Why: Rose & Thorn is yet another dining option at the new Ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield. It is a one-of-a-kind restaurant where you will find a touch of elegance with a modern vibe. Friday and Saturday nights, Rose & Thorn hosts a live DJ in its Ultra Club at The Atrium. The menu is an eclectic mix of bold flavors that incorporate local, fresh and creative into every dish.
What I tried: My dining companion and I settled on the falafel stuffed peppers, the chopped heirloom tomato and cucumber salad, and the lamb shawarma.
The stuffed peppers, four portions in all, were artfully presented atop a smear of hummus, drizzled with eggplant reduction. The peppers were quarter sections each with a wedge-shaped, fried falafel within, which sat atop a ragout of tomato that combines peppers, raisins and pine nuts. A few sprigs of baby green sprouts garnished the dish. The flavors in this dish were very appetizing and the textures equally interesting. The falafel had an appealing thick crust, and it was not dry. The ragout was rich and sweet, and the pepper was the perfect size to include in every bite. The eggplant reduction added a touch of tangy sweetness.
The tomato and cucumber salad contained French flageolet beans and goat cheese, and all the ingredients were tossed in a sherry vinaigrette. The result was healthful tasting and very satisfying.
Lamb shawarma is served in a folded herbed flatbread with chopped cucumber, tahini, hummus, mango relish and red onion. The marinated lamb is chopped and very lean and takes center stage in this dish with all its best attributes brought out by the accompanying ingredients. There is additional hummus served alongside as well as fresh cut sticks of carrot, bell pepper and cucumber.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The “Arepas” Venezuelan pork stuffed corn cakes sounded delicious, as did the lobster tacos with mango salsa and Sriracha aioli. Salads include a Middle Eastern with tomato, cucumber, radish, herbed flatbread, croutons, sumac, chickpeas, red onion and a lemon vinaigrette. There is also an asparagus and potato salad and a harissa-glazed salmon salad made with frisee, arugula, marcona almonds, black radishes, Maytag blue cheese and a Zane Vinaigrette. Entrees, as the other menu options, reflect various regions, allowing a variety of cuisine options, including seafood paella made with mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, chorizo and saffron rice; locally raised free-range chicken, roasted and served with charred heirloom peppers, creamy polenta, pea shoots and a parmesan broth; carne pizza topped with mortadella, salami, capicola, truffled pecorino and taleggio cheeses; and fillet mignon — an 8-ounce portion with blue cheese potato gratin, grilled broccoli and guava butter. The dessert menu includes cheesecake, churros with chocolate, baklava, cannoli, a spiced bourbon candy bar, rice pudding, and berries and cream.
Atmosphere: A rose theme is woven into the decor and carried throughout the bar dining (21 and over only) and The Atrium (family dining). Textiles used in the bar are rich and elegant, and modern chandelier lighting is subdued against deep colors and dark natural wood. Bar seating extends to the dessert finish bar, as are a few large booths and high tables with chairs.
The Atrium is set against a white foundation, and large windows wrap around the exterior wall of the space, allowing ample natural light to flood in during the day. Seating consists of tables and chairs on the open floor, and there is a long table, pre-set for a large party that is somewhat sequestered from the rest of the space. A lounging area is incorporated into The Atrium where oversized, upholstered chairs with tree stump tables are set. A semi-circular booth for approximately six diners is part of the more relaxed area. Large screen TVs provide entertainment.
Other observations: The atmosphere is interesting and comfortable. I found the waitstaff knowledgeable about menu selections, friendly and attentive. The food was delicious and I appreciated the unusual combination of options, which after my first agreeable visit, will definitely bring me back to try more. The menu denotes gluten free and vegan items.
Cost: Small plates cost $6 to $24. Salads are $10 to $18. Entrees start at $15 and top out at $42. The raw bar selections include oysters for $14 and $28 and a shellfish platter for $52. Desserts are $8 to $24.