By Camillo Ferrari
The vibe at the Lime restaurant in Norwalk, CT is a throwback to the late 70′s. Square sheets of glass protect faded, striped umber and orange tablecloths and customers’ business cards are wedged between cloth and glass. A smattering of haphazardly framed photos of early 1980′s T.V. icons hang next to kitchen tools and framed notices of events from another era.
Hold onto your hat if you need to wedge yourself into the ahem, W.C., cause that’ll be a real challenge. Not much has changed, but by the looks of the crowds at lunch and dinner, maybe it doesn’t need to.
So what’s the scoop?
I learned from Lisa Petersen, manager of the Lime for 25 years, that owner Vincent Labozetta is just fine with leaving his menu and decor almost exactly as they were. When Labozzetta opened the Lime in the same spot in 1979, his menu was all vegetarian but within six months he integrated fish and chicken to broaden his customer base. With just a few tweeks, there have been very few changes to the menu since then.
Looks like Labozetta was WAY ahead of his time . His simple, veg heavy, home-cooked style continues to strike the right chord. And the crowded dining room has been confirming that for over 30 years.
The single waiter working dinner on a Sunday evening greeted many customers by name and was exceptionally accommodating to special orders. Diners chatted amicably with neighbors as orders were taken and delivered with good humor and efficiency.
It all feels very comfy, very un-trendy, very un-Fairfield county, very easy.
The menu has many intriguing options to choose from with offerings like Zucchini Loaf, Baked Tofu Parmigiana, and Vegetable Phyllo, along with a variety of unique salads that would satisfy anyone vegetarian or KLL (Kosher Like Liz).
We had to ask for advice on the best ones to choose…
We began with a crock of vegetarian Black Bean Chili served with a side of tortilla chips and a half order of the Hummus Platter.
The black bean chili had the perfect kick to compliment the subtle sweetness of the onion-y mix. The melted cheddar cheese and roughly chopped onions and peppers make a delicious, thick stew that was great for dipping the tortilla chips or enjoying by the spoonful.
The half order of the Hummus Platter was a pleasant surprise with the generous serving of raw vegetables and moist, steamed pita surrounding the hummus. Blended to a smooth consistency, the tahini, garlic, and chick peas came together for a nutty taste and creamy nut butter consistency.
The Soy-Carrot Loaf caught our eye as the most unique dish on the menu and we preferred it to the grilled salmon with chipotle honey-lime glaze. Both entrees were served with a brown or wild rice pilaf and steamed broccoli with a light butter drizzle.
I’ve never had something quite like the Soy-Carrot Loaf. It had a sweet and very rich flavor, but it didn’t linger on the palette and become overpowering. The chewiness of roasted sunflower and sesame seeds complimented the crunch and crispiness of the outer layer and edges. A generous layer of organic cheese draped the top. Like many choices here, it’s optional, of course.
We were happy to find that the salmon had a very natural taste; it wasn’t laden with butter, rather was dressed with a slightly sweet, citrusy glaze of chipotle honey-lime. The result was a great tasting, tender piece of fish. The salmon was grilled to perfection, slightly crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. I learned that New Wave Seafood, Stamford, delivers only five pounds of salmon a day to the Lime, ensuring that the fish is fresh each day.
On a subsequent visit, we explored the lunch menu and opted for the Malibu Salad with salmon, rather than chicken. The plate was loaded with fresh greens, red peppers, avocado slices, artichoke hearts and what seemed like a double portion of grilled salmon. Portion sizes are super generous here and the good folks at the Lime expect you to pack it up to enjoy later.
My girlfriend, Nicole, who always enjoys a good beer or glass of wine with dinner, ordered a Wildflower Wheat from Otter Creek Brewing Co. The wheat ale is certified USDA organic and brewed with Vermont honey and chamomile flowers. A modest but more than adequate selection of organic beer and wine is offered here. Nicole savored hers and mused, “I think this is what people mean when they say they want a crisp beer”.
To finish off another visit, we ordered the gluten free, Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert. Dense, moist, deeply chocolatey and topped with a huge spritz of fresh cream, it’s great to know that gluten free folks can have their cake and eat it too.
As our meal concluded, the table next to ours was getting up to leave and had obviously noticed our rampant picture-taking throughout the course of dinner. The couple asked if we were food-blogging, and naturally we told them we were. Before I could even finish the phrase, ‘Kosher Like Me’, the couple’s eyes instantly widened and ear to ear smiles spread across their faces. The odds of running into readers of KLM while dining to write for it are pretty slim and we enjoyed a little chat. Perhaps it isn’t such a big coincidence, though, since the Lime is a KLM favorite and Liz told me she’s been eating there for over 20 years.
Have a hankering for an easy vegetarian, grain based salad?
Check out Ronnie Fein‘s recipe for Quinoa Stuffed Mushroom Caps with Raisins and Pine Nuts. And take a look at Ronnie’s wonderful blog chock full of tales and recipes in Kitchen Vignettes, by clicking here.
The Lime Restaurant
open M-Sat: 11-4; 5-10PM and Sun.: 4:30-9:30 PM
168 Main Ave. Norwalk, CT. 203-846-9240
Camillo Ferrari, 24, of Norwalk, CT is graduating in May with a B.A. in journalism from Western Connecticut State University. He began working in his father’s restaurants at age 8 and has most recently joined the team at Oak+Almond of Norwalk, CT. A carnivore at heart, he still appreciates and understands the reasons and benefits of eating KLM. He hopes to bring fresh insight to the Fairfield County area on KLM restaurant options.
Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Thanks goes to Ronnie Fein, cookbook author of HIP KOSHER: 175 Easy-To-Prepare Recipes for Today's Kosher Cooks. More of her wonderful recipes may be found on her blog, Kitchen Vignettes, www.ronniefein.com.
- 6 large Portobello mushroom caps
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 thick scallions, chopped
- 1/4 cup pignoli nuts
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Wipe the mushroom caps clean, remove the inedible steams and place them outside up on a baking sheet.
- Brush the outsides with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the caps over (the gills side up). Bake for 10 minutes or until softened.
- While the caps are baking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and pignoli nuts and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and raisins and cook for another minute.
- Add the quinoa and mint and cook briefly to distribute the ingredients evenly. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon equal amounts of the quinoa mixture onto each mushroom cap.
- Just before serving, bake the caps for 10-12 minutes or until the mushroom is tender.
This easy vegan recipe would be a satisfying main dish for vegans and vegetarians. It is parve (non-dairy) and kosher for Passover, too.