I arrived early for lunch at Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro on another dreary February day, looking forward to warming up with veggie centric, creative eats. Self described as “mindfully organic and local”, it is just my kind of place and I’m never disappointed.
Blackboard chic is the decor here and the vibe is chill. Across the entire width of the blackboard covered back wall is a Starry Night riff ; the chalk scribbled note on the blackboard in the lou enthusiastically implores visitors to “try the kale salad!”
Undressed, distressed tables and only 25 seats are scattered in this intimate and friendly space. The focus is clearly on the food and for those of us in the know (YOU!) we are a loyal bunch.
I brought a couple of enthusiastic newbies with me and loved watching their reactions as they tasted multiple dishes with great gusto. Neither of my friends are kosher keepers or vegetarian, but they both love creative chefs who love veggies. Like-minded eaters love to share and we had a blast.
The menu changes with the seasons and market availability so you never know what will be offered. I am relieved to find that two of the four salads are vegetarian and five of the mains are perfect for someone kosher like me or hankering for non-meat options. I’ve eaten here many times and Owner and Executive Chef, Robert Troilo has been as flexible and welcoming as any chef I know, offering to move ingredients around to accommodate me.
We started with Kale and Butternut Squash Salad , a generous mound of finely diced bright orange acorn and butternut squashes and gleamy magenta pomegranate seeds along with roasted pumpkin seeds. The lemon vinaigrette was loaded with garlic and shallots and provided a Mediterranean bit of brightness over the rainbow confetti of wintry ingredients.
Quinoa Black Bean Chili was a big bowl of soft, steaming comfort. Packed with plenty of protein from quinoa and beans, it was colorful and pleasing with lots of tiny chopped carrot cubes brightening the bowl. Miso lends an interesting dimension here but somehow extra salt was added before being delivered from the kitchen , rendering the dish over-salted. Stick with the recipe as it is written below and you’ll have a perfect bowl of vegan chili.
L opted for the Spicy Tuna Burger. Hand-cut string fries, a brioche from Eli’s, sriracha mayo and pickled daikon elevated this pescatarian’s dream to near perfection. The tuna burger was a generous moist mound of herb flecked fish cooked to medium doneness, the palatable blush that most tuna lovers love (if they don’t want it rare).
Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos were overflowing with chunks of spicy fish, napa slaw, avocado and tomato salad. A topping of pico de gallo lent a little heat and kept it authentic.
I can count on Nicholas Roberts’ menu to have a few wonderful surprises and this time I discovered the Farmers’ Market Vegetable Stuffed Socca. The slightly sweet and nutty flavor of chickpeas are ground and made into a crepe, perfect for vegan and gluten-free eaters. The socca formed a firm, handy wrap for kale, corn and butternut squash. It was served with quinoa pilaf and sauteed swiss chard, making for a perfectly balanced and generous plate.
The dessert menu is brief and all items are made in house. Carrot Cake, Double Bourbon Chocolate Torte and Lemon Sabignon Tart were offered. Tempting, indeed, but a girl has to cut calories somewhere, no?
Nicholas Roberts is open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and is Cash only. BYOB ($5. corkage) helps keep the already reasonable prices down. They have a sister store, Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines in Darien, CT, where you may want to pick up your wines and bring them to dinner, thereby waiving the corkage fee altogether. Or bring a group, drink more than three bottles, and you’ll be entitled to the same generosity.
Many thanks to Chef/Owner Rob Troilo of Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro in Norwalk, CT, for this recipe.
- 1 cup Quinoa
- ¼ lb dried black beans (soaked in water overnight)
- ¼ lb dried navy beans (soaked in water overnight)
- ¼ lb miso
- 1 small red onion
- 2 ears fresh corn (kernels removed from cobb. Cobbs, husk & silk reserved)
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 red pepper
- 1 small Vidalia onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- Salt & White Pepper
- Place the corn cobbs, husk & silk in a pot and cover with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let simmer about 45 minutes.
- Strain the black beans from their soaking water. Place in a pot with 1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, and the red onion cut in halves. Cover with water by an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer until tender. Strain the beans. Discard the bay leaf and onion and set aside the beans and cinnamon stick
- Strain the Navy Beans from their soaking liquid. Place the black peppercorns in a cheese cloth and tie together to create a pouch. Place the beans, the peppercorns, and one bay leaf in a pot and cover with water by an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer until tender. Strain the beans, reserving the water. Discard the peppercorns & bay leaf and set the beans aside.
- In the meantime, rinse the quinoa in several changes of cold water.
- Remove the seeds from the jalapenos and mince.
- Remove the seeds from the red pepper and cut into ¼ inch dice.
- Cut the Vidalia and celery into ¼ inch dice
- Strain the pot with the corn husk, silk & cobbs. Reserving the broth and discarding the solids. Place the broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce to simmer. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Strain reserving both the broth and quinoa.
- Add the olive oil to a pot that is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Heat the pot above a medium flame until the olive oil becomes fragrant, do not let it smoke. Add the jalapeno, onion and reserved cinnamon stick to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent. Once the onion is translucent add the celery and red pepper and continue to cook until the peppers and celery are al dente. Add the quinoa, corn kernels and reserved cooking liquid from the navy beans and miso and stir to blend. Let simmer for about 25 minutes.
- At this point you can serve the chili. However, we like to let it sit overnight in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop. When reheating we add the reserved quinoa broth to moisten it.
This recipe is vegan.