Mediterraneo, in the Hotel Zero Degrees in Norwalk, feels like being on a deck on a big, stylish ship. Dominated by a gleaming nautical wood floor and a wall of retractable windows overlooking woods and a waterfall on the Norwalk River, it is minutes from the Merritt Parkway's entrance to Route 7's river of glass-and-steel office buildings.
The restaurant pulls the in-town-on-business crowd, but on a recent Tuesday, also known as wine-appreciation night, a local wine club sat at a round, white table in a curved red banquette. Bottles are half-price below $100.
Mediterraneo is the sixth restaurant in the Z Hospitality Group, which includes Solé in New Canaan, Acqua in Westport and Mediterraneo in Greenwich. Executive Chef Albert De Angelis created a coastal-Med menu for the restaurant group, fused with flavor from Latin and Asian cuisines.
Fans of DeAngelis's mussels in spicy, red curry cream, with fava beans and cilantro ($12), a stroke of genius served at all Z Group restaurants, were happy to see it here. Thai spices, lemongrass and galangal, are balanced by rich sauce that carries the mussels' sea flavor. And the whole dish is enriched by the fresh, green favas. This appetizer can be lunch or, with a salad, dinner.
Littleneck clams sat in a bright and smoky, lemongrass and chorizo broth. The broth was terrific, packed with citrus flavor from fresh lemongrass. But the cook rushed the clams. Too many were barely open. And no one likes to see unopened clams in the bottom of the bowl. Especially when the broth is so good.
Grilled calamari, soft, whole bodies, were served over frisée and surprisingly flavorless shaved fennel, nicely dressed in olive oil and lemon. Octopus, charred, sliced and served over salad, was slightly tough. With the appetizers, the wine group drank a light, crisp Orvieto Campogrande,
Mediterraneo's service was professional. Four waiters appeared at our table to serve our entrées. Two crisp filets of pan-roasted branzino, Mediterranean sea bass, rested on a mound of fried spaetzle with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. The fish was well-seasoned, the skin was crisp skin, the white flesh tender, and it was all topped with a pile of feathery and earthy chard sprouts. Well-executed, yet, at $28, I'd like more of a thrill.
Braised short ribs ($29) were dry. They're supposed to be meltingly soft, imbued with wine and stock. With the entrées, the table shared a Pinot Noir from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon, a lighter red that bridged the gap between fish and meat.
For dessert, some of us sipped a glass of Tokaji, a Hungarian dessert wine. Those who tried the crème brulee found the inside to be soupy. Tiramisu, light and liquor-soaked, pleased.
The Z Hospitality Group has a lively, contemporary menu. And with a convenient business location and stylish look, Mediterraneo Norwalk is prime to express that. The wine list is "good, solid," said our wine group, but the many heavy reds didn't match the seafood. Slight adjustment to course, kitchen tighten the sails, and Mediterraneo will be cruising.
Mediterraneo is in the Hotel Zero Degrees, 353 Main Ave., Norwalk. Hours are Sunday, 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 12 to 9:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 12 to 10:30 p.m. Information: 203-750-9800 and hotelzerodegrees.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now