Noir, a Stamford newcomer

Noir is a French restaurant that knows how to let loose. It’s a self-proclaimed “bistronomie” — a blend of “bistro” and “gastronomy,” offering a creative menu that goes beyond France for inspiration. 

On a recent Sunday morning, I went to Noir for brunch, expecting to feel underdressed in jeans and to find a French menu with quiche and pastries. Once I found the small spot on Summer Street, I felt at ease.

It combines the drink menu and hip interior (exposed brick, large prints on the wall and chalkboards) with the intimacy of a French café (small tables and round-back chairs to seat 40), encouraging lively conversations between diners and the warm staff.

Noir has something for everyone, from the background music switching seamlessly from jazz to contemporary-but-mellow hits, to the menu, which has hearty dishes with seafood and meat and upgraded classics.

I started with a brunch food that isn’t often on the menu at restaurants — deviled eggs. While I enjoyed the creamy texture and caper aioli, a small piece of bacon – which would have been a nice touch on top – was hard rather than crispy and fatty. Had the bacon been cooked differently, it would have been a perfect start to brunch. After, a colorful plate of sliced fruit, with fresh-tasting cream and yogurt on the side, brightened things up for the rest of the meal.

One of the standouts was pastelon, a Puerto Rican dish of layered sweet plantains, beef and cheese. It looked and tasted like lasagna without the pasta. It was hearty, yet also sweet — a perfect dish for a big appetite.

If you’re in the mood for sweet, Noir’s versions of French toast and pancakes are another must. The “Monica’s French toast,” made with challah bread, Grand Marnier and browned butter, is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It was a little undercooked but still decadent. The bananas Foster griddle cakes, also a dessert-like treat, were balanced with the crunch of the praline pecans on top and a spice that gave the pancakes a kick, whether eaten on their own or with the delicious glaze.

With all this food under my belt, I thought I could go for a true cocktail — a Jazzy Latina, with jalapeño-infused tequila, strawberry purée, lime and Cointreau. Don’t let its friendly pink color fool you:   It is intense with a sweet and sour punch. If you can handle it, it’s also intensely satisfying. Other drinks listed on the chalkboard were just as inventive and beautiful prepared.

With the salty refreshment, I was ready for some dishes from the sea. I enjoyed the eggs Benedict with fresh jumbo lump crab and hollandaise sauce. The seafood was an unexpected addition to an often simple dish. I was surprised to see Cajun-spiced shrimp and grits on the menu, but I liked them. The grits, which I don’t normally order because they tend to be bland, were the star, and I smothered the shrimp in the creamy Southern staple.

The dish I was most excited about, chicken and waffles, was a little disappointing. The chicken was not as crispy as I thought it would be, but I did like the heat from the jalapeño maple syrup and the soft, thick waffles.

Despite some small issues — and remember, Noir’s brunch is new — I enjoyed the atmosphere and the menu, especially because many of the dishes had unique surprises. Best of all, I left full enough until dinner, which is all you can want from brunch.

If you’re looking for more traditional French food, Noir’s dinner menu has escargot, steak frites and pappardelle, among other small plates, salads and entrées of meat and fish. The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Saturdays for dinner and Sundays for brunch.

Still, whether it’s le matin or la nuit, Noir, is worth walking into, even in jeans.

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