Dhabewala Indian Shack

Good, authentic Indian food has always been hard to come by in Stamford. Throughout the years, we have tried every option available not only in Stamford, but in Fairfield county as a whole. Recently, we were driving downtown, and passed the strip mall at Bulls Head for the millionth time. This time, a new restaurant caught our eye: an Indian restaurant. We immediately pulled over, and had to head in. My son makes Indian food at home very often, and after he came back from a two week long trip across India, he made it at least once a week. We tried spicy, potato rich Northern Indian food from the Delhi area, coconut and fish based dishes from the South, and my favorite: small street food dishes from Mumbai. 

When we walked into Dhabewala Indian Shack, the vibe reminded my son of a small restaurant he went to in the district of Khar, outside of Mumbai itself. The walls were decorated with elaborate designs of street food in India, along with the stores and stalls themselves. It was bright, airy, and smelled immensely of delicious spices. When we sat down, we opened the menu, and to all of our surprises the specialty of this restaurant was Mumbai and Punjabi style street food! We started with chai, Indian hot milk tea flavored with spices like clove and black pepper. It was hot, sweet and spicy, and was the perfect palate cleanser for the food we were about to eat. 

For appetizers, we decided on the vada pav, a fan favorite, along with the dahi puri. The vada pav was spicy and flavored with coriander and chili. It is basically a potato mash on top of extremely buttery and rich buns, reminiscent of a potato bun. The dahi puri not only looks amazing, but is fun to eat. They are crisp, fried hollow shells filled with potato, yogurt, and chutney. You are supposed to eat them all in one bite, and it was fun to watch us try to eat them! At this point, we realized we definitely over ordered, but could not stop. 

We decided on two different lunch specials: the chicken tikka masala and the palak paneer. Chicken tikka masala, an Indian inspired dish actually invented in England, is a rich tomato cream sauce with chicken and curry. It was creamy, and accented with cilantro and turmeric.

Each of the lunch specials were HUGE, and served with white rice, a side salad with chili, two vegetable patties, naan, a side vegetable of the day, AND a piece of gulab jamun (a sweet, Indian fried dough covered in a simple syrup). The palak paneer was amazing; ground spinach, garlic, and spices with chunks of paneer (an Indian style soft cheese). The potato and cauliflower dish served on the side was even better, and we left not one bite on any of the plates. For an inexpensive lunch or dinner, head to Dhabewala for the best Indian food we have experienced in Connecticut as a whole.

Get to the (Harbor) Point!

Exploring Stamford’s crown jewel on the Sound.

A Staci Zampa Exclusive

Like many coastal communities, Stamford is defined by its waterfront – and what better way to be defined than Harbor Point. A peninsula jutting out into the Sound as part of the city’s South End section, Harbor Point shines as one of the largest and most successful redevelopment districts in the nation.

Harbor Point

A mixed-use development, Harbor Point boasts more than 2,000 new apartments and condos, intermingled with swaths of offices, restaurants, and retail establishments where factories once stood. Common spaces include several parks, marinas, and a boardwalk.

Its most notable residential developments include The Lofts at Yale & Towne, a redeveloped lock factory, 101 Park Place at Washington Boulevard, a 15-story luxury apartment complex adjacent to a park, 111 Harbor Point, another 15-story tower, and Beacon Harbor Point, a two-tower, 22-story harborside complex.

Whether you live in Harbor Point itself or elsewhere in Stamford, the district’s myriad retail, food, and cultural attractions are all within easy reach – especially thanks to the Harbor Point Trolley – a free service that shuttles people between Harbor Point and downtown Stamford via a 14-stop, 30-minute loop.

Here’s a rundown of Harbor Point’s can’t-miss attractions:

• Fairway Market. A stop on the trolley loop, Connecticut’s first Fairway outpost – and the chain’s seventh and largest – is an 85,000-square-foot store located at the corner Market and Canal streets.

• Historic District. Spanning nearly 200 acres, this neighborhood in Harbor Point includes some of the city’s oldest buildings, dating back to the late 1800s, and the Pulaski Street Bridge, a wrought-iron bridge spanning the Rippowam River.

• Farmers’ Market. Held Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Harbor Square, the market offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, breads, flowers, plants, and more.

• Boating. You don’t have to own a boat to get out on the water – opportunities and options abound. The Carefree Boat Club is a membership program that provides access to a fleet of different style boats for various occasions, from fishing to parties. In addition, Harbor Point’s four marinas offer afternoon and sunset sailboat excursions, kayak and paddleboat rentals, and even a complimentary water taxi service.

• Food & Dining. Harbor Point features a wide variety of cuisines presented by some of the trendiest establishments. From Fortina’s pizza and Italian fare, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s comfort food, and Walter’s iconic hot dogs, to Crab Shell’s catch-of-the-day seafood and the heaven-sent treats and baked goods of Patisserie Salzburg, no matter your craving it’s sure to be satisfied.

• Health & Wellness. A robust roster of weekly fitness classes is on offer at Harbor Point’s parks and outdoor spaces — including Zumba, CrossFit, and yoga. Hey, parents – there’s even a weekly “Stroller Strides” class that moms and dads caring can do with their babies. Additionally, Harbor Point is home to several health, wellness, and beauty establishments, including saunas, gyms, salons, and spas to pamper you from head to toe.

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:


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