Oak & Almond

544 Main AveNorwalk, CT 06851 • (203) 846-4600 • oakandalmond.com
This might just very well be the best restaurant in the world… that is adjacent to a DMV. A dubious distinction by all accounts, but don’t let that sway you, because even if it weren’t right next door to the DMV, it would still be pretty damn good. So if you’re in the area, pounce. And if you’ve just spent an infuriating day at the DMV, double pounce.

The setting is surprisingly nice considering its locale, although it’s not a place I would propose or anything. That said, it’s set far enough away from the road and the DMV parking lot to make you feel like you are elsewhere.

But what really transports you is the food. From get go, you know they’re the real deal when they serve you their homemade, fresh-baked bread with a whipped butter-like cream thing that is dangerously habit-forming.

And the app-e-teasers proved strong as well. My favorite being the fungi flatbread (pictured). This pie is legit. Doing CT Pizza culture proud. A close second was the buratta, which was melt-in-your mouth creamy, drizzled with balsamic and served up with beefsteak tomatoes and perfectly thin, crisp crostini, just strong enough to provide textural contrast with the buratta, but thin enough so as not to overpower it and let it be the star. A close third for me would be the octopus, just missing the second slot because it was a touch overcooked. But the preparation was wonderful. A mix of fave beans, peas, dill yogurt, fennel, potatoes and chorizo, all drizzled with a kicking’ vinaigrette.

The only miss for me was the salmon tartar, significantly lacking in compared to its bunkmates.

For entrée, I went with the lamb burger. Not sure why, because I was already pretty damn full by this point, but perhaps it’s because I’m like a dog and would eat myself to death if you’d let me. Pressing on, I managed to hork about two thirds of it down. But like the octopus, I do have to say it was also over-cooked. That said, also like the octopus, the balance of flavors made up for a lot with the tzatziki and the olive aioli.

But as good as it is, I’m not suggesting you make a special trip just to go here. I mean it’s still right next to the DMV for Christ’s sake! But, if you happen to work nearby, or be in the area, you could do a lot worse. And if you just failed your driver’s license exam, it’s a nice place to lick your wounds.

Consider it a VERY strong three knifer, trending four when you adjust for DMV proximity.

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Eden Roc Grill – Hotel du Cap

Boulevard John Fitzgerald Kennedy 06160 Antibes, FR • r+33 4 93 61 56 63 •  https://www.oetkercollection.com/destinations/hotel-du-cap-eden-roc/restaurants-bars/

Built in 1869 as sanctuary for writers in seek of inspiration, Eden Roc suffices. I say this with heavy doses of understatement because by all accounts Du Cap is a stunner. Like a mini version of Versai, nestled on the shores of a majestic Mediterranean cove. And while the hotel is a veritable feast for the eyes, the restaurant is regrettably not a feast for the mouth.

But I suppose that’s not why people flock here. They do so to feel special, for the view and the lavish opulence. But this is food blog and I’m sorry to say that you can get the exact same experience at Chateu de la Chevre D’or in Eze without having to compromise on the food. Whereas, if you ask me, Eden Roc is basically a nicer version of the Hotel Belle Rives down the rue.

In terms of food, the risotto with leeks was passable, but slightly flavorless. Granted, that was much more forgivable than the sea bass, which was overcooked and dry. And to be fair, even the bread and olive oil they served at the start of the meal was a big whatevs.

Thus, if it is a gastronomic feat you are looking for, keep heading East on A8 until you reach Eze. But if you’d rather gorge on architecture and affluence, you could do a lot worse.

Morano Gelato

57 S Main StSte 101 – Hanover, NH 03755 • (603) 643-4233 • moranogelato.com
When our friends implored that we simply must go to this “amazing” gelato place in Hanover, you can imagine that this was met with a healthy dose of ferocious skepticism. I didn’t tell them this at the time, obviously, but they read the blog, so I guess the jig is up.

Well, I’ll be damned, because it just might be the best gelato I’ve ever had. The Almond Rum Crunch being an Ultimate and a firm glove across the face of lesser gelato peddlers. You heard me Grom! I don’t think I have ever tasted the presence of the rum in any other ice cream that bears its name like did at Morano. Just wow.

In fact, this place was so good, I made my friend take me back for seconds! Not on the same day mind you. I do have someself-control.

My only gripe on day two is that about 80% of the flavors changed, which has its plusses, but the loss of Almond Rum Crunch was a rough one for me, I’m not gonna lie. Still going through the loss, so I kinda don’t wanna talk about it right now. Need my space.

Fortunately, Morano crushes it on a bevy of other flavors like the Dark Chocolate which is so rich it probably doesn’t get hit with the AMT.

Equally strong, but wildly different is the Wild berries flavor, bursting with fruity brightness that leaps off of your spoon into your mouth. Same can almost be said for the Black Raspberry, but it’s a touch less unique, so I wouldn’t quite put it at the same level.

Of the nutty persuasion I gotta give it to Pistachio. Always a gelato crowd pleaser and Morano handily delivers. The hazelnut is also strong, but just not quite as flavor-forward as its greener compadre.

On par with the nutters I would place the Espresso, which manages to toe the line masterfully between creamy dessert and powerful coffee kick, paying faithful homage to the drink from which it hails.

A notch down from there would be the Stratacca or Chocolate chip. It’s still VERY good mind you, but when you are choosing amongst diamonds, gold starts to lose a bit of its luster. You feel me?

In fact, the only two flavors that were just okay for me were White Chocolate and the

Strawberry, Nutella Crunch. I know, right? Would’ve expected those to be winners too, but it’s kinda hard to complain when so many other flavors are lit.

Not too shabby for a woman who just decided to visit Italy for a few months to learn how to make gelato and winds up schooling everyone!

Oh, and if you don’t live anywhere near Hanover, fret not. She has two other locations. One in Chestnut Hill, MA and the other in Westfield, NJ. Sadly, there are none near Westport, CT, but I’m working on that. 😉

Saltwater

128 Washington StNorwalk, CT 06854 • (203) 939-9502 • saltwatersono.com

This place should be ashamed of itself being so close to actual saltwater and yet doing its bounty such a disservice. And thing of it is, I kinda blame myself, because from the moment you walk in the décor pretty much screams DANGER! CRAP THEME RESTAURANT. Complete with aqua painted floors, wall and ceiling and actual blue and white beach gazebos as booths.

And yet I pressed on, because this is what I do for you, my readers. I eat shit food so you don’t have to. But that’s just me. I’m a giver… of primarily scathing reviews.

And scathing this shall be, because virtually everything was bland or worse, including our waiter. Not that he was bland, he was just flat-out terrible. But to be fair, we got off on the wrong foot because the place was entirely out of lobster in any way, shape or form by 8pm on a Saturday night! A seafood restaurant, on the second biggest night of the weekend, is out of an ingredient that’s in a quarter of the dishes on the menu. WTF?!

So, with two major strikes already against it, the rest of the menu was going to have to be stellar and spoiler alert, it wasn’t.

The octopus was average. The scallops over the risotto cake was a glorified bowl of mush. In fact, the only things that even registered on the foodometer were the raw oysters and the Sono salad. The oysters being hard to claim as a culinary success, if you ask me, because you’re really taking credit for nature’s unfettered fruits

There were other dishes on the table as well, but I can’t recall what they were, which I think speaks volumes- the fact that my mind is blocking the meal like a traumatic incident. Be warned!

Donut Crazy

1 Ferry Ln – Saugatuck Train Station Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 293-4655 • donutcrazyct.com

One need only walk through the door to understand what makes this place so “crazy,” because directly across from you there are two cases filled with fried rings of dough that look like something Willy Wonka might create if he were really, REALLY stoned (pictured). Sporting more colors of the rainbow than Skittles, these things are topped with the type of stuff that keeps dentists up at night. Things like Cookie Monster, a blue donut topped with actual crumbles of chocolate chip cookies. Candy Crush, topped with gummy worms. Maple Bacon, topped with bacon, of course. That said, I think the best two by far are simplest ones. The Red Velvet (available year-round) and the Pumpkin (only available in Autumn, sadly). Others are decent, but on a textural basis in a head-to-head, flavor-to-flavor throw down with Coffee An’ Donut Shop, they would lose. But that’s only in a fair fight and Donut Crazy don’t fight fair, after all… it’s crazy!

And speaking of CRAZY good, you have to try their Cruffins. Easily the bestest thing they make. Think Cronut, but in muffin form. This is their haymaker and it packs a wallop! Down goes Coffee An’!!!

Other things worthy of note are the muffins and croissants, which are better than any other bakery in the area. My personal favs being the carrot and bran muffins. Yes, another hit from the people at Match going in the books. Not perfect mind you, but well played nonetheless.

Mercato

352 W 39th StNew York, NY 10018 • (212) 643-2000 • mercatonyc.com

Mercato is located in a very weird area by all accounts, so there’s virtually no reason to go there. And after reading this review, there’s even one less reason than that.

Sure, the décor is cute, but the service is not. In fact, it’s kinda frustrating, because they disappear on you, they don’t listen and they are terrible with the recommendations. Plus, they are arrogant, acting as if they are serving up the second coming. Well, I have news for them, only one out of seven dishes was even just okay, making it the worst hit ratio I’ve seen in New York in a very long time. How Yelper’s gave this four stars is everything wrong with Yelp and why I left to start this blog in the first place.

As for the okay dish, it’s the rigatoni, but only if you blanket the thing with black pepper, crushed red pepper and parmesan. I’d go into more detail and list some of the other dishes not to get, but that would be pretty much all of them. From the stale bread on the table to the bland wine to the olives to the starters and entrees, it was lineup filled with more misses than the Three Blind Mice playing tag. Spare yourself the disappointment unless slimy octopus and airplane quality food are your thing, because Mercato is a resounding one knifer.

Oko Kitchen

6 Wilton RdWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8404 • okokitchen.com

If you love The Cottage than you will, um, really struggle to like this place as much. As The Whelk is to Kawa Ni, they are sister restaurants, linked by the same chef, who, definitely upped the sushi game in Westport without a doubt. But if you’re going in with expectations that it is The Cottage in Japanese form, you will be disappointed.

Appropriately starting with the starters, I found the attempt at inventive edamame to be noble, yet messy and nowhere near as good as the ones at Koku in Armonk. Jazzed up with garlic, soy butter, gomashio (sesame salt) and shio kombu (a form of dashi). But net, net it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance without a lot of flavor.

Same goes for the shishito peppers, although the slightly better of the two, made novel with chickpea miso, guanciale and shoyu-koji (soy sauce).

For small plates, Oko didn’t wow much either. The deviled eggs with pork belly being the least wowiest and a far cry from two other versions in Westport alone- both Rothbard and The Whelk making far superior versions.

The sticky ribs fared much better, sauced with smoked maple, gochujang and sesame crunch. But the real winner of the smalls is the miso black cod, or as they call it “Torched Black Cod.” It’s cedar grilled and done in a madieira shoyu glaze with shitake and scallion and it…is…killer! As good as the one at Matsuisha in LA, the place that invented the dish.

But what about the friggin’ sushi? Okay, I get it. After all, it is a sushi joint, right? So, long story longer, it’s very good. The fish is fresh and the preparations are inventive without being gimmicky, for the most part- the one exception being the foie gras, which shockingly I would forego and just follow the omakase. Oh, and great news, this is more like it is in fine sushi restaurants in Japan, where you don’t even use or need soy sauce or wasabi, because the preparation is so wonderful on its own.

Speaking of wonderful, come dessert, you have to try the- okay, bare with me on this one… The soft serve. I know! What am I, like five years old?! But I’m not joking here. They take Dairy Queen’s invention to another level. Especially with the friggin’ Oko crunch!!! I mean, other than the miso cod it might’ve been the best thing we had. And that’s not just the killer gin cocktail talking (yes, they also have a killer gin cocktail).

It’s no Cottage, but Oko is definitely a strong three knives and the best Japanese in town. Give it a few more weeks to iron out the kinks and I’d imagine it will be a four or five.

Bacaro

136 Division StNew York, NY 10002 • (212) 941-5060 • bacaronyc.com

Bacaro is like Don Juan in restaurant form, dripping with romance and charm (pictured). But sadly, this quaint veneer is all built around one dish, the gnocceti. And if you stick with that and a glass of wine, you will think this place is the cat’s pajamas. But should venture beyond it, you will soon find that the emperor has no clothes.

All three starters were non-starters for me. The asparagus with egg and grana was relatively bland. The caprese was served with mealy tomatoes. And the spicy meatballs, while the best of the trio, weren’t all that spicy- or meaty, for that matter.

The other two entrées I tried were equal parts letdown, the duck ragu was dry and lacking complexity and the pork shank over soft polenta also left me wanting more depth of flavor.

Hell, even the wine was disappointing as was the service, asking us to leave after only 2 hours at our table. Blasphemy!

Flirting with disaster, Bacaro raised the Titanic with a strong Tiramisu to just barely eke out a second knife.

Marea

240 Central Park SNew York, NY 10019 • (212) 582-5100 • marea-nyc.com

Poetry comes in many forms and at Marea, that form is fish, named after the stunning Tahitian island and for good reason, this place is stunning. Not so much from a décor perspective, although it is clean and elegant. The food, however, handily solidifies this as one of the top places to get your fish on in the city.

And oh boy is it on. Starting with the seared yellowtail, blistered carrots and potatoes. It is so ridic, I can’t even remember how to spell the other half of that word.

Also swoon-worthy is the lobster caprese, which is essentially as it sounds, in other words, really friggin’ good.

The octopus starter is also very good, but I did find it to be the least inventive of the three and not quite at the same caliber.

For entrees, I only had my one, but one is all it took. So good I’m glad I didn’t share. Perfection on a plate, although when I tell you the accompaniments you’re going to think I lost my marbles. Lettuce and pistachio. Yah! That’s it. How it could be so good can only be described in a word, magic. AKA butter.

Come dessert, this is my only caution, because there is a miss in the midst. The affagato is made with WAY too much coffee to the point where it throws the who thing off balance and basically tastes like a cup of coffee with cream in it. For true affagreatness, I recommend Fortina in Westchester and Stamford, CT. But fret not, dessert is not a total bust. Case in point, the donuts, warm, deep fried proof dipped in lemon crème and chocolate. Oh daddy!

Now for my only real gripes. The wine list, while decent is a bit pricey. And although I sincerely appreciate the wait staff’s sensitivity to hovering by letting us have our space, it is at the peril of attentiveness, because if you don’t ask for things your meal can easily turn into a seven-hour time vortex. Which brings up a very real dilemma, because as you know, I HUGE pet peeve of mine is being rushed out of a restaurant for turnover sake. But I guess my frustration lies somewhere in the middle. Can’t we find a happy medium?

That’s really it though. Marea is pretty perfect. No need to come off as one of those people who is so bored with life, they have to find shit to bitch about. So I’ll shut up now and you go to Marea.

Turntable Chicken

34-36 W 32nd St – Fl 5New York, NY 10001 • (212) 594-4344 • turntablelpbar.com
The vibe alone is worth a visit, almost like eating in the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack. The walls all lined with vinyl and speakers bigger than the opening scene in Back to the Future. Woah.

But that’s where the excitement ends, I’m afraid, because the fired chicken sammy that everyone raves about is not all that, nor is it a bucket of chicken, because it’s SO thin you can almost floss with it! Not an exaggeration, sadly. To quote one reviewer on Yelp, “they must use very skinny chickens.” Truer words were never spoken. Fortunately the flavor and heat are good, but let’s face it, you’re basically eating a breading sandwich.