Monday, January 20, 2014

Global Meets Local at eleven14 Kitchen

You would never know that the JHouse Hotel in Greenwich is the site of a former Howard Johnson's. This is a boutique hotel like I have never seen in the area and housed within this unexpected find is the restaurant eleven14 Kitchen featuring globally inspired flavors with locally sourced ingredients.


Background
At the helm of eleven14 Kitchen is Executive Chef Fran├žois Kwaku-Dongo. He worked under the tutelage of Wolfgang Puck at Spago in West Hollywood and Chicago. In 1992, he was voted one of the best upcoming young chefs in Los Angeles. He is a 2008 James Beard Award Nominee and was featured in Forbes Magazine as one of ten up-and-coming celebrity chefs. With all those accolades he is down-to-earth and clearly loves being in the kitchen.

Atmosphere
The look is definitely LA meets South Beach where luxury combines with a relaxed vibe. It's modern and stylish with a serious attention to detail.


An open pantry lined with pickled vegetables and infused vinegars and oils greets you as you make your way to the restaurant.


At the front of the restaurant is a large marble topped-U-shaped bar backed by a copper paneled wall with a beige brick lined wood-burning hearth, which by the way, is actually used for cooking Sunday through Wednesday for the preparation of the night’s specials. From the bar your eye is immediately drawn to an amazing contemporary gold metal chandelier at the center of the dining room hanging above tufted leather crescent-shaped booths. The brown leather, cream colored cable knit sweater chair covers, and natural wood elements make the overall contemporary style feel warm and inviting. You feel like part of the cool crowd without the pretentiousness.


On A Side Note
Parking is no hassle with complimentary valet parking in the evenings. There is live jazz every Wednesday from 7 to 10pm and Saturday is 80s night with a cover band. Plus, from May through October they offer outside dining on The Patio.


Drinks
They have a seasonally oriented signature cocktail list, often integrating artisan and/or organic spirits in addition to the main stream high end brands. We started out the evening with a Putnam Avenue which featured Broken Shed organic vodka, St. Germaine, lemon, lime, cucumber and club soda. It was fresh and reminiscent of warmer days lounging by the pool.

They also offer craft beer and have an extensive wine list. There are actually two wine lists representing the restaurant’s 2600-bottle wine vault. Yes, wine vault. The "regular" wine list features 70 bottles with an American-made focus while the 100-bottle reserve wine list features more internationally sourced, obscure and often pricier selections. Both wine lists have a number of by the glass selections.

Menu
The cuisine is considered seasonal American. The food is globally inspired and New England sourced. Chef Kwaku-Dongo was raised on his grandparents’ cocoa farm in the Cote D’Ivoire, where “farm-to-table” was not a trend, it was just a fact of everyday life. The menu features locally raised meats and sustainable seafood sources. "If it's a good product, I don't need to do much to to it," explained Chef Kwaku-Dongo.

Chocolate is a particular specialty of eleven14 Kitchen, with Chef Kwaku-Dongo directly sourcing the cocoa from his home country. In fact, The JHouse features a Chocolate Lab delighting with not only delectable treats but also offering chocolate-making classes for all ages.

On To The Tasting



Spiced Lobster Tail with Roasted Garlic and Ginger
The lobster tail is first seared then glazed in a flavorful wet red curry. The curry was complex but actually helped draw out the sweet, fresh lobster flavor. It was spicy but not overpowering.


Hangar Steak with Kale and Forest Mushrooms
The steak was simply cooked to perfection. It was rare and tender. I even went so far as to eat the mushrooms. They were only lightly earthy and did not detract from the rest of the dish. That is not something I say lightly given my mushroom avoidance.


Young Spinach, Roquefort, Walnut and Pomegranate
Delightful. This salad was sweet yet tart and earthy. There was a playful texture between the tender ribbons of greens, the crunchy nuts and the creamy cheese. There were hints of star anise in the dressing.


Rigatoni Bolognese with Veal, Pork and Beef
For lack of a better vocabulary - Wow! The pasta was just al dente. The fine bits of meat and carrot gently coated every forkful. It's the perfect pasta dish for winter. Both Renato and I could have stopped the tasting here and just had an entire bowl of this bolognese.


Organic Salmon with Leek Marmalade and Wholegrain Mustard
The salmon had a perfectly seared crust of black pepper and ginger. It was flaky, fresh and light.


Crunchy + Tasty Free Range Chicken with Blanched Garlic and Lemon
This is not your average roast chicken. The garlic is blanched twice to minimize the sting and maximize the sweetness. The chicken skin was amazingly crunchy and just dissolved into each juicy bite. The lemon provided just the right amount of acidity to counter the subtle, sweetness of the garlic.


Grilled Rack of Lamb with Tuscan Bean Ragout and Rosemary
The lamb is marinated overnight and cooked rare to yield a flavorful, tender chop. The al dente beans were lightly enveloped in fragrant rosemary.


Trio of Eleven14 Chocolate flavors: E14 parfait, Dame Blanche and Warm Lava Cake
The centerpiece of the trio for us was the warm lava cake with it's gooey texture and deep chocolate flavor. Perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Our tasting meal was a journey across continents. Each dish was clean and vibrant with a unique balance of spices and flavors. The food combined with the chic decor and attention to detail made this a special dining experience. Eleven14 Kitchen is a special gem in Greenwich that is not to be missed.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. The meal was free of charge. The opinions contained herein are my own and reflect my experience. Your own may differ.

eleven14 Kitchen
1114 E. Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, CT
203.698.6999
www.eleven14kitchen.com
Twitter: @eleven14Kitchen
Facebook:  eleven14Kitchen

Hours:
Breakfast - 7am-11am Mon.-Fri., 7:30am-11am Sat.+ Sun.
Lunch - 11am-5pm Daily
Dinner - 5pm-10:30pm Mon.-Sat., 5pm-9pm Sun.

eleven14Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Photos by Renato Ghio

6 comments:

  1. I read a few of the JHouse reviews but I liked yours the most. Awesome photos too!

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  2. There is not a dish here that I wouldn't try - and the pasta is calling my name. Loudly! Can't wait to try this place - it looks amazing!

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    1. It was delicious. Put it on your "to-do" list for sure.

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