Mediterraneo of Norwalk 353 Main Ave. Norwalk, CT 06851
*disclaimer- we received our meal for free as part of the event*
Earlier this week, Emily and I had the pleasure of dining at one of the newest restaurants in Norwalk, CT: Mediterraneo. Located inside one of only 3 hotels (easily the most beautiful) in the area, not only is it a great place to go for dinner, but it is truly a dining destination where you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in beautiful views of a waterfall and enjoying the ambiance, attentive service, and excitement of an open kitchen serving up fresh, fantastic food. Friendly and personable Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis‘ menu offers “fresh, succulent seafood as well as creative twists on Italian favorites”, and not much differs from their other location in Greenwich. Mediterraneo is owned by Z Hospitality Group which owns 5 other restaurants in CT and NY. Not only does the restaurant serve as it’s own entity, it is the sole provider for catering for the attached Hotel Zero Degrees – hello delicious event food! Anyone planning a wedding? The dinner we were invited to was the “Fairfield County Food Writers Dinner” which featured a 10 course tasting menu (with wine pairings!), most of which is available on their regular dinner menu.
The first course was the Black Sea Bass Crudo – While Emily was a little bit intimidated by the raw fish, I dug right in and was wowed by the mix of citrus, salty and tangy seaweed salad and the smooth fresh sea bass. This is a really great refreshing dish and made me think I was eating a refined, deconstructed ceviche. Once Emily braved the raw fish, she too was delighted with the mix of flavors – be sure to get a little of everything in each bite! – and finished the dish, earning her raw fish badge for the night. Next up was the Chilled Cucumber-Avocado Puree with (the hugest piece of) Colossal Crab. I could have eaten a gallon of this puree. The crab complimented it perfectly, it tasted vibrant and healthy, like I had somehow tapped into the secret to indulging without splurging. We all detected a hint of spice and when we asked found out the puree has the smallest bit of sriracha sauce. If on your visit this dish is offered – get it. You will not regret it. Following the crab was the Red Curry PEI Mussels. Cooked perfectly and served in a delicious smooth red curry broth with toothsome, starchy fava beans, these muscles tasted clean (no chunks of mystery in the broth to mimic sand) and vibrant. Make sure to ask for some of the delicious focaccia bread if you order this dish – you will need it to soak up that bright flavorful curry broth when you finish the mussels. If your in the mood for a larger shellfish, you will love the next course – a mini Maine lobster roll with harissa and pickled ramp. If you aren’t familiar with harissa, it is a hot chili paste, but in this dish it came across as more of a mild flavor enhancer than something to make your temperature rise. The mix of the unique flavors of the harissa and sweet, tangy pickled ramp make this a lobster roll you will never forget – and don’t worry, the lobster isn’t forgotten either. The Grilled Sucrine with Niman Bacon, Buttermilk and Maytag Blue Cheese is perhaps CT’s best version of the traditional wedge salad. Our good friend Google informed us just moments before this dish arrived that succrine is a hybrid lettuce of romaine and butter lettuce, two I often don’t particularly enjoy (butter being so soft and romaine hard and tasteless), which apparently merge into something delightfully well balanced and flavorful. Between the grilled sweet sucrine, thick salty bacon and fresh blue cheese, this may just become your new favorite salad. The crispy soft shelled crab was Emily’s favorite dish of the night, and it is easy to see why. The crab itself was fried up to perfection with just the right amount of breading, not a drop of oil to be found, crunchy and full of flavor. The vegetable salad underneath was light and refreshing while the spicy sauce complimented the natural flavors for the crab. Throw this on a tortilla and you’ve got one delicious healthy lunch. When I read the description of the scallop ravioli, despite how clearly laid out the dish seemed, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What arrived was a light handmade ravioli filled with shredded scallop in a creamy sauce complimented by roasted cauliflower I could eat like it was potato chips. The marcona almonds added a sweetness otherwise excluded from the dish, utilizing natural sugars and making this quite the filling portion. Described by the chef as their most popular dish, one offered at both locations and frequently requested by customers, this Parmesan crusted halibut ate like the best home cooked dinner you ever dreamed of – rich, hearty, includes your vegetables and a flavorful sauce tying it all together into a beautiful symphony of flavors. The Parmesan wasn’t salty but rather a deeper cheese flavor and it was both crisp and soft. It didn’t slide off the fish, lending itself to a nice complete flavor with each bite. The zatar spiced lamb chop with braised artichoke and tomato confit was accompanied by a delightful dill sauce and was a great last savory course after such an extravagant tasting. All of the ingredients married together and with such strong flavors, subdued by the sauce, it really pleased both the palate and stomach.
To finish off our incredible meal, we were presented with a beautiful plate of biscotti, truffles, and fresh berries. The biscotti had the perfect crunch and sweetness, and the truffles, from local Norwalk chocolate-maker Chocopologie, were rich and decadent. The warm anise shortbread with rhubarb-berry compote was a delightful combination of sweet and tart, and somehow made even more delicious when served over vanilla gelato.
Each course was paired with a delicious complimentary wine. If that is something that interests you, be sure to speak to the staff when you visit and they can help you choose a wine to compliment your meal. The ones which stood out to us were the Botani Moscatel, Muscat from Spain and the bubbly Taittinger Champagne from France. Every Tuesday at Mediterraneo is Wine Appreciation Night, featuring discounts on most listed wines. Check out their Facebook page for more information on that and other specials.
Dining at Mediterraneo is an experience in itself. Immediately upon entering the restaurant, diners are greeted with a clear view of the chef’s kitchen. The view follows all the way around into the main dining area of the restaurant, where you can catch a glimpse of the fire burning in the brick oven where Mediterraneo’s gourmet pizzas are baked. The restaurant has an upscale vibe, but the staff is warm, friendly, and down-to-earth. Most importantly, the staff is knowledgeable about the restaurant’s menu and able to provide helpful information regarding the food and wine served during our meal. It should be made clear that Mediterraneo is family-friendly. They welcome guests of all ages and have kid-friendly food options, including everyone’s favorite -pizza. Your kids will love the open wall, opposite from the kitchen – What looks like a wall of windows, are actually doors that open up to a view of the waterfall outside. The views of lush green nature can be seen from every seat in the restaurant. Dining solo? Mediterraneo also has a beautiful bar if you prefer to enjoy your meal there.
Norwalk is a great city with lots of great family destinations, and now they have a great place for you to dine as well – no need to worry about parking and easily to accessible via the highway. So go ahead, pack up the kids and spend a day at Stepping Stones or the Maritime Aquarium, and when they have had their fill, find yourself some relaxing adult time at Mediterraneo.
*disclaimer- we received our meal for free as part of the event*