Cask Republic restaurants by Skal Restaurant Group have been around for a while in Stamford and New Haven. I knew of them. I knew people who loved them. In fact I have walked by the Stamford location many times….. Yet – I never walked in.
Perhaps its because my perception of this restaurant was that they have a really strong beverage program. It sounded like a hot-spot for catching Friday night drinks with your co-workers as you decompress from the work week. Cask is known for it huge selection of beers and wines. Did you know that their Stamford location has as many as 50 some beers to choose from?!!
Now ,I am not a huge alcohol drinker. Sure, I enjoy a nice drink or two at a dinner or a party – but its not something I overdo. And when I have a choice, I will linger over a good single malt any day rather than a bottle of beer. And if some cocktail on a menu sounds irresistible, yeah…. I might be persuaded to try some.
So, when I was invited to check out the fall menu at Cask Republic’s latest location in South Norwalk, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of food. My honey loves a good IPA beer – so I took him for safe measure (just in case the highlights are limited to the drinks and not so much the food I figured).
Man was I surprised! This place does have a killer beverage program… duh! But it also has a menu-load of really strong and compelling small and large plates of food. I was blown away as the food started to come out. Every dish demonstrated great complexity of flavors and textural contrasts.
In the small plate selection, the house cured Lamb Empanadas come with a super crispy crust. The lamb is a cool twist to an otherwise common dish (usually seen with beef or chicken on menus). The Braised Short Ribs were another stellar dish. From the adorable mini cassoulet it was served in, to the egg yolk sitting on top (gently cooking away from the heat of the short ribs) – this was a heck of a presentation. Ah! and then picture yourself poking that yolk with a fork and letting its creamy, rich goodness mix in with the super tender short ribs. Heavenly!
A popular item on the menu seemed to be the Crispy Buratta. Served with smoked tomato and pesto vinaigrette – all on top of a nice piece of bread which had tons of crevices to soak in all the savory goodness. I loved the flavors of the vinaigrette but I felt that the frying of buratta, somewhat solidified some of its usual creamy interior that I crave. But hey, all buratta dishes are not created equal and this is certainly Cask’s own unique presentation.
The large plates offered some really interesting options. The I.P.A. Citrus Marinated “Freebird” Chicken is an absolute must have!!! Take my word for it. This was a hearty serving of some of the juiciest of chicken you will ever have – served with really creamy and delicious charred jalapeño grits! A bed of wild mushroom and roasted brussels sprouts made this dish complete. I loved the very interesting bitter-note from the IPA in this dish. It rounded off the gentle flavors of citrus in the marinade and spice in the grits. Yum!
The other main dish we tried was the Mustard Crusted Canadian Salmon on a bed of green onion risotto with charred tomato vinaigrette. This was a wonderful composition. I simply loved the risotto accented with green onion flavor. It had the perfect bite to contrast the delicate salmon. The flavors here were more delicate in comparison to the chicken…. but for a fish entree – I think that is a great choice.
Needless to say that we had some fabulous beverages at Cask…. GM, Eddie was kind enough to create a wonderful sampling of cocktails for me and beers for my honey. I was pretty intrigued when they told us that they have a lot of cocktails on tap. It’s not something I had heard of before, and I was curious about what it does to the flavor profiles of the cocktails and all their fresh herbs and citrus elements. Well! The flavors seemed to have gotten better with the process – if anything. Each cocktail tasted like all the ingredients had ample time to marry and get to know each other very very well. Nicely done!
Oh! and speaking of “on tap”…. you must try the Nitro coffee! It’s such a cool accompaniment to the dessert course. Served chilled….. it has a bit of sugar already mixed in and the “nitro-process” (yeah! I may have made up that term) adds a nice froth on the top. The result is a smooth, creamy and delicately sweetened coffee in which you don’t see the need to add any additional cream or milk. The process also took out the bitterness of the coffee. Super cool!
Before I sign off, I must tell you to be sure to check out the “Vault” at Cask Republic in South Norwalk. It is such a fun feature of this building which used to be a bank back in the day. It is being used as a wine cellar right now with a cozy 4-top that you can reserve for an intimate dinner with your besties. Or just you and that special someone, perhaps? Hmmm?