A new -- and diverse -- Restaurant Row rises in Fairfield
Updated 4:08 pm, Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The Post Road and Black Rock Turnpike are well-established centers for dining out, but as the number of restaurants in Fairfield has burgeoned in the last few years, another "restaurant row" is on the rise.
A short stretch of the Post Road, from the traffic circle east to the Bridgeport border, has recently seen a host of new eateries open to complement those already thriving in the area, including Luigi's, Michael Gennaro's Steakhouse and Vinny's Ale House, joined more recently by Craft 260 restaurant and the former Apizza Center, which is set to re-open as Tazza Osteria and Bar.
Several of the new restaurants are seeking to carve a niche by serving distinctly unique fare, and their owners hope to attract patrons not only from Fairfield Center, but the Black Rock section of Bridgeport and beyond.
The Lobster Post seafood eatery, the Royal House Cambodian Restaurant and a Russian vodka bar are all located at 222 Post Road, in close proximity to Michael Gennaro's, Craft 260 and Shi Ki Hana, a Japanese bistro.
The Royal House is owned by a husband-and-wife team, Mandy and Minh Truong, who for 20 years ran Royal Siam, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan that was featured in both Bon Apetit magazine and the New York Times.
The Truongs are modest about their accomplishments, however, and say that introducing Connecticut to high-quality Cambodian food is their main goal in opening their restaurant. Minh Truong is Cambodian and the restaurant's chef. He has experience not only in Cambodian and Thai cooking, but has cooked in Italian and French restaurants in Manhattan, as well. After the couple closed their New York restaurant to get away from the hectic lifestyle there, they toured Asia, and the wonderful culinary delights they sampled there inspired them to go back into the restaurant business.
The couple decided to take their culinary knowledge to Connecticut and to specialize in Cambodian food, which not enough Americans have sampled, Mandy Truong said. Cambodian food is spicy and sweet, and different from other Asian cuisines, she added.
The Royal House specialties include Phnom Penh Roast Duck prepared with coconut milk and curry sauce; Amok, a traditional country-style Cambodian fish dish that is a baked sea bass stuffed with shrimp and scallops, and Nyoam Nisua, street food consisting of rice noodles cooked with a seafood curry sauce. They also serve chicken, duck and rice dishes, and various appetizers and curries.
The Truongs shop daily in Manhattan and Queens, N.Y., for the ingredients they need for their cuisine, and therefore are not open for lunch, except on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is open for dinner every night. Royal House is also closed occasionally on a weekend night so the Truongs can attend special events for their son, who is graduating from Cornell University this year, his mother said. She also cautioned that each dish is made individually, and so patrons must be patient, although so far no one has complained, she said.
For the Troungs, running a small restaurant with food made from fresh ingredients is what they set out to do.
"We want to share good food with people," she said. "We want to introduce Cambodian food to everyone."
The Lobster Post, almost next door, also specializes in seafood -- but New England-style. Partners Jack Jagetic and Lelo Arslanagic -- who have 30 years in the restaurant business between them -- were looking for a beach community to open a seafood outlet.
"We felt that no one's really doing that here," said Jagetic, who most recently co-owned a Ridgefield restaurant.
They offer fresh lobster done in a variety ways, fish and chips, and what he called healthy alternatives to the traditional seafood fare, such as seafood wraps and organic mixed greens served with lobster, shrimp or cod.
The Lobster Post is mainly a takeout establishment, with a few seats, but they hope to add more seating later, Arslanagic said. A chef who has been running restaurants for 25 years in Greenwich, Norwalk and New York City, he wanted to bring good seafood to Fairfield because he lives in the area and thought it was missing here. Arslanagic is also the owner of the Vodka Room, next door to the Lobster Post, that he hopes to open in a few weeks, serving what he calls "Russian tapas," or small plates, and caviar.
At the Lobster Post, everything is made from scratch -- even homemade potato chips, Jagetic said. All their lobsters are Maine lobsters and all their fish is fresh. They are especially proud of their lobster rolls, fish and chips, and butternut squash lobster bisque.
"They're all our own recipes," Jagetic said.
The Lobster Post menu also features lobster sliders, fried calms and calamari, Baja-style fish tacos and Cajun-crusted Cod, along with the traditional New England dinner with a steamed Maine lobster, corn and coleslaw. It also features daily specials.
"This is something that we wanted to have in our own neighborhood," Arslanagic said.
The Royal House, 222 Post Road, is open 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for lunch Friday through Sunday, and 4:30 to 10 p.m. nightly for dinner. Reservations are recommended on weekend nights. Take-out is available. For more information, visit www.royaklhousecambodiancusine.com or call 203-955-1650.
The Lobster Post, 222 Post Road, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. To order, go online to www.thelobsterpost.com or call 203-955-1586.