NOIR sits quaintly in the heart of Stamford’s downtown among the city’s mainstays like bartaco and Barcelona. But NOIR stands on its own, offering an innovative dining style that adds to the city’s robust culinary landscape: bistronomie.
Bistronomie is a mash up of ‘bistro’ and ‘gastronomy.’ Call it five-star cuisine sans the tuxedoed wait staff and dense menu descriptions. The atmosphere is casual, the staff friendly, the food well executed, and the experience charming.
If you’ve never dined at NOIR since its 2015 opening, know that the space, with exposed wooden beams, distressed brick walls, and black chandeliers accenting the ceiling, is intimate. The bar is small and tucked into the corner of the restaurant, but what the bar area lacks in size, the bartenders make up for with personality.
As I scanned the large chalkboard for the drink specials, the bartender, Roberto, suggested I try something that wasn’t on the menu. “It’s called the French & Frisky shot,” he said in an accent I couldn’t quite pinpoint. “It’s vodka and Bloody Mary mix finished with an escargot.” Sold! The Bloody Mary mix added a spicy depth that subdued the harshness of the vodka and perfectly accented the garlicky escargot at the finish. The shot was delicious and I would have gladly thrown back a couple of more if I were there for brunch.
NOIR’s menu cues from across the globe, with an undeniable nod to French cuisine. There are cheese boards — plenty of them — with all sorts of trimmings like grilled peaches, pancetta, burrata, and cornichons.
In true bistronomie fashion, a large portion of the menu is dedicated to small plates. Some of the small plates are French classics — think tuna tartare. Most of the menu items, though, have a cultural twist, from Latin to Southern to Asian influences. Instead of the classic potato croquette, NOIR does guacamole croquettes served with house-made ranch. You can get mussels in a classic spicy pomodoro or opt for coconut curry. And instead of meatballs drenched in red sauce and Parmesan, NOIR makes them with pork and serves them in lemongrass lettuce cups.
The first thing I tried was the spiced sweet potato bisque “cappuccino,” served in an espresso mug, topped with a thick layer of foam and garnished with caramelized pecans. Where I expected overwhelming sweetness, I was met with a buttery creaminess that was not sugary but nutty. It was good enough to make me feel okay about winter lingering just a little longer.
Then, out came smoked duck breast crostini, topped with a cranberry and red cabbage jam and Fourme d’Ambert, one of France’s oldest cheeses. It was a play of opposites. The sweetness of the jam complemented the saltiness of the duck, while the creaminess of the cheese played well against the crunch of the crostini. Grab more than one of these; they don’t disappoint.
The same goes for the gougère sliders and jumbo lump crab cakes. Both dishes aren’t unique in any sense of the word, but the execution of these classics was fantastic. The crab cakes were crispy on the outside, warm and moist on the inside with palpable chunks of crab in each bite. As for the sliders, I wasn’t particularly excited when they came out, since sliders always seem to be a drier version of their full-sized counterparts. These, however, were a nice surprise. Made with grass-fed beef and topped with a roasted garlic aioli that was subtle enough so the flavor of the Gruyère shone through.
Last came dessert: a dollop of chocolate mousse presented on a spoon with fresh berries and berry coulis. It was just enough to close my appetite for the night.
I’ll admit to being skeptical of NOIR before I went. Despite being right in the heart of Stamford’s downtown, it didn’t have the buzz that eateries like Cotto Wine Bar and Barcelona have. Needless to say, NOIR is a hidden gem. It delivers on exactly what it promises: high-end food without the high-end pretentiousness.
225 Summer St, Stamford
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