Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chef Luis - New Canaan, CT

Today I took a drive to New Canaan, CT to halve lunch with an old friend from my pre USAF days, and we met at a new restaurant called Chef Luis. And what are the odds that the NY Times just did an article on Chef Luis that can be found HERE.

I arrived to New Canaan around 11:45, found the restaurant, and had no problem finding parking right across the street from the restaurant. With 15 minutes to kill, I took a walk down Elm Street, and I have to say that New Canaan is an absolutely charming town. The downtown reminds me a bit of Princeton, yet also reminds me a bit of Westfield, NJ. There were people out walking, the stores were buzzing, and the overall buzz around town was joyful. I could also make the assumption that most of the women in this town do not work, and spend their days around town shopping, dining with the girls, etc. Not a bad thing in the least, and from the looks of the shopping bags I saw in their hands, you would never know that we are in a recession. Not in New Canaan at least. <image borrowed>
I headed back to Chef Luis and met my old friend, and we were greeted by the friendly staff and sat at a great table outside. How many sunny and 70 degree days do you have in Connecticut on the 9th of November? I am guessing not many, so we took full advantage of it. At this point, it was just after Noon, and there were about 8 tables sat. Not a bad lunch crowdto say the least! <Image borrowed>

I looked at the wine list and was absolutely shocked to see one of my favorite pinot noir from Oregon on the menu, Antica Terra. Many of you have read my reviews of Antica Terra, and know my love for this wine. Winemaker Maggie Harrison grew up in my hometown, Barrington, IL, and she was then the assistant winemaker for one of my favorite wineries, Sine Qua Non. Needless to say, I love both of their wines, and it was nice to see on the menu. They even had the Botanica bottling! We ended up however ordering a 2006 Brunello that was opening up nicely, although very young.  If I had my way, I would have ordered the Antica Terra, but I wanted to keep Donnie happy!  ;-)

Chef Luis came over at this point and introduced himself, and I have to tell you, what a great guy! He gave us rockstar treatment from the get go, and was just a joy to talk to. Having a personality like this working the room at lunch time is genius! And it also goes to show that he has a great staff working in the kitchen that he can trust! In talking with Chef Luis, I had to mention the fact that I loved that he had Antica Terra's wines on his menu, and he told me that one of the partners at Antica Terra is also an investor in Chef Luis. What are the odds? Such a small world.

For appetizers, we started with the Calamares. Let me tell ya, this isn't your old school calamari, all breaded and deep fried so that all you taste is crunchy breading and grease. These are barely breaded, and if anything, very lightly dusted in flour perhaps and flash fried. These are then tossed in a tomato concasse with hot peppers and chorizo. The smoke from the chorizo adds an incredible element and flavor, and who would have thought this would work well? It most certainly does, and this has got to be a staple here at Chef Luis! What a great treat!

The next appetizer was the Quesadilla with shrimp and fresh Maine lobster. I don't even know that this was on the menu, but the flavors were succulent. Chef Luis said that he uses a blend of 4 cheese, and unfortunately, I didn't ask what they were, but they were very rich. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and tender, and what is there to say about some nice lobster from our good friends up in Maine. Sure, it's a quesadilla, but this isn't a quesadilla your kids would ask for. This has adult written all over it. Served on the side was some house made pico de gallo, along with guacamole, and these both screamed fresh! Great stuff!

Chef Luis came back to see how everything was, and we told him that it was fabulous! At this point, he told us we needed a big, juicy, cabernet sauvignon to have with our lunch entrée, and brought over a 2007 Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon Estate - Napa Valley. This was very nice, yet very young! As for the wine, here is my note from CellarTracker:
Popped and poured at Chef Luis in New Canaan, CT with a pal for lunch. Upon first opening, this was a bit tight. Nice nose of currants and cassis, with a bit of cigar box and spice. Some dark black fruits, mocha, and plum round out the nose. First pour the palate was tight but opened up nicely over the course of 2 hours or so.

The palate shows nice black cherry and plum, and didn't show any over the top jammy fruit forward ness. Don't get me wrong, I love fruit forward '07 cabs, but this is not an example of that. Even so, this is well made and well structured. Nice tannic element without being sweet and chewy, though the finish was a bit short. You can tell this is a blend, and the merlot and cab franc add some nice structure. I actually thought there may have been some petite verdot in there, but not the case.

By the end of the bottle, the tannins had softened, and this drank nicely. We actually finished the bottle at the bar alongside sportscaster Jim Nantz. What a great guy. Overall, a nice, well made cab at a good price point. This will only get better with time, and easily has a decade ahead of it if not 2. Cheers, 92 points.

And yes, this wine worked with our steak, which at this point, I was already full! But out came the Churrasco, and this is what it's all about! This is a grilled CAB skirt steak marinated and served with a rice pilaf with black beans, as well as a green salad. The steak was topped with a house made chimmichuri, and the flavors in the chimichurri were very nice, adding a nice element on top of the steak...nit that it needed it! The steak itself was cooked to a perfect medium, and was very tender. When cut across the grain, there was nothing tough about the steak, and the juices oozing out of the steak screamed deliciousness. You can also tell that the grill at Chef Luis is nicely seasoned, and had great flavors!

By this point, we are completely stuffed, with half a bottle of wine left, but there is no rush at all to get us out of here. It's after 2PM now, and the restaurant at packed! At 2PM? On a Wednesday? I think there were 2 tables not occupied in the entire restaurant, and that is a beautiful thing! Business has got to be good. Maybe it was the recent NY Times article?  Doubtful! I think it's because of the food and reputation.

Chef Luis came over and told us he wanted to introduce us to someone at the bar. We look over, and there is sportscaster Jim Nantz, hanging out at the bar with his executive assistant. I gotta say, the man could not have been any nicer, and we got to hang out and chat with him while we finished our cabernet.

At this point, out comes dessert, which we did not order by the way, but who could resist? This was a banana cheesecake, rolled in a fillo dough, and deep fried, served with a berry sorbert of sorts and fresh mint. Holy good Lord in heaven this was genius, and absolutely delicious! Who in their right mind doesn't absolutely love something like this? The flavors obviously worked well, and this had a delicious creamy and rich complexity.
Again, Chef Luis shows some innovation here, and this is just a great idea, and a delicious dessert! That said, next trip I will be sure to save some room so I can have this again!

Unfortunately, I am running a bit short on time today, and I have so many other great things to talk about here. A 3 hour drive to this place for lunch and well worth it! That said, I will get back to this entry as soon as I can. In the meantime, if you are in the area, check out Chef Luis at the address below! This place is up and coming, and could someday become a household name! Cheers! -F. Scott

Chef Luis
129 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT 06840
Phone: 203-972-5847
Fax: (203) 972-2444