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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Nicholas Roberts: Mindfully Organic and Local (chili, too!)

Nicholas Roberts: Mindfully Organic and Local (chili, too!)

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.

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