Mention SoNo and the first thing is people complain about parking. Complain no more. Harlan Publick is steps away from a public lot, and they validate parking.
I dined there recently at the invitation of Max Ex, the restaurant marketing firm. Harlan Publick is one of three Harlan restaurants in Fairfield County, CT, started by chef Stephen Lewandowski. Each is an expression of the new American theme, with seasonal menus. I wrote about Harlan Social in Harbor Point recently for Stamford Magazine. Harlan Haus, a beer hall in downtown Bridgeport, is calling my name, and I hope to get there soon.
Harlan Publick has a courtyard with an outdoor fireplace and bar, which draws a buzzing crowd of young people who look like they just left the office. As the evening cooled, they moved inside, creating a lively bar scene. The dining room was quiet and emptier. Which presents an opportunity; chef Kamal Rose has introduced his fall menu and he’s not afraid of flavor.
The meal began with one of the best salads I’ve had in ages. Beets and arugula, sweet, earthy, fresh and bitter, and juicy pears and crunchy almonds, perfectly, lightly, dressed in sherry vinaigrette.
Pair this with the warm house-made ricotta, which arrives in a cast iron pan, fluffy, speckled brown, drizzled with basil pesto, honey and pine nuts. Tomato focaccia creates what chef Rose described as a “deconstructed pizza.” That and the salad was the perfect meal for me. Though I was happy to taste the Korean fried chicken and Harlan Burger, topped with cheddar ale sauce and bacon onion jam.
Chef Rose was raised on the Island of St. Vincent, and his Island roots come through in the jerk chicken empanadas with scotch bonnet aioli, and Island braised pork shank marinated in jerk sauce and slow cooked for 8 hours until the meat is falling off the bone. It’s served with collards, sweet potato and a fried egg, the flavors blending into a hearty comfort dish.
For dessert, chocolate and hazelnut beignets are impossible to resist.
Same for the Pumpkin Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel nut sauce.