Harlan Publick Still Kicking Up the Flavors in South Norwalk

jeffrey schlesinger

The day started with snow flurries in Denver, pre-dawn, long week, long flight, two hours from Kennedy to CT. When my wife asked where we should eat, the temptation for a culinary transport to the Caribbean was too much to resist. After a quick drive to SONO, we were seated at one of my favorite restaurants, Harlan Publick, where Chef Kamal Rose is still creating magical combinations, balancing the spiciness of the Islands, with a delicate focus on subtleness.

Before we even ordered drinks, we asked for the Gulf Shrimp Tempura. A large bowl of shrimp, each perfectly coated and fried, covered with a shallot soy vinaigrette and served with a spicy mayo. The interior was luscious and every morsel quickly disappeared. Our server, who was spot on throughout the evening, recommended the revised Burrata. When it arrived, the oblong plate included a whole Burrata, sitting alongside oven dried tomatoes and roasted peppers, with two grilled slices of roasted garlic Ciabatta. The latter hid large roasted garlic segments that were nestled within the bread. When the three components were melded in unison, the Burrata was a beautiful smoothing of the bold flavors of the peppers and the sudden kick of the roasted garlic.

Chef Kamal then decided to tantalize our dinner with a few of his new creations. Scallops and risotto are a fairly common combination, usually with the latter grabbing earthy notes from wild mushrooms. This version was far from earthy; the risotto was accented with Caribbean twists, crab and coconut, topped with a tropical salsa and finished with a pineapple vinaigrette. The scallops were seared to perfection. One side was crisped, with a hint of sweetness, succulent on the interior and incredibly moist. The combination was one of the best I have tasted that combined scallops with the essence of the Caribbean.

Next to arrive was a special Ebony and Ivory combination (pictured above). Sitting on the Ebony plate was the Korean Fried Chicken. I am completely without geographical judgement enjoying an Asian chicken in a Caribbean restaurant, since the flavors and textures exploded with vibrancy. Soft, juicy chicken, encased is a thin crispy crust and then elevated with a pungent-sweet sauce. For a little crunch, peanuts and slivered scallions are sprinkled atop the chicken.

The menu also offers an excellent option for those looking for subtle versus bold. The Grilled Chicken was served with a panzanella salad, white Balsamic vinegar, and a touch of ricotta salata. A sliced breast was fanned across the plate and sat next to a mound of the salad. The chicken offered just a hint of lime, which was infused in the chicken, the texture of the breast was delicate, soft, subtle and juicy. The crispy skin offered contrasting seasoning, and the panzanella salad included tomatoes, long strips of cucumbers, slivered red onions and diced zucchini. It was a wonderful complement to the chicken.

Dessert is not to be missed and Chef Kamal’s Caribbean interpretation of a Napoleon is delightful. The dessert began with three disks of crispy, shredded phyllo, filled with lemon curd and berries. Drizzles of berry reduction circumvented the Napoleon. The dessert was equal parts fun, beautiful and delicious. The curd was creamy and tart and worked well with the sweet strawberries and blueberries. For addition sweetness, the dish was topped with powdered sugar. The phyllo added a fun crunch and textural difference to the sweet-tart filling.

Harlan Publick is a fun restaurant / pub / outdoor activity center with high top tables and toys to enjoy under the stars, a vibrant bar scene, relaxing tables and food to entice the palate and satisfy those looking for incredibly delicious cuisine.