited Vespa to sample a variety of the new culinary team’s Italian-inspired creations.

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Teff Ethiopian & Eritrean Restaurant Opens in Stamford

As children, we’re instructed not to eat with our hands.  But at Teff, a newly opened Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant in Stamford, CT, you’re supposed to do just that.

On the brink of Harborview and a stone’s throw away from downtown, Teff’s location is ideal.  It sits in the space that formerly housed the Red Sea Deli.  The Mekonen family owned the deli for 14 years.  Although they mainly served classic American fare there, they offered Ethiopian food from Thursday-Saturday.

“We had good reception, people wanted it, but it was time consuming,” says Elsa Mekonen, Teff’s operations manager.  “We thought it would be good to have a full time Ethiopian restaurant.”

The concept led to the creation of Teff, which officially opened for business on July 30.

Hadas Mekonen, matriarch and chef, grew up in Eritrea, a small country that used to be part of Ethiopia.  She was the third oldest in a family of 16, so learning how to cook was essential to help provide for the family.  At age 9 she started observing how her mother browned and prepared the spices.  From there, she learned how to cook entire dishes.

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Table 104 Osteria & Bar in Stamford

CTbites writer, Jessica Ryan, recently attended a press dinner at Table 104 Osteria & Bar in Stamford. Here are her tasting notes. 

Tucked away unassumingly on Long Ridge Road, this unpretentious restaurant offers exceptional fare. Together Chef Domenico Iovieno, Restaurateur Walter Cappelli and Chef and Restaurateur Enzo Bruno have teamed up to produce a restaurant that is vibrant, inviting, spacious and modern. 

Table 104 Osteria & Bar offers a creative menu featuring fresh, cooked from the heart comfort food with notable inspirations from Rome and the Italian coastline. 

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Best Warm Lobster Rolls On The Connecticut Coast: 2015 Update

Welcome to the end of July, summer’s center point.  The perfect time for our annual quest to find the best of Connecticut's official pleasure of summer: warm, buttery lobster rolls. 

At the suggestion of readers, chefs, CTBites staff and a food critic or two, we've added an array of food trucks, pounds, shacks, and even a high end restaurant to our previous portfolio (see 2014 edition here)

So take a ride up the balmy Connecticut coastline.  We start in the southwest and head northeast, as CTBites forages the best warm lobster rolls in America. 

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Aarón Sánchez & Chris Batemen Unveil Seasonal Menu At Paloma, Stamford

After a bloggers’ tasting at Paloma in Stamford’s Harbor Point, CTBites sat down with Chef de Cuisine Chris Bateman to review the menu -- and his creative relationship with celebrity chef-owner Aarón Sánchez.

Bateman is a culinary prodigy. Fresh from CIA, the young chef opened Four Seasons Restaurants and Hotels around the world. So debuting Paloma last summer wasn’t his first big time rodeo. Sánchez may be its star, but Bateman runs the day-to-day show.

We wondered how much the celeb is involved in the creation of Paloma’s menu. “Very much,” Bateman replies. “We work closely. But he’s wide open to my ideas, and listens really well.”   The unshaven, still youthful chef, sporting jeans and a Yankee cap worn backwards, confides, “Aarón is the reason I’ve stayed here.  I love cooking with him.”

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LisaMarie's Food Truck: Paradise Lost, Then Found Off The Beaten Path in CT

Lisamarie Ault was flying high.  For twenty years she had served as the personal Chef to Edgar Bronfman, Sr., the billionaire magnate of the Seagram’s empire, preparing the best of everything for a man who demanded world-class excellence. That's exactly what he got from a devoted chef who was trained at CIA and cooked at restaurants from Switzerland to Hawaii. Lisamarie led a rarefied life in her own culinary paradise.  

But then she suddenly fell back to earth.  In December of 2013, Bronfman abruptly died, and his family no longer had need for a personal cook.  Lisamarie was out of a job … and a dear friend.  “Mr. B”, as she calls him, had become the father she lost days before she took the position two decades earlier.

“In March of last year, I had no idea what I was going to do next,” she recalls. “Suddenly, out of the blue, I learned that Mr. Bronfman had included me in his will.” On an impulse,  Lisamarie decided to  buy an old food truck, and take it on the road under the banner of "PARADISE FOODS.”

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