Mill Plain Road has been aptly named “restaurant row” by many in Danbury. A new restaurant seems to emerge every year along this bustling street and to many foodies, such as myself, this is a welcomed event.
The newly opened Market Place Kitchen and Bar is a refreshing addition. Amidst the many Italian restaurants, Market Place dares to be different with its eclectic American fare.
The menu changes seasonally and all vegetables are locally grown and featured proudly on a black board above the bar, showcasing the farms where each vegetable originates. This is true for some of the main ingredients, such as the beef and lamb, as well.
Market Place is owner Marc Anderson’s first venture into the restaurant business but his co-owner, Eli Hawlii, is a veteran with years of experience running 189 Café in Brookfield, plus Bambu, also located on restaurant row. Executive chef, Joe Lucci, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at such fine establishments as The Woodward House, in Bethlehem, CT and Union League Café in New Haven. Lucci honed his skills at the renowned Per Se in New York City, a top-rated Zagat restaurant garnering three Michelin stars, before he became Market Place’s head chef.
Lucci displays his talent and creativity with dishes such as: “Play on a garden,” an appetizer that features only locally grown vegetables, e.g., baby carrots, baby squash and beets with a watermelon/cantaloupe foam. This signature “foam” is an innovative technique which leaves a whisper of melon flavor in your mouth, while adding creativity to the presentation. This appetizer was so appealing, I ordered it again on my second visit, when it was modified to reflect the available vegetables du jour, resulting in an artichoke truffle mousse with a brown butter powder and yellow-roasted beet vinaigrette.
Another specialty appetizer is the prosciutto wrapped figs. To transform this into anything but a standard appetizer, Chef Lucci adds a blood orange foam and a pancetta powder along with a red roasted beet vinaigrette — all of which elevate this app to a new standard. A cheese board with 3 cheeses, dried apricots, dried pears, walnuts, honeycomb, and crunchy, warm bread was a nice appetizer to share and paired well with the organic wine they offer.
Entrées include scallops with pork belly, cauliflower puree and demi-glace reduction. The succulent scallops were cooked to perfection and pairing them with the tender pork belly was a winner. The baby squash proved a wonderful accoutrement.
The salmon entree with corn relish, potato and cippolini onions drizzled with a demi-glace reduction, was another favorite. The salmon was moist and the corn relish was flavored with fresh herbs. The demi-glace appears on many of the dishes, such as the shrimp and grits appetizer and, although very good, I would like to see different sauces, since Chef Lucci certainly possesses the creativity and flare.
The Market Place burger was a juicy favorite according to my dining companion; it included cheese, avocado and garlic aioli, which proved a refreshing departure from ketchup. The menu also includes free range organic chicken, all-natural, hormone-free steaks, a variety of sandwiches, flatbreads and house-made pasta.
Le Chateau’s former pastry chef, Vivian Cotoanroach, ensures the desserts shouldn’t be missed. Espresso crème brulee was a delight with the addition of a watermelon/cantaloupe foam, caramel sauce and a surprise topping: pop-rocks! The creaminess of the crème brulee paired with the snap and crackle of the pop rocks added a different dimension to the dessert and also brought back childhood memories.
Market Place’s decor celebrates sustainable materials: the exposed wood comes from a 300-year-old Brookfield, CT barn, and together with the brick walls and wood beams, you can enjoy a relaxing atmosphere. Naturally, the large wall mural of local vegetables is the perfect accent for this farm-to-table establishment.
Market Place is my favorite choice along restaurant row. I look forward to the seasons changing to see Chef Lucci’s latest creations.
Market Place Kitchen and Bar is located at:
33 Mill Plain Road, Danbury, CT 06811
Phone: (203) 616-5836
Hours: Sunday - Thursday: 11:30 AM - 1:00 AM
Friday - Saturday: 11:30 AM - 2:00 AM