With much anticipation and excitement Miro Kitchen recently opened its doors on Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield. The new eatery is the collective brainchild of Eugene Kabilnitsky, former owner of Tomato and Basil, and Hapa Food Truck’s Chris Gonzales. I recently sat down with the two to talk about the inspiration behind this creative collaboration.
“My wife and I were both working from home and we found ourselves going to the Hapa Food Truck at least twice a week,” Kabilnitsky told me. “We couldn’t get enough! At the time I was set to open another Italian restaurant at this location and was in the process of hammering out details.” But then he started to wonder whether the Hapa concept might work in the restaurant space. He joked that after visiting the truck 100 or so times he shared his idea with Chris, and subsequent conversations led to the current partnership, and Miro, an expansion of the wildly popular Hapa Food Truck, was born.
The best way to describe the cuisine is to say it is a play on Pacific, Asian and Hawaiian street food with an American twist, mixing the exotic with the familiar. “I try to find myself in my dishes” said Gonzales who grew up in the Philippines and spent a great deal of time in Hawaii. “I wanted to take the dishes from my background and offer ways to introduce them in a manner that was both new and comforting.” He told me that he’s so happy in the kitchen that he really doesn’t feel like he’s working - a good thing since he’s at the helm of Miro while simultaneously running the food truck.
Many Fairfielders, especially those near the Black Rock section will recognize the Miro name. While trying to decide what to call their restaurant the two men decided to pay the Miro family a tribute. As the restaurant is situated on the site of their old farm, the name seemed aptly appropriate.
Gonzales is quick to acknowledge his great team both in front and in back of the house. At the restaurant he shares the kitchen with Howard McCall, formerly of Washington Prime. “Howard is a classically trained chef while Chris takes a much more creative approach. They work really well together and we’re always experimenting and trying new dishes.” Kabilnitsky explained to me.
Those who love Hapa will inevitably love Miro. You’ll find a few of the same items, but the restaurant is able to offer a much greater selection. “We have a much smaller space in the truck,” said Gonzales, “So we are more limited in what we can serve.” In addition to the Asian inspired tacos, both Miro and Hapa have a signature burger but they do differ, so if you want to try them, you’ll have to visit both venues. Word around town is that neither will disappoint!
Kabilnitsky told me that they have a great mixologist, Mike Caruso, tending the bar. “It was important to us to be able to serve creative drinks that infuse the flavors of the Pacific rim and Asia. Caruso has crafted 11 creative and unique cocktails that pay tribute to the flavors of the East while drawing on today’s popular choices.
“We want to do this right,” said Kabilnitsky. “We want to offer the freshest of ingredients all perfectly plated.” He continued and told me that presentation is paramount. “We focus on the details; the colors, the aromas and the overall presentation. Taste is important” he added. “But before you taste a dish you see it with your eyes - You use all your senses. Service is important as well because in the end, people don’t always remember what they ate, but they remember whether they had a pleasant experience or not. When the sights, smells, flavors and service all come together guests leave with a very memorable experience. That’s what we are striving for.”
On the menu you’ll spot items like Ahi Bruschetta, Crispy Shrimp & Grits, Tikka Masala Wings, Octopus Arancini, Filipino Spring Roll, General Tso’s Cauliflower, Singapore Street Noodles, an Ahi Burger as well as a carefully thought out wine and beer list.
While I was there I had the opportunity to sample a few items from the lunch and dinner menus as well as a couple of their Pacific influenced cocktails. To start, Gonzales presented me with the Ahi Bruschetta, a sesame crusted, perfectly seared and incredibly fresh tuna over edamame puree, heirloom tomato, pickled onion and a balsamic glaze topped off with micro greens, which was nothing less than perfection. The variety of the flavors and textures from the soft and tender fish and edamame puree to the crunch of the toast, the savory and balsamic flavors seemed to dance in harmony. It is as delicious as it is beautiful.
Also, I urge everyone who walks through their doors to try the General Tso’s Cauliflower. Don’t let the fact that this dish is both vegan and dairy free worry you. The cauliflower, lightly coated in rice flour, has an incredibly crunchy exterior which holds up well to the sauce that is sharp, fresh, spicy and sweet. This is like no General Tso’s you have ever had.
I also sampled a few of Miro’s tacos, their twist on the traditional. The tacos were all served in a soft corn shell, slightly sweeter than what might traditionally expect. The Korean Short Rib, with red cabbage slaw and a house aioli, was soft, tender perfectly cooked, with a hint of barbeque sweetness. The savory Sisig Taco was filled with a tender, shredded pork belly that melted in my mouth and was topped off with a crispy egg yolk that was a nice contrast in flavor and texture. The Garlic Shrimp taco with crispy garlic and the pickled cucumber was tender and perfectly seasoned. The Crispy Cauliflower with an ever so slight curry flavor was perfectly balanced with mango salsa. Last, and certainly not least, making a grand and dramatic presentation on a purple Ube bun was the “KFC” Sandwich comprised of Korean Fried chicken, kimchi, collard greens and a fried egg, which was accompanied by furikake (dried seaweed) fries with a house aioli. This might have been the most exotic of my dishes. The purple ube (Hawaiian potato) bun was a fun twist to the traditional, the chicken was exceptionally crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, the collard greens and egg added unexpected texture and flavor. The fries, sprinkled with sesame seeds, dried seaweed, black sea salt and their aioli was a fun and delicious departure from the traditional French fry.
The two men wouldn’t let me leave without sampling a couple of their cocktails. The Colombian Mule is their twist on the Moscow Mule with freshly infused coconut vodka, sake, kafir, fresh lime and ginger, and the Weng-Weng made from white and dark rums, gin, vodka, St. Germaine, passion fruit, orange and pineapple juices are reminiscent of the Long Island Iced Tea. Both drinks were incredibly fresh and refreshing, but do be careful, they pack a powerful punch!
Miro Kitchen is a wonderful addition to an area in dire need of good dining. It will no doubt be a favorite for locals and a popular destination choice for those seeking a new dining experience that’s a giant leap away from the traditional and ordinary.
The restaurant is currently open for dinner 7 days a week and for lunch 5 days a week. Brunch will soon be served on the weekends and early and late Happy Hour will follow suit, along with delivery. The restaurant currently seats 32 inside, and when the patio opens they will be able to accommodate an additional 20. There is plenty of parking available.
1876 Black Rock Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06825