Barcelona

971 Farmington AveWest Hartford, CT 06107 • (860) 218-2100 • barcelonawinebar.com

If the Bar Taco next door is anywhere near as good as the one in Westport, CT, then I’m not sure why you would go here unless, like the one in Westport, the wait for a table is just way too crazy long.

Okay, I lied. For brunch, there is one other reason I can think of, the DIY Bloody Mary table. Just pick your vodka (Tito’s), then choose your base mix. Sriracha, Horseradish, Chipotle or Black Pepper. Then load that baby up with virtually anything your heart desires. Bacon, cornichon, olives, celery, bell peppers, papadew peppers, marinated mushrooms, pearl onions, cauliflower, cheese, pickles… this could take a while. Seriously. The table is that bountiful.

But apart from the Bloody Mary’s and a couple other dishes, it’s a bit of a letdown. The sangria is so watery it doesn’t even pack the punch of grape juice. The meatballs owe an apology to the cow that died in vain.

Equally disappointing was the lamb chop with romesco and arugula. First they served it raw. Then they served it eh.

The pulpo (octopus) with smoked paprika is just okay, but if you know me and how much I like octopus, for me to be so tepid can only mean one thing, skip it.

Also located in the okay corral are the mixed greens with manchego & pistachios, the Brussels sprouts, the broccolini and much to my chagrin, the veggie paella loaded with eggplant, sprouts, peppers, asparagus and disappointment.

The winners, while sparse, could add up to a decent meal, though, if you played your cards (and ordered) right. For example I found the Mushrooms a la Plancha to be pretty darn tasty. Made with crimini, shitake and button. The Patatas Brava where also bravo, zazzed up with salsa brava and a garlic aioli. And since I’ve never met a charcuterie and cheese board I didn’t like, let’s throw that in too.

But if you’re like me and good isn’t good enough, your options dwindle further still, to only two dishes. The jamon and manchego croquettes and the chorizo with sweet and sour figs in a balsamic glaze. The latter being the best thing of the lot. And as you can see, we tried a LOT.

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Rothbard Ale & Larder

90 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • 203) 557-9666 • rothbardct.com

Rothbart is not a bar. Nor is it a restaurant. It is an Eastern European godsend filled with beer that flows like happiness dipped in gold and dishes that will have you thinking you’re in Prague, not Westport.

The setting alone couldn’t be more perfect really, with it’s castle-esque, basement dining room off the corner of an alley (of the charming variety). Which proves to be a living testament to just how good this place is, because it’s plenty busy for a place that isn’t that easy to find. In fact, the only reason we went there was because the wait was ridic at Bar Taco. And I’m so glad it was!

Beyond having kickass tripel beer on tap and in bottle, the bartender Adam is the perfect blend of sarcasm and wry- yet Johnny on the spot with his service and the recos.

Of the starters, I think I’d give it to the cannibal toast by a nose. Essentially a deftly balanced beef tartar spread over toast and over and out. We horked it down so fast I’m lucky I still have all ten fingers.

After that, an extremely close second would be the mussels, cooked in a beer-based broth that rivals any white wine version I’ve ever had.

The pretzel is also a solid option, but not by comparison to its predecessors. And truth be told, if it’s pretzel you want, then save yourself for the bratwurst platter. It is everything right with this world all on one cutting board. A beautifully charred brat, bursting at the seams with flavor. A ramekin of tallegio, a pile of cornichon, a dollop of grain mustard and last but not least, a pretzel roll that is every bit as good as the solo act, only with this dish you can doll it up into a bratwurst sandwich worthy of the gods.

The other starter I would giddily recommend is the deviled egg appetizer. Not quite as impressive as the ones over at The Whelk, but that’s a mighty high bar to be fair. These are topped with pickled pearl onions and trout roe and are hot damn delicious.

The only real miss for me is the chicken schnitzel. It’s really quite bland and lacking the accouterments to make it interesting. Essentially, it’s like ordering one gigantic chicken finger that covers your entire plate.

But getting back to the wowzers, be sure to get the salted apple pie as your closer. It is deceptively simple, yet magnificent in every metric imaginable.

This is not the place for the faint of heart, however. So if you’re on a diet and looking for a light bite, you really shouldn’t come here unless you’re willing to fall off the wagon. Hard.

Little Barn

1050 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8501 • littlebarnct.com

I dig the roadhouse vibe of this place, but unlike the Patrick Swayze movie, this one dispenses with the bikers and the topless women and replaces them with a setting that’s civil enough to take the kids. Service is also kid-friendly and attentive. Making it a solid go-to for a family dinner with the young’uns.

I partook in the Shroom Burger, which I have to say was very good. Everything you would want, but nothing more than you might expect. Served with decent helping of sweet potato fries that’ll hit the spot.

The fish tacos were messy as all get out and lacking in the salsa/heat department, but the fish was perfectly cooked, so at least there’s that. Not the place I would go for Tex-Mex though when you’ve got Bar Taco just up the road.

For beer, I tried the Mama’s Yella Pils, a Czech inspired pilsner that could use a little more inspiration, because it ain’t no Urquell or Staropramen.

Hit and miss for certain, but I’m definitely a fan… in the right context.

Chappaqua Station

1 Station Plaza Chappaqua, NY 10514 • 914-861-8001 • chappaquastation.com

5-2

I’ll give the place an A for effort, but sadly the exchange rate of A’s to knives isn’t a favorable one. But before leaping all the way to the end, let’s discuss how we got there.

Located in the Chappaqua train station, as the uninventive name suggests, it seems to be taking a page out of like-minded restaurants (Via Vanti & Iron Horse) both one stop up and down on the Harlem line. That said, CTS is more of a bar with small plates. The wine selection is rather thin, however, whereas the cocktails go much deeper, which is strange for a place that sports a menu predominantly made up of charcuterie and cheese.

Also strange is the décor, if you can call it that. Basically all they did was stick a big bar (pictured) in the middle of the room and tables around it (albeit the space was already nice as is, I suppose). Then, they converted the café next to the main room into the kitchen, if you can call it that as well. More of a prep area if you ask me. And considering you’re on my blog it would appear you are asking. Oh, and one more thing. The seemingly intimate back right corner by the velvet red curtain is anything but. DO NOT SIT THERE. On the other side of the curtain is wait station where they will come and go repeatedly carrying dirty vats of water and other undesirable cargo.

Service is a variation on the Bar Taco method, using a check box menu, but somehow less fun and a touch cheap, because CTS uses laminated cards and red Sharpie’s. Also not helping the cheap vibe is the use of paper plates.

Among the small plates, the best things by far were the wine and cheese/charcuterie, but that’s not to say that even that was good. More passable than anything. The cheeses out shining the meat, even with such hopefuls as salami with pistachios and lemon zest, or the even more underwhelming salami with coriander and chili. On the cheese side, we went camembert, Vermont cheddar and bleu, and all three were solid. And while they surround the board with goodies such as jam, mustard, candied nuts and grapes, it does little to mask the failings of flavor.

Speaking of fails, the di parma, basil, tomato and mozzarella flatbread is not even on par with Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza! Not that I’ve had it in nearly three decades, but I ate a shit-ton as a kid. But saving the flatbread from the dubious distinction of the low point, dessert swooped in with an apple pie so bad we didn’t have more than a bite or two. Instead we focused our efforts on the Sherry B’s vanilla ice cream on top.

So not a great showing, but not entirely a train-wreck either. I look forward to them upping their game. And hopefully the MTA does the same.

2 teeth

Hacienda La Paloma

443 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1750 haciendalapaloma.com

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There are two schools of Mexican, old and new, and while I am much more partial to the more inventive, more refined, more Tex Mex side of the campus, I can also appreciate the merits of the cuisine in its more traditional state. And as far as authentic Mexican goes, Hacienda does muy bueno.

By authentic I am not, however, referring to the Disney-esque hacienda you see in the photograph above. I actually go in spite of that, which should say something about the offerings within. Such offerings as good food, friendly staff and generous portions. In fact, most entrees are big enough to serve two or three people and still have leftovers. Case in point, the highly recommend fajitas. Loaded with veggies, three different kinds of peppers and enough rice, beans, tortillas, salsa and chips to max out the stomach capacity of a large, ravenous coyote.

Other worthwhile dishes include the Bistec a la Tampiquena (steak with onions, cactus salad, a cheese enchilada, guac, rice and beans- told you they were generous) and the arroz con pollo. Neither are quite as impressive as the fajita, but they get r done. The only laggard for me would be the camarones en salse verde (shrimp in green salsa). It’s atypically normal sized and asadly not all that great.

So, if you’re not all that close to Bar Taco or Truck, or simply don’t feel like making the shlep, but you’re still jonesing for something South of the Border, then hop in your coche and head on over to the Hacienda, arriba! It’s not great, but as Goldie Locks would say, it’s just right.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Taco

lamb_taco

Bar Taco – Westport, CT & Port Chester, NY 

Not only is their duck taco one of the best tacos ever to grace my lips with its presence, but it’s probably among the best duck dishes I’ve ever had as well. Albeit small, so you’ll need to order two or three or seven.

Truck – Bedford, NY

There is literally only one other place on Earth that has made me love fried oysters. Normally I am much more partial to the raw variety. But Truck nails it. Mostly because the batter doesn’t overwhelm the mollusk, which is truly the vital component and yet so many others fail at this. Nonetheless, Truck sticks the landing. Accompanied with farm fresh toppings and a homemade Tex-Mex tartar that sings. A close second is also their market veggie, but it depends on the season. When butternut squash is available, it’s a must.

 Pera – New York, NY

What? A Turkish Taco? Well, if the Koreans and the Japanese can muscle in on Mexico’s culinary turf, why not the Turks? And wow do they bring the muscle. And one of the most delicious preparations of lamb I’ve ever had. Granted let’s give a huge nod to the saucier because that’s the true belle of the ball.