As part of the healing process related to the recent passing of our beloved dog, Thumper, my wife and I decided to spend a day in Danbury filled with shopping and anchored by some of the great food that this quiet Connecticut city has to offer. Lunch was at Thang Long followed by grocery shopping at Atlantic Market, then dinner at Goulash Place ending with ice cream at Dr. Mike's. Here is my report:
Thang Long is a small, personal Vietnamese restaurant located in a little suburban commercial strip mall on Route 37 north. The pleasant smell of incense greets you upon entry as does the gracious owner/host Hien Flores. Weekdays, Thang Long has a lunch buffet that is a good introduction to its cooking style which is uncluttered and pure tasting. This buffet bears no resemblance to the ubiquitous Chinese buffets that now dot the landscape. Instead, there is intense beef broth (a lighter version of true "pho") filled with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and pineapple. Tofu tossed with lemon grass and fish sauce. Chicken sauteed with ginger. Pork with garlic. Calamari with black pepper. Green tip New Zealand mussels in a hot and sweet chili sauce. Steamed rice and sautéed rice noodles are accompaniments. And, a small salad bar with cabbage, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, fried shallots, chopped peanuts and a nuoc cham based dressing. The buffet selections change everyday and dinner looks quite enticing, too. The lunch buffet is a great deal at $6.50. Worth checking out. Thang Long is located at 56 Padanaram Road.
I've previously discussed Atlantic Market on Main Street, but this is one of the only Asian markets that always seems to have all of the essentials for Southeast Asian cooking: kaffir lime leaves, la lot leaves, thai holy basil and thai bird chilis, lemon grass, fresh rice noodles, Three Crabs fish sauce, Lion and Globe peanut oil, etc., etc. Best time to go is between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning when the store is stocked from their Chinatown run with lots of fresh produce and fish.
The high expectations that I had for the Goulash Place were not only met but surpassed. I went to college at Rutgers and I have always thought that the mecca of Hungarian dining was Csardas in New Brunswick. Well, Goulash Place is even better. Weve been there twice and they show great consistency. None of the food is heavy nor greasy and everything is perfectly seasoned. The stuffed cabbage was the best we've ever had and the Transylvanian goulash, chicken paprikash and special plate (roast veal, roast pork and veal cutlet) were all excellent. The sides were great - mashed potatoes, dumplings, red cabbage, carrots and string beans. Magda, the owner/hostess is charming. And, the prices are from another era. Superb!
The only disappointment was Dr. Mike's. The ice cream was very rich and well flavored but my wife and I both felt that we have had better. Perhaps the hot fudge sundae is the standout (and we will try that the next time), but I think that Dr. Mike's is just very good, not anywhere near the lofty levels of its reputation.
But, our overall day in Danbury demonstrates why it is worth the trip from over an hour away.