CTBites readers who don’t live in Bridgeport now have an excellent reason to drive and dine there with the opening of Can Tiin in the downtown area. The dishes at Can Tiin (pronounced “canteen”) lead with a Vietnamese influence, are based on French techniques, and incorporate other Asian flavors. This culinary panoply is deftly handled by Chef Brian Reilly, who explained, “We take traditional Vietnamese dishes and honor them, but allow ourselves the latitude to experiment and go out of the box a little. We continually challenge ourselves to push the envelope without getting cute or overly fussy.” The result is neither cute, nor fussy, but fun, inventive and tasty. (Read our opening announcement for details on the management team.)
The menu is divided into Cold, Hot, Noodles and Dessert. The Cold and Hot offerings are small plates and perfect for sharing. We tried all three salads: the Sweet and Sour, the Hippie Salad and the Vietnamese and liked them all, in that order.
The “Sweet and Sour” was true to its name, with a dressing of fish sauce and honey; it was simultaneously clean and complex thanks to the house-made kimchi. While the name is a throwback, “The Hippie” is a contemporary combination of kale, quinoa and pomegranate seeds, with an abundance of fresh garlic and ginger in the dressing that gives it anything but a laid back finish.
When you get to the “Hot” dishes, you will be tempted by the buns, but don’t stop there. The Fried Pork and Crab Spring Roll is an excellent combination of ingredients and flavors.
We were surprised and delighted by a dish not yet on the menu, simply presented as Chicken Thighs and described as “Chef’s answer to wings.” The thighs were moist, having bathed in a sous vide for 6 hours, and tossed with a delicious sweet and sour sauce, accompanied by sautéed poblanos and onions. In a thighs vs. wings contest, these thighs kick butt and are definitely worth a spot on the Chef’s selective menu.
So, about those buns: The Sweet Chili Pork Belly is the most traditional and was a unanimous crowd pleaser.
The other two bun offerings attempt an east meets west pairing, which works in the flavorful alliance between the Fried Chicken and its hot sauce with garlic honey, but the Burger Bun could use a mediator to create some harmony between the burger and its bun.
The Noodle dishes are all served in large bowls with conversation-worthy bamboo ladles. The poached chicken was delicious in its rich and thick lemongrass, peanut broth, which happily demonstrated some of the latitude Chef Reilly takes with traditional Vietnamese dishes. This noodle dish has the layered aromatics and complexity of good pho, but successfully departs in texture and consistency.
And, speaking of unique departures, the Chocolate Mint Sesame Dumpling from the Dessert menu brought accolades of “crazy good”, “awesome”, “ambitious” and “unusual”. This dessert is worth trying. The dumpling is made from beignet batter and fried to form a crispy golden, sesame-studded crust around a center of creamy mint chocolate. The vanilla jelly, which is petite in size and composition next to the dumpling, provides a light and slightly sweet counterpoint to both the dumpling and chocolate.
Can Tiin is a flavorful and fun dining experience. The modern and minimalist space is open and inviting, with a communal vibe thanks to thoughtful design touches: a red-orange floor, which in the Vietnamese culture represents love, luck and celebration, a long bar that extends into a communal table fashioned from the recycled wood of many trees, symbolizing the mixing of cultural flavors, and a hanging wooden canopy over the bar that provides shelter and light to the diners below. Whether you’re at the bar enjoying Jeff Marron’s (formerly at Kawa Ni) excellent cocktails, tucked into a banquet, or up in the loft area, you will be enjoying interesting food that is unlike anything in Fairfield County.
Can Tiin, 269 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, 203-540-5002