Bambou Japanese Tapas Bar

Stamford has a bounty of amazing Japanese food, but this week we decided to cross the border into Greenwich on a journey to seek out what has been called the best sushi spot in Fairfield County. Located on the west side of Greenwich close to New York, Bambou Asian Tapas is right next to The Mill, a historic mill and waterfall area that provides a beautiful view when you sit on the large balcony area the restaurant has to offer. This is not your average sushi joint, but rather a restaurant that plays with the idea of Spanish tapas, but changes it by adding a sort of Japanese fusion. 

When you go to Bambou, you must sit outside, because the sound of the crashing waterfall next to you and the historic buildings next door provide an ambiance that is unforgettable. They have an extensive drink menu chock full of cocktails, wines and beers, and Japanese sake. The coconut mojito was sweet and not too strong, and paired perfectly with the “tapas” we ordered first. We decided on the rock shrimp tempura, edamame, and the beef negimaki. The shrimp were perfectly crisp on the outside and coated in a mouthwatering spicy aioli style sauce with hints of sriracha, and the edamame were tender and not too salty. The negimaki was seared well on the outside and stuffed with chives, a perfect one-bite appetizer. 

We took a long time to pick out the sushi rolls we wanted to try, half in part because the menu had so many great varieties of rolls that we were interested in, and half in part because we wanted to order the entire menu! When we finally settled on which to order, we went with the Mexican roll (spicy tuna and tobiko), the spider roll (soft shell crab with avocado), the gaga roll (spicy salmon with a sweet soy glaze), and the tiger roll (tuna, salmon, and white seaweed). 

The rolls came out on an artistically designed wood platter ordained with decorated vegetables, wasabi and pickled ginger, and looked more like a painting than sushi. For all the time it took us to decide on what to order, we should have taken a longer time to eat, but when the dust settled and we placed our chopsticks down, we realized that the sushi was so amazing that we ate and ate until nothing was left but the plate itself. Bambou, even though located in Greenwich, is worth the short trek it takes to get there. The location, ambiance, and most importantly food is to die for, and if you’re looking for excellent sushi with a view, Bambou is the place to be.

Bambou Asian Tapas and Bar

328 Pemberwick Road, Greenwich, CT 06831

(203) 531-3322/3289

Kouzina Greek Taverna

There are a few Greek restaurants in Stamford, but I have never been to such an authentic, homey yet upscale restaurant in town like Kouzina Taverna, located downtown on Main Street. Main Street is home to many great restaurants and bars, but this recently opened spot already has climbed the ranks to become one of the hottest restaurants in Stamford. On the outside, the restaurant has been styled to match something you would find in Santorini or Mykonos, with a white and blue design that sends you straight to Greece. When you walk in, the ambiance makes you feel warm and comfortable, and the smell of the food invites you to order more off of the amazing menu than you normally would. 

The menu features some special Greek appetizers, like the spanakopita, dolmades (grape leaves) and saganaki (fried fresh cheese), along with other dishes like octopus, skordalia (potato and garlic dip) and hummus (which is actually a Middle Eastern dish, but is found at a lot of Greek restaurants as well). We settled on the spanakopita, which were perfectly crispy and golden brown on the outside, with a gooey, warm spinach and feta filling. 

Because we went for lunch, we decided to stick to the pita wraps rather than the large variety of Greek entrees that Kouzina prepares, but we have heard that the restaurant prepares the best pastitsio (Greek baked pasta with cheese and meat) in the city.

We ordered pork and chicken souvlaki pitas, which came with onions, tomatoes, french fries and tzatziki (a traditional Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce). The pork and chicken were cooked perfectly, crunchy on the outside and succulent on the inside, and the french fries were great paired with the tzatziki. The pita, usually something that a lot of restaurants skimp on, were delicious and soft, and not doughy or dry as I have tried at other Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants. 

Even though we were filled, we were convinced to look at the dessert menu, and our eyes were drawn to the loukoumades, small Greek donuts covered in a honey syrup and nuts. They were not too sweet, and melted in your mouth. The syrup soaked into the donuts, and added a slight cinnamon-honey flavor to the donuts. Kouzina, even though new, has proved its place in the downtown Stamford restaurant scene, offers real Greek food at an affordable price, and I know that I will be back here on a weekly basis. 

Kouzina Greek Taverna

223 Main St, Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 588-0110

Viva Peruvian Restaurant

Stamford has seen an influx of new cuisines popping up in the past few years, and one of my favorites has to be Peruvian food. I have seen that people tend to clump all South and Central American foods into one big group, even though cuisines such as Peruvian and Mexican are as strikingly different as Italian and French. This week, we wanted to try an authentic, yet delicious restaurant, and found ourselves at Viva Peruvian restaurant in Stamford’s South End. Located on Shippan Avenue, Viva is close to both the Downtown area and the many beaches that Stamford has to offer, and is a prime location.

When you step into the restaurant, you are greeted by a more than friendly staff, eager to help explain and discuss the many options the menu has. In Viva, you feel an energetic ambiance, with people there to really enjoy what the restaurant has to offer. To drink, there is a large list of Peruvian style sodas and juices, and we ordered the chicha morada, a purple corn based drink that is sweet and sour, with a slight cinnamon taste.

It was cold and refreshing, a great balance to the bread and aji sauce that came out first. Aji is found in a lot of Peruvian dishes, and it is a kind of chili that is blended into many sauces and seasonings. It is not extremely spicy, so you can taste the fruitiness and lightness that the chili has to offer. We started out with the papas a la huancaina, a cold potato dish. The sliced potatoes are covered in a cold cheese sauce, accented with herbs and the famous aji chili. It is cold and rich, and goes great with the chicha morada.

After that, we looked at the menu, and knew we had to get two of Peru’s most acclaimed dishes. Lomo saltado is sauteed beef, peppers and onions, and french fries, served over white rice. Even though it sounds heavy, it is a light and savory dish, sour with lime and piquant with chili. It has its root in the Chinese-Peruvian school of cuisine, invented with the many Chinese immigrants that traveled to Peru in the early 1920’s, flavored with beloved Peruvian ingredients, with a hint of Chinese style with soy and vinegar.

The other dish we ordered was another one of Peru’s namesake dishes, rotisserie chicken. Even though this dish is something that most Americans know and love, it is even better in Peru. The skin is unbelievably crunchy, seasoned perfectly with herbs like oregano and aji, and the meat is melt in your mouth tender. It was served with yellow rice and fried yucca, a starchy vegetable that is like a potato, but drier and dried more crisp.

If you are looking for a truly unique, authentic experience for lunch or dinner, and maybe have never tried the incredible dishes Peruvian food has to offer, you must stop in at Viva.

Viva Peruvian Restaurant

323 Shippan Ave, Stamford, CT 06902

(203) 323-2700

Crawfish Boil

Ever since my son started college at Tulane University, we have become obsessed with New Orleans style food. When we visited, we made sure to try all different types of traditional dishes and desserts, including delicious Cajun and Creole food. In New Orleans, you will find that everyone knows the difference between these two schools of cooking, but to my suprise barely no one understands the differences between these two outrageously amazing, yet completely different styles of food. Cajun food comes from the Cajun people of Southern and Western Louisiana, who can trace their ancestry back to the Acadian French people who settled in the region after being kicked out of their homeland in northeastern Canada.

Cajun food is inspired by the basics of classic French cuisine, but has incorporated the ingredients that are common in the tropical Louisiana climate. Cajun food is spicy and heavily seasoned with different spices such as paprika, green onions and parsley, and is usually cooked for a long period of time in one pot. The beginning of all authentic Cajun food begins with the “holy trinity” of vegetables: green bell peppers, onions, and celery. Along with this, many recipes begin with creating a roux, which is a mixture of oil (or any other fat on hand) and flour, which can be cooked at any degree from blonde (a beige color) to very dark (which looks like a burnt caramel). The longer you cook your roux, the more flavor it will impart to the dish that you are making.

Creole cuisine is the other major style of food in New Orleans, and it comes from a mixture of French, West African, Caribbean, and Italian cuisines. Creole food and Cajun food seem very similar, but they have a few defining differences. Creole food relies more on the use of tomatoes and creamier sauces and recipes, and a Creole style roux will use butter (unlike the Cajun use of oil). Creole food is a little spicier, yet both Creole and Cajun cuisines have many of the same dishes, such as jambalaya and gumbo, yet they will be prepared differently.

This past weekend, my son was reminiscing about the amazing bounty and quality of food that was available to him in New Orleans, and decided to make a crawfish boil. In Louisiana, a crawfish boil is an excuse to throw a party in the springtime, and it is a time to be around family and friends, while enjoying the spicy and sweet flavor of the fresh crawfish. We ordered 15 pounds of live crawfish online from Louisiana, and when they arrived, cooked them in a boil flavored with many different Cajun spices, like paprika, chili powder, garlic and onion, and added in aromatics like lemon and scallions. The proper way to boil crawfish is to season your boil, add your crawfish, and turn off the heat.

The crawfish absorb the seasonings, and then you place them in a closed box or bowl for 15 minutes to steam and continue to absorb flavor. While the crawfish steam, you make corn, potatoes, and andouille (or kielbasa) sausage, and then eat them all together. This is a time to put your utensils down, grab a roll of paper towels and a beer, and enjoy your food and company! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Where to order your crawfish:

lacrawfish.com

Zaza Italian Gastro Bar

Stamford has always been a hotspot for homestyle Italian restaurants, with family owned places scattered throughout the city featuring hearty, rich and delicious specialties. I have driven down Broad Street in the downtown area countless times during my life in Stamford, and I often overlooked the countless restaurants that dot the street. Recently, I drove past Zaza, an authentic Italian-style gastro bar, and decided I had to take my family there. Directly in the city center, steps away from the shops on Bedford Street and the nightlife on Summer Street, this restaurant has it all. Once you walk into the restaurant, you are welcomed by an extremely cozy environment, with people sitting throughout the bistro-style restaurant, eating the specialty small plates and drinking from the extensive wine list Zaza offers.

This is a fun restaurant, with people of all ages enjoying their meals, and is not the place to go to if you want a quiet dinner but rather where you go when you want to experience how an authentic, yet modern Italian restaurant works. The menu is stuffed to the brim with multiple small plates, pastas, and main courses that sounded as delectable as they truly were.

To start, we decided on the burrata (a stuffed Italian mozzarella with a classic, fresh mozzarella outside with a creamy, sweet filling), the meatball tasting plate (a mixture of Zaza’s classic meatball, a turkey option, and the spicy house recipe), as well as the fan favorite of fried calamari. The burrata practically melted in your mouth, leaving only tastes of fresh milk and the spicy afterbite of the fresh olive oil.

The meatballs were light and flavorful, with our favorite being the spicy, chili based one. The calamari, easy to find on a menu yet hard to perfect, was crispy and fresh, and the squid itself was tender to the bite.

Watching the waiters walk by with plates of pasta of all different sizes and shapes, we decided to order four very different styles. The gnocchi pesto was soft and supple, with the fresh bite of basil cutting through the richness of the pasta.

Even though fettuccine bolognese is a classic option, Zaza stepped it up with the fresh, housemade fettuccine and a spicy meat sauce.

Both the bucatini puttanesca and the angel hair marechiara were superb, with the bucatini being briny and flavored with olives and anchovy, and the angel hair being perfectly al dente and covered in loads of fresh and perfectly cooked mussels, clams, and shrimp.

We definitely ate more with our eyes than our stomachs, and by the time the plates were cleared away, we simply had no room for their dessert menu, or their cappuccinos which came from the high-tech Italian machine in the corner. Overall, Zaza provided a traditional Roman style meal and atmosphere, and we will be definitely be back within the month.

Zaza Italian Gastro Bar

122 Broad Street, Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 348-2300

Kano Noodle Bar

In recent years, Stamford has seen an increase in the number of Thai restaurants, but a new restaurant has taken the city by storm. Kano is a Thai-Vietnamese style noodle bar that specializes in both traditional street food found in Southeast Asia as well as the usual Thai and Vietnamese dishes that we love. In the past, I have found that a lot of Thai restaurants in the area feature more or less the same menu, so it refreshing to a see a restaurant that is embracing authentic street-style cuisine, and the results are fantastic.

When you walk into Kano, which is located on Summer Street directly across from the movie theatre, it feels as if you are walking into a restaurant in Bangkok. It is open and bright, with the walls and ceilings covered in traditional bamboo steamers, an interesting and beautiful decor. The restaurant is new, as the owner told us they opened up only 6 months ago, but the food that we had tasted like the chef had vast experience in the complex flavors and combinations of Southeast Asia.

The menu has many options, ranging from the common noodle and rice dishes including drunken noodles and pad see ew (stir fried noodles flavored with a sweetened soy mixture), to Vietnamese pho and summer rolls. Once you flip the menu over, you can see that the restaurant has embraced the “street food” concept, and features a long list of dishes you would find on the street, including Thai beef noodle soups, papaya salad and sticky rice, and crispy skin duck curry.

For those who love ramen, you will be happily surprised to see a list of different types of Japanese noodles, alongside the noodle soups from Southeast Asia. We started with the crispy spring rolls, filled with rich chicken and vermicelli noodles, and served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce. The edamame were cooked perfectly, not too salty yet not bland.

From the fully stocked menu, we ordered the chicken pho and the Thai Penang curry. The pho was everything that I love about heartwarming chicken soup, chock full of fresh veggies, moist chicken and rice noodles, and Thai basil.

The curry was spicy and thick, with hints of chilies and fish sauce. The sticky rice on the side was amazing, and there was not a drop left when we finished. The server was extremely knowledgeable about the menu and the dishes on it, and was able to tell us how the dishes were made and with what ingredients.

Kano Noodle Bar has really stood out for us out of the Thai restaurants we have been to in Stamford, and it is a great family restaurant that will leave you with a full stomach and only a miniscule dent in your wallet. When your in the mood for authentic Southeast Asian food, Kano is the place to be!

Kano Noodle Bar

227 Summer St, Stamford, CT 06901

(475) 619-9025

Bullpan Korean BBQ

With the many new restaurants opening up in and around downtown Stamford and the Harbor Point area, Bullpan Korean BBQ is the only Korean barbecue restaurant that has found its place. This spacious, two story restaurant has found a home on Summer Street, only steps away from the newly revitalized downtown area, including the Stamford Town Centre and both Bowtie movie theatres. Many know Korean barbecue from the countless social media posts about family and friends sitting around a built-in grill on a communal table, with platters upon platters of various meats, seafood, and side dishes surrounding it. Although it may seem intimidating for first-time Korean barbecue eaters to cook their own meals at a restaurant, Bullpan has created a comfortable, fun environment where the staff is well-versed in how to correctly prepare and cook the barbecue along with the customers.

When you take a seat at this large, family friendly establishment, you are treated with the traditional Korean appetizers, known as banchan. Banchan are usually cold, pickled items including kimchi, pickled cucumbers and radish, and fish cakes (odeng). While you enjoy the small dishes, you can have a chance to pick dishes from the menu, which includes many traditional and delicious options, varying from soy-garlic chicken wings (crunchy and delectable) to the tteokbokki (thick rice cakes in a spicy, sour red sauce). Nothing is more traditional to drink with Korean barbecue than soju, a Korean rice alcohol that pairs perfectly with the grilled meat and seafood, cutting through the richness without being too strong. Bullpan has a wide variety of different soju, but it is incomparable to the range of meats and other protein that they have to offer for the main portion of your meal.

The menu at Bullpan does a great job of telling you how much you should order based on how many people you are with, and they offer combination specials as well. Our favorites were the tender, fatty pork spareribs, along with the spicy, crisp bulgogi (thin strips of pork meat marinated in a spicy sauce made with the fermented Korean paste known as gochujang). With the meats, we ordered a delicious tofu and seafood stew was both complex and simple at the same time. You are guaranteed leftovers, which somehow become even better the next day at home. Bullpan has proved that it has the potential to become a Stamford staple, and along with being in a prime location and having amazing food, also appears to be paving the way for Stamford to become to the next food-hub in the state!

Bullpan Korean BBQ

485 Summer St, Stamford, CT 06901

(203) 569-9618

A Taste of Stamford: An Introduction

Welcome to my first post! Being a Stamford resident for the past 15 years, I have found that my family and I frequent the same 5 or 6 restaurants, even though the city has added numerous spots in the past few years. Coming from a “foodie” family, I know that good food and amazing restaurants are able to connect not only your family, but the surrounding community as well. Being a real estate agent, my job is to not only to find forever homes for people and their families, but to find a forever home where they can go out, find friends, and eat good food. The food scene in Stamford reflects the diversity of the population, and many of the best restaurants in Stamford are overlooked, or even hidden. Through this weekly blog, I hope to introduce everyone to only the best restaurants our city has to offer, both new and old. Stay tuned, and stay hungry Stamford!