Cuisine & Ethnic

NEW RESTAURANT

The Cottage


Photograph: Julie Bidwell

The new standard for restaurants: perfect ambiance; attentive and knowledgable service; a tantalizing menu matched by what is served; and a creative, confident chef who agonizes equally over the big picture and small details. That’s why local foodies know The Cottage is the golden goose. Westport cleverly attracted Chef Brian Lewis to a petite restaurant that is the antithesis of his soaring talent. “The ability to cook my heart out here has been one of the greatest highlights of my career,” he says. “Our amazing guests define who we are and have been fully supportive of me, and my incredible team, in shaping the cuisine at The Cottage into our very own culinary expression.” Wild Nettle Sacherri, Wild King Salmon in Cedar Paper and the Cottage Burger with gruyere, sriracha aioli, millstone pickles, bacon and onion jam illustrate the not-so-humble menu.

256 Post Rd. E., Westport, 203-557-3701; thecottagewestport.com


STEAK

The Capital Grille

With locations across the country, why does The Capital Grille feel so at home in Stamford? We think it has to do with their obsession with serving great steak. Yes, they have fantastic starters and refreshments, but our readers hold the menu in one hand—eyeing the Filet Mignon and Bone-in Dry Aged New York Strip—and a Best of the Gold Coast medal in the other. In-house butchers hand-carve the  steaks to ensure the best possible texture and flavor, because there is nothing like that singular moment of the first bite—and it’s perfection. (See also “Best Service.”

230 Tresser Blvd., Stamford, 203-967-0000; thecapitalgrille.com


SEAFOOD

The Whelk

Westport is having an affair—it is totally smitten with Chef Bill Taibe and his every culinary thought and action. The evidence is found in his seafood restaurant, The Whelk. Located in the heart of Saugatuck, along the river, the attractive place serves up fresh New England favorites, like clams, lobster and crab, and a selection of intriguing new twists, like Brook Trout with collard greens, sunchoke and whipped buttermilk, and Seafood Stew with fregula, Calabrian chilies and garlic. Despite occasionally reaching for a food dictionary, our readers sense the down-to-earth vibe—even as the standards of Taibe and his talented crew are sky high. (See also “Creative Menu.”)

575 Riverside Ave., Westport, 203-557-0902; thewhelkwestport.com


SPECIAL OCCASION/DATE NIGHT

Artisan at Delamar

Love elevates one’s senses. Colors are brighter and food tastes glorious. So, set the mood for that special occasion or date night by heading to the folks who understand the art of food: Artisan at Delamar. This restaurant is sophisticated and serene like the French countryside. The fine French cooking transitions you from the fast lane of your busy day to the many splendored indulgences of timeless good taste. The preparation and plating are thoughtful. Consider the Crispy Duck Breast with whipped parsnip, sunchoke, foraged mushroom and sour cherry sauce. The stage is set for romance; just show up and enjoy.

275 Old Post Rd., Southport, 203-307-4222; artisansouthport.com


CREATIVE MENU

The Whelk

Our readers love the seafood at The Whelk. It’s everything one hopes for when one gets the urge to crack open a lobster or land fresh mackerel on the dinner plate, but the wizards at this restaurant also lure diners to the deeper waters of culinary creation. Can you imagine any other place serving up Union Jack Oysters with gin, crème fraîche and roe or Orange and Onion Salad with marcona almonds? You can still get your burger or squid ink cavatelli, but you could also eye that shrimp and grits dish. (See also “Seafood.”)

575 Riverside Ave., Westport, 203-557-0902; thewhelkwestport.com


BEST SERVICE

The Capital Grille

What happens in the kitchen seems like the most important thing for a satisfying meal. After all, if you’re craving steak, tuna or Chilean sea bass, your mind is fixated on what will be on your plate. However, going out for a meal is also about the environment—how it looks and how you’re treated by the staff. If your standards for the meal are matched by how you are welcomed, seated and attended to as a guest, then our readers politely suggest you give The Capital Grille a chance to impress you. (See also “Steak.”)

230 Tresser Blvd., Stamford, 203-967-0000; thecapitalgrille.com


OUTDOOR DINING

bartaco


Photograph: Julie Bidwell

Sometimes you crave the beachy feel, but without the sandy feet. Get all the benefits of a shoreline party—creative, fresh tacos (perhaps fried oyster or sesame ribeye tacos?), corn on the cob, refreshing cocktails and a view—without having to tap sand out of your shoes at the end of the night. Instead, just take in the breeze and sit back on the patio at bartaco, where you can enjoy good company in a casual gathering—along with guac and chips, mahi mahi ceviche, and a round of Oaxaca spritzes.

20 Wilton Rd., Westport, 203-222-8226
222 Summer St., Stamford, 203-323-8226
bartaco.com


HOTEL RESTAURANT

l’escale

When company comes into town, you want to impress them with all of the glories of Greenwich. There are many viable options, but l’escale restaurant and bar located at the Delamar Greenwich has conveniently assembled everything that shows off perfect Greenwich style. Guests find fine dining, wonderful sunset views and excellent service all in one place. Sometimes you just want to treat yourself, whether in the form of a Chicken Chasseur with fingerling potato, mushroom, parsnip and pearl onion, or Grilled Lamb Chop with minted pea purée, bacon, pearl onion and fingerling potatoes or an excellent French wine. Escaping the everyday has never been so easy. (See also “French.”)

500 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, 203-661-4600; lescalerestaurant.com


WINE LIST

Barcelona Restaurant & Wine Bar

Not all of us were born with a nose and palate for fine wine, yet we know when we like something. Thankfully, Barcelona, with its extensive selection of wines from Spain and South America is here to serve. In fact, it lays claim to one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the United States. We wouldn’t be surprised if our readers enthusiastically enjoyed researching Barcelona’s nearly 400 wines before handing over the gold for favorite wine list. (See also “Tapas Menu” and “Spanish.”)

222 Summer St., Stamford, 203-348-4800
4180 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, 203-255-0800
barcelonawinebar.com


TAPAS MENU

Barcelona Restaurant & Wine Bar

Andy Pforzheimer and Sasa Mahr-Batuz founded Barcelona in Connecticut and have since opened multiple locations, including in other states. The tapas craze continues, and Barcelona is the center of the magic. Good thing, because they busily do all the prep work that goes into creating a fun night out, with good food and wine, so you don’t have to worry about anything—except which tapas you’re going to order (so many good choices). (See also “Wine List” and “Spanish.”)

222 Summer St., Stamford, 203-348-4800
4180 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, 203-255-0800
barcelonawinebar.com


WEEKEND BRUNCH

The Chelsea

Does anyone think of Sunday as the start of the week? No, and for good reason—you just want to coast and recharge. Ease into the day with Sunday brunch at The Chelsea in Fairfield. The toughest part is deciding what to order. For example, French toast with maple bacon, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon mascarpone, the Chelsea Scramble with caramelized onions, crispy bacon and cheese topped with fried onions and a side of home fries, or Puffy Tempura Fried Waffles with butterscotch bananas, molten chocolate and a scoop of maple gelato.

12 Unquowa Pl., Fairfield, 203-254-8200; thechelseaff.com


VEGETARIAN / HEALTH FOOD

b.good

With locations along the East Coast, b.good has been winning over fans by keeping things simple: real food fast. That means grain bowls with kale, sesame carrots, Brussels sprouts, flavorful chickpeas, pepitas, local eggs and a tomato vinaigrette; salads with red leaf lettuce, oranges, grapefruit, avocado, pistachios, goat cheese and fennel in a snappy lemon-mint vinaigrette; and fruit smoothies.

1460 Post Rd, Fairfield, 203-292-8970; bgood.com/fairfield


AMERICAN

Match


Photograph: Jeff Kaufman

We think of Match as a great place to have a fun night out—a party place. But our readers reminded us to hold up; Match is also a fantastic place for a meal that is unapologetically American. These days that means globally inspired dishes and cooking techniques. Consider the osso buco simmered for eight hours or the crispy skin fillet of wild king salmon over soft honey-semolina polenta, charred zucchini and crispy fried blossoms with sour cherry sauce and a California cherry salad. Not exactly meat and potatoes. Also, check out the carpetbaggers with local oysters and wash it down with a selection from the wine, beer or cocktail menu.

98 Washington St, Norwalk, 203-852-1088; matchsono.com


ASIAN FUSION

Kawa Ni

You crave Japanese cuisine, but can’t jump on a plane right now? Destination: Westport, where you’ll find Kawa Ni. This Izakaya-inspired restaurant is about as authentic as you can get on these shores. The communal tables and bar seat only fifty, a remarkable fact considering its popularity. It draws in guests with its welcoming attitude and obsession for exotic options, such as Tofu Packets, with crab, sushi rice, yuza tartar and pumpernickel (this combo wouldn’t have occurred to us), and smoked bone marrow, clam tsukemono, bonito, robotayaki—all of which had us jumping onto Google. But this we know: 1. Sake is good. 2. Kawa Ni opens food horizons. (See also “Japanese.”)

19A Bridge Sq., Westport, 203-557-8775; kawaniwestport.com


FRENCH

l’escale

It’s no secret that the French take food very seriously. And we’re lucky enough to have a seat at their very chic Greenwich table. Diners give the gold for French cuisine to this restaurant for its authentically prepared dishes, including Bouillabaisse Provancale— branzino, monkfish, scallop, rock shrimp, mussels saffron potato, rouille croutons—and dishes that appeal to the French way, such as Fjord Islands Salmon a la Plancha with cauliflower purée. All of the food is accompanied by a fabulously curated wine list. And, of course, there are not-to-be-missed desserts like the house-made profiteroles. So if you’re in the mood for a Parisian excursion sans passport, head over to l’escale. (See also “Hotel Restaurant.”)

500 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, 203-661-4600; lescalerestaurant.com


ITALIAN

Café Silvium

Brothers Nick and Vincenzo Petrafesa’s southern Italian trattoria from the Apulia region serves up such favorites as freshly made pasta (the chef’s specialty is the cavatelli), veal, fish and chicken, and delicacies, such as venison, wild boar and rabbit. While the restaurant is noted for its friendly inclusiveness, it has a menu that is impressive to even the toughest foodie at the table. Linguine Nere con Capesante and Fettuccine al Mascarpone are a couple of examples of the serious dishes that are served with a smile. Desserts, made daily, are a must. Consider the Zuccotto di Ricotta, sponge cake soaked in Strega, filled with sweet ricotta, chocolate chips and almonds.

371 Shippan Ave., Stamford, 203-324-1651; cafesilviumct.com


JAPANESE

Kawa Ni

We would like to say we’re surprised by our readers’ choice for the top slot of Japanese restaurants in Fairfield County, but we had a suspicion that Kawa Ni would get the nod. They just have this magical mixture of good food and environment that envelops its guests. The devotion to authenticity and to pushing boundaries is part of the winning formula. Perhaps the Maneki-neko good-luck cat is just for good measure. (See also “Asian Fusion.”)

19A Bridge Sq., Westport, 203-557-8775; kawaniwestport.com


SUSHI

Pink Sumo Sushi & Sake Cafe

Gold Coasters are hooked on Pink Sumo Sushi & Sake Cafe. To the uninitiated, the restaurant might be hard to find, being somewhat subterranean. But once you find it and try it, we think you’ll dive in, just like our voters. It’s just plain cool. Plus, it offers options you’d expect in Japan but didn’t think you’d be able to get so close to home. The menu is huge for such a little place, kind of like the big flavor that comes from tightly wrapped bite-sized sushi. The many cocktail and sake options make us think that it’s a public service to mention happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. 

8 Church Ln., Westport, 203-557-8080; pinksumoct.com


MEXICAN / LATIN FUSION

Bodega Taco Bar

To understand Bodega Taco Bar, and why it’s just so cool, you should read how the owners describe their roots: “We were into this ‘escapism’ thing and wanted to keep the ball rolling.” So they did their homework and went eating in Brooklyn. What they brought back to Fairfield was a reminder to do what you love. You do you, and others will dig it. Lucky for us, what Bodega loves is creamy avocados, fresh lime, cold beer, and lots of braising, roasting, marinating, stewing pork, seasoned beef, and spicy chicken. Have it your way—paltos, tacos, ensaladas, tontas and so on. It’s all good—just like the sense of humor and welcoming attitude here. To find the popular food truck, head to their website.

980 Post Rd., Darien, 203-655-8500
1700 Post Rd., Fairfield, 203-292-9590
bodegatacobar.com


SPANISH

Barcelona

Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar always finds a top spot on the Best of Gold Coast CT. It has more than 400 wines on the menu and a roster of chefs serving up creative dishes that the whole table will want to share. The owners are proud of the selections and the atmosphere they have created, but mostly, they’re glad they created happiness. People have fun here, and that’s why they return again and again. (See also “Wine List” and “Tapas Menu.”)

222 Summer St., Stamford, 203-348-4800
4180 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, 203-255-0800
barcelonawinebar.com


INDIAN

Coromandel Cuisine of India

Put down the salt. When you’re at Coromandel Cuisine of India, you have a world of spices, seeds, herbs and more, expertly blended for a mouthful of flavor. No matter what dish you choose—Phaal Gosht (lamb with chilies, onions, tomatoes and spices), Kori Nilgiri (chicken with herbs and spices in nilgiri sauce), or Bombay Aloo Gobi (potato, cauliflower, tomatoes, curry leaves, and herbs and spices) —you’ll enjoy a world of taste. Turn up the heat or smooth it out. Equally important is that the restaurant is contemporary and bright, not like you’re visiting some theme park eatery. You’ll never miss the salt shaker.

68 Broad St., Stamford, 203-964-1010 25 Old Kings Highway N., Darien, 203-662-1213
17 Pease Ave., Southport, 203-259-1213
See other locations at coromandelcuisine.com


CHINESE

The Little Kitchen

Thank you, dear voters, for acknowledging that Chinese food is not best out of a little white box. One visit to The Little Kitchen, so named for its humble beginnings as a takeaway, will prove that the best way is at a big table, surrounded by family and good friends, and digging into flavorful dish after dish. While you can still get your old favorites, you will be delighted that they are impressively upgraded in taste and appearance. The digs, with dramatic red accents, handsome tables and cool lighting, and a popular curved bar, are also elevated.

423 Post Rd. E., Westport, 203-454-5542; littlekitchenwestport.com


THAI

Rainbow Thai

Good things come in small packages. Proof is in Rainbow Thai, tucked into a corner of the Saugatuck area of Westport. Year after year, it wins our Best Of award for Thai food. Our voters are its loyal fans and are willing to spread the word about the gem. Equally impressive is the number of dishes from which to choose. The menu is extensive, as in multiple options for curries, noodles, rice, wok specials, soup, salad and so on. Get a head start with the many options on the appetizer list, before diving into the entrées. The variations of onion, bell pepper, ginger, snow pea, ginger and so on is all but a promise that what you crave will be available to you. Call it a rainbow of options.

5 Bridge Sq., Westport, 203-557-9000
rainbowthaict.com


GREEK

EOS Greek Cuisine

Once again, EOS Greek Cuisine wins. Maybe it’s the authentic Greek preparation of lamb, octopus, sea bass, chargrilled chicken and such; maybe it’s the restaurant’s friendly staff; or maybe it’s the people-watching location and crisp, contemporary décor. Whatever the secret combination of winning factors, this family-run restaurant celebrates its heritage in the best possible way: through its food and hospitality. When you’re there, consider ordering the Moussaka with its layers of zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, tomato meat sauce and béchamel cream or a light Prassinos Pyrgos Salad with fresh baby spinach, dill, feta cheese, sesame seeds, phyllo cracker, and honey balsamic vinaigrette. Finish off anything you eat with a bite of traditional baklava or Portokalopita.

490 Summer St., Stamford, 203-569-6250; eosgreekcuisine.com


MEDITERRANEAN

Layla’s Falafel

Omnivores and vegetarians may not agree on what’s for dinner, but they can agree on where to go: Layla’s Falafel. Here, the Lebanese food is plentiful, tasty and super fresh. So while one of your friends goes for a grill specialty, perhaps Lamb Shawafal or Chicken Kabob, another one goes for the falafel sandwich or baba ghanoush—and everyone agrees on the stuffed grape leaves and creamy hummus. The portions are generous, too. Come as you are. But if you can’t make it in, you can place your order online for delivery.

926 High Ridge Rd., Stamford, 203-461-8004
245 Main St., Stamford, 203-316-9041
2088 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, 203-384-0100
laylasfalafel.com