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Two years ago Harlan Social opened as a part of the Lockworks project in Stamford amidst questions on whether the area would support the restaurant or whether the restaurant investors and the developers were visionaries. Two years later Harlan Social’s success shines as a local hang-out, an after work meeting spot, and a destination restaurant.
Harlan Social was the brainchild of Owner & Executive Chef Steve Lewandowski, who was previously the Sous Chef at Manhattan’s Abby restaurant, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Fantino in the Ritz Carlton before joining Tribeca Grill and becoming its Executive Chef. Currently overseeing the kitchen is Executive Chef Michael Sobelman, whose resume includes Sardis and Tribeca Grill with Lewandowski. When Harlan Social opened Lewandowski immediately reached out to Sobelman to join him and oversee the kitchen. Over the years I have become friends with these two gifted chefs.
Harlan Social recently introduced its new Fall menu and I visited to sample some of the new additions. The interior of Harlan Social is divided into three areas, a bar area to the right, and a large dining area to the left separated two-thirds of the way to the rear with a floor to ceiling wine rack; ample to host private parties. Guests can choose between a table or a booth in either area. The open kitchen occupies the rear of the restaurant. The atmosphere is hip and vibrant, and offers one of the best after-work bar scenes in Stamford.
The menu is divided into several sections, from Small Plates to full Entrées, which allows each guest to enjoy an individualized experience, and flexibly designed for those looking for either a full course of appetizer, entrée and dessert or those sitting at the bar desiring 2-3 smaller plates.
My favorite of the smaller options was the “Artichoke Muffaletta” a meatless interpretation of the New Orleans icon sandwich. It paired a glass jar filled with an artichoke / olive salad with a scoop of the wonderfully creamy Stracciatella di Burrata. The artichoke salad delivered bright and earthy flavors offset by the slight tartness of the Burrata, plus a little spiciness from red pepper flakes. There was great balance between the Burrata and the artichoke salad. Served with four slices of grilled bread this is a great start to the meal.
Another delicious small plate was the “Local Burrata” served atop red wine caponata. The Burrata was a touch sweeter than the Stracciatella and was complemented by the brightness of the olives in the caponata, which also contained raisins for a little sweetness plus capers and red peppers. The raisin bread added additional sweetness to the dish.
If you are looking for a milder first course the “Ahi Tuna Crudo” is a good option. It was served with slices of jicama, radish, and finished with greens and a Jalapeño yuzu vinaigrette. The soft, mild sashimi tuna was paired with the yuzu vinaigrette. The finely diced and fried garlic chips and red onion added a sudden shot of pungency. This presentation was a careful balance of soothing and mild flavors.
The small plate that delivered the deepest flavors was the “Braised Lamb Flatbread.” This horizontal version of a traditional Greek gyro was served with pickled red onion, tomato, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. The grilled bread was sweet and a great canvas for the toppings. The braised lamb was delicious, fork-tender, and in combination with the sweetness from the tomatoes and the pungency from the onions created a delightfully rich dish.
My least favorite of the smaller selections was the “Potato & Onion Pierogies,” served with beer braised cabbage and topped with grain mustard sour cream. The dough was a little thick and overwhelmed the potato and onion stuffing. The cabbage was also bitter and left an unpleasant aftertaste.
The “Baby Kale & Blue Cheese Salad” was outstanding and included a mélange of textures from sliced apples to spiced pecans, and finished with cider vinaigrette. This hearty salad delivered great combinations of flavors from the nutty cheese to the earthy pecans to the sweet apples. The kale added a little pungency. The blue cheese was a mild variety and did not overwhelm any of the ingredients. This is an excellent choice for either a starter or as a main course.
My favorite entree was the “Grilled Flat Iron Steak.” The perfectly prepared steak was served atop a medley of roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cranberries, almonds, plus a side of pomme frites. The steak was cooked to medium-rare, sliced, and delivered a deep, rich beefiness. When the meat was paired with the season’s best vegetables, it created a fantastic combination. The addition of the cranberries added a little sweetness to the dish and the almonds a touch of earthy crunch.
The “Seared Sea Scallops” were served over a spinach and pancetta risotto and finished with a truffle vinaigrette. The highlight was the risotto, which contained pancetta, tomatoes and spinach. The pancetta delivered a great smoky notes to the entire dish, and perfectly complemented the sweet tomatoes and the scallops. The scallops were topped with a few pieces of black truffle pieces that added an earthy note.
The “Garganelli Pasta” was served with a short rib Bolognese sauce and a dollop of herbed Ricotta cheese. The pasta was cooked to al dente and the sauce (more a meat sauce than Bolognese) contained chunks of soft and flavorful short ribs and a smoky tomato base which were offset by the creamy herbed Ricotta. There was a great balance in the meat, tomatoes and ricotta.
Harlan Social is one of the best restaurants in Stamford, delivering great food in an environment to satisfy all ages, from the vibrant bar scene to the relaxing dining area. The carefully designed menu allow each guest to plan a meal with either a selection of small plates or a traditional appetizer and entrée.
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