Mark Damon Puckett
When trying to find your way around Central Connecticut, you might not have fried ravioli bites, seared diver scallops, or slow-cooked pork belly on your mind — happy enough to just not get lost in New Haven.
But if you find yourself around Exit 59 right before the Heroes’ Tunnel on the Merritt Parkway, you are only seconds away from Solun, a tapas restaurant and bar in Woodbridge, Conn., where you can nosh on these and other bites.
Off the exit you are guided to take "a sharp right" onto Amity Road; however, this is really a U-turn taking you past labyrinthine mall-central, only to drop you in an open parking lot where Solun beams like an evening oasis. It is no accident that it is named Solun, a portmanteau of the Spanish words sol and luna, sun and moon.
Also beaming is the ebullient owner, Carlos Hernández, who greets you with kind smiles. He should be smiling, since this is his second wonderful place, the first being Tinto in Norwalk, Conn., already lauded in The Daily Meal.
Wildman Neil Fuentes dances around his bar as he makes drinks and educates clientele on the etymology of words on wine bottles. He is also the lead singer in an eleven-piece salsa band, and you almost feel like you should be dancing. Suddenly, he is spinning a martini glass that is on fire with Bacardi 151. His red sangria, made with brandy, is phenomenal and never too sweet.
"It’s a great, cozy place to meet with friends and relax over tasty tapas and excellent wines," said Michael Dunne, Greenwich resident. "They offer outstanding sangria with a superb, full-bodied taste, as well as exciting mixed drinks like caipirinhas."
White tuna is shipped from Hawaii and skewered and slides right over your tongue. Meaty shrimp in olive oil are so thick you have to take several bites. The creamy tortilla comes out as a cube of potato cake. Seared lamb patties and pan-seared trout also delight you. There is care down to even the port reduction, seafood broth, and ginger soy sauce vinaigrette used throughout the dishes, sauces that take the food up another level.
Of course, we must come back to the famous pork belly with mango chutney because of the soft texture of the meat, almost like sea urchin, balanced by the fruit. Finish up with the warm, soft, and breathtaking chocolate soufflé. Gulp. Quite a dessert homerun .
On your road trip up to Massachusetts as you pass through Connecticut, stop at Exit 59 and go see the folks at Solun. It’s a vibrant spot where the sun and moon meet. Watch out for those spinning martini glasses on fire, though.