Harlan Social in Stamford opened its doors to public about a year ago. Ever since then I kept hearing mixed reviews from all my foodie friends. Some folks loved it. Some were left un-impressed. Some undecided. It made me wonder if I should bother making the trip to check it out for myself….. I admit that it had certainly moved low on my list of priorities for all this time.
It was rainy yesterday. We had to visit Fairway market for some speciality food shopping – and by the time we got done buying all the food, we were hungry for some serious food. Where shall we eat? Which place will be easily accessible in this horribly rainy weather?!!! These were some important questions that needed immediate answers. But, as soon as we stepped out of Fairway with those questions on our minds – the answer was as clear as the sign right outside. Harlan Social!
A hip and trendy interior with wonderful warm aromas greeted us as soon as we stepped in. The chilly and yucky weather outside was immediately forgotten as soon as we took our first taste of the creamy tomato bisque topped with whipped burrata. Hearty and tangy soup played beautifully with the creamy burrata. I was struck by how brilliant that choice of cheese was for a soup like this….it blended in beautifully without leaving any stringy sticky mess. I would have never thought of this pairing. Mental note to try this at home – check!
For some reason rainy days make me crave fried food. The Rock Shrimp Tempura, offered an unusual flavor profile with a spicy mayo and soy vinaigrette. The texture of this dish was unbelievable. Ever so delicate and crisp on the outside and ridiculously light, tender and airy inside. It was pure mastery over the tempura batter and treatment of the shrimp.
The Harlan Burger is a must try. Bathed in cheddar ale sauce and topped with bacon onion jam – it covered all the important food groups in my book: beef, cheese, onion, bacon.
We also tried the Italian Panini. Delicious rich flavors from three kinds of cured meats, creamy textures from the fresh mozzarella and touch of smokiness from the roasted peppers made for a very satisfying lunch time option.
As I enjoyed each of these dishes I wondered why I heard so many mixed reviews. I think it may have something to do with an unusual menu and its unique structure. I wonder if people get thrown off by the unexpectedness of it. This is a gastropub offering lots of small-plate options as well as some wholesome main dishes. The menu is divided into unusual categories like Mozzarella Bar, Fromage, Charcuterie and such. While most people may find it initially unsettling, I felt it made for a very accommodating dining experience. Order as much or as little as you wish depending on how hungry you are.
Often times, I feel like enjoying a glass of wine with some friends over a nice cheese/charcuterie platter instead of feeling obligated to consume a full-blown 3 course meal at a restaurant. In such cases I usually opt for hosting the get together at my own home. This is mostly because I don’t know of too many restaurants that offer such an option. How wonderful, that I can now count on Harlan Social, for a simple yet delicious meet-up with friends.
Each dish we tried was unique and creative in its own way. So, if you are an adventurer like me, I hope you go with an open mind and appreciate what Chef Stephen Lewandowski has to offer with his creative culinary vision. Happy eats!
Harlan Social, Stamford CT | http://www.harlansocial.com