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Bespoke in New Haven ?

From the owners of Roomba. Has anyone tried it?

Emily

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  1. My nephew and his wife ate there 2 nights after the opening and declared that it was excellent. We're going there this Sat night (11/25) and I'll post my comments after our visit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lsnhc

      As promised...my thoughts....
      We had dinner there on Sat night and the food was superb. A very eclectic menu that was both interesting and varied, albeit short. Our dinners were both excellent. I had striped bass and my wife had Alaskan salmon, preceeded by my shrimp appetizer and my wife's excellent salad. Franco (chef/owner of Roomba) has another winner, transforming a long vacant space into a sophisticated, minimalist environment. Prices are on the upper end for New Haven, with apps in the $8 - $15 range and entrees from the mid $20's to low $30's.
      Our only complaints were:
      1 - service was not up to the standards that we have come to expect from Roomba. Our server, while efficient, could only be described as a bit "goofy."
      2 - Given the complexity and sophistication of the food, the wine list is disappointing, very limited and quite expensive. One of my pet peeves has been the increasing greed of restaurant owners in routinely selling wines at more than triple retail prices, which essentially allows them a 4-5 time markup over cost. I understand that Franco spent a very considerable amount of money in creating this very handsome space, and it is clear that wine sales are intended to help defray the cost.
      3 - There is a prix fixe option for $59 (unheard of in New Haven!) that included dishes not available on the ala carte menue. As long as those are being prepared in the kitchen, why not make them available to those of us that don't want a cheese course or dessert?
      All in all, Bespoke is definitely a worthy addition to the dining scene in New Haven and I am sure that it will do very well. That being said, as more and more decidedly upscale restaurants continue to open in New Haven, at what point will there be oversaturation?

    2. Different people have different experiences - this is, after all, highly subjective stuff.
      My complaints about the service really pertained only to our waiter (as in the guy who took our orders!) He was not unpleasant in any way, just a little too casual. I've had much, much less professional service elsewhere, but at Franco's restaurants, nothing less than totally professional is what is expected. Our overall service "experience" was excellent - and professional - I just would have expected a bit more polish from the waiter.
      As for the wines, again, no complaints with the items on the list, it was just that at a restaurant of this caliber, I would expect a deeper list.
      We will return soon....

      1 Reply
      1. re: lsnhc

        I haven't been there yet, but perhaps it is just because it is new. There is nothing like going to another New Haven restaurant and having to pick 3 wines off the list becuase the first two are out. This has happened to me on several occasions.

      2. Love BESPOKE and going to the Owl next door for jazz or just have a cocktail and smoke, BESPOKE bar is set up for social interaction and it is a beautiful place to hang or eat, I meet many people there last Friday

        1. I had such great hopes for this restaurant. We are HUGE fans of Roomba--food, atmosphere, cocktails and service. I chose Bespoke (annoyingly pretentious name) for my birthday dinner. Liked the ambience (very LA) and service. Must disagree about the wine, at least by the glass. Thought the selection and price of wines by the glass was fine.

          The food and cocktails were disappointing. Every dish except for the fabulous shoestring garlic and rosemary potatoes, just missed. The Thai duck confit, although adequate, was lacking in the "zing" that sets truly great dishes apart. Scotch bonnet peppers? I think not. The "stuffed shells" were dreadful. Very bitter sauce. Be warned, not all entrees come with the accompaniments listed on the menu. I feel that the wait staff should be told if this is the case and share this information with patrons. The rack of lamb was good but nothing special. I did not think the quality of the meat was up to Costco standards. The duck was also just good, nothing special. All this would be fine if it were a moderately priced establishment, but let's face it, Bespoke pushes the envelope of affordability for New Haven. And the cocktails? When you tweak a standard like a cosmopolitan by adding herbs or spices, tell the patron ahead of time.

          The "cool factor" is major here, but without some significant improvement on the food front, I can't see Bespoke as a long term player.

          1. Had New Year's eve meal with friends. The food itself was fine but I left very aggravated. The reservation system is pretentious (for New Haven!!) and impossible. We were told three times that the manager would call us back, which never happened. The space itself (we ate upstairs) isn't anything special (I get it, it looks like Beinecke, big deal) and the service was very sloppy (people pouring water in cocktail glasses, bringing someone elses doggy bag to our table when we clearly on appetizers, etc). Save the money and effort for someplace else until they can get their act together.

            1. I ate there about three weeks ago and was really disappointed. We sat in the wine room and while it is nice, the lay out of the tables is such that the server, to serve four, always has to reach across someone. Service was okay (very simple things took forever, bread, butter, beverages etc.), but I'll chalk that up to new.

              The food was good - not great. Sauces were bland. Desserts probably high point of meal.

              My problem is with price. Without wine, price for two was about $120. I have no problem with paying real money at a restaurant - BUT, except exceptional service and exceptional food at that level in New Haven.

              Probably won't go back.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dreif

                New Years Eve was our return trip, and on every count, it was a terrific experience. The service (really our only complaint our first visit) was impeccable, and every dish was delicious. We had no problem with the reservations and while it is unquestionably pricy for New Haven, a comparable meal in Fairfield County or NY would undoubtedly cost more.
                We are already planning a return later this month.

              2. Tonight's trip: OK, but not great; will not return. Upstairs room was noisy even though half-full, and chairs were both uncomfortable and (apparently) unstable - one collapsed next to us! Bread and chickpea spread pretty good. Service timely but neither friendly nor smooth - no problem, but nothing great. White bean soup really quite good, with an excellent match to the sweet pancetta crumbs but somewhat overwhelmed by (trendy but overdone) white truffle oil. Venison wellington was mixed: very good pastry, decent meat, anonymous mushroom duxelle, foie gras slice poor quality and basically pointless/tasteless (and I *love* foie!), blackcurrant-berry reduction quite good but not cooked long enough and *bad* match to dish. Jenny's fish was positively tough - difficult for bass, but this seemed like an old piece. Wine list not too pricy but variable in quality. Desserts failed to tempt us even though we were amenable to being tempted.

                So, as I said: nothing terrible, but also nothing to make us go back, and at $150 for two in New Haven, that's a failure. Don't expect it to last unless things improve. The prix fixe is OK value, but didn't have any choices and was not inspired, either. O well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ewanm

                  We ate there earlier this week, and I 100% agree with you. It was good, but I was not wowed in any way. The snapper was fantastic but the lamb merely good.
                  Our server was absent most of the time and though the upstairs dining room was nearly empty, our drinks took 15 minutes to arrive.
                  I would not return for the price either.

                2. I agree with a majority of posts. Just a thought. Sometimes we judge those with impeccable credentails and lofty expectations with a more critical eye. We expect great things from those that brought us Roomba and all the hype needs to be matched a top flight experience. I guess that's what we do when we deal with the supposed 'top of the food chain'. Bespoke is an ambitious move, trying to be several different places under one roof and trying to grow and nurture one restaurant when the mothership (Roomba) languishes. It's a common venture for restraunteurs. Look at M. Schlow with Radius/Via Matta in Boston. Where there are great mountains to be climbed when opening a new place, most likely you'll find vast valleys left behind. Suppose there never was a Roomba and Bespoke opened unheralded? Would we judge with the same keen eye? I agree Bespoke is challanged by it's expensive menu and it's rough service, but it should be applauded for trying to bring - yet - another different venue to New Haven. YES, $ 150 for two is absurd and service languishes, and ambitious dishes fall flat, but it's still not a bad place. One thing's for certain, he can't be involved with both places and expect that they will both shine.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ElizabethHenton

                    Is Roomba languishing? I haven't been there for a couple of years now. By languishing, do you mean, no longer the "hot" restaurant (I remember the supposed three week wait for a reservation), or a decline in quality/service? By the same token, have other "established" restaurants - Union League, Ibiza, etc. lost their lustre as well?

                  2. Didn't have prior expectations (at least not high ones - Roomba was the only place I've *ever* left a 2c tip!); but we would have been disappointed regardless. I'm just an evil critic to feed ;-)

                    1. The New York Times today had a review of Bespoke in their Connecticut section. Rated Very Good (but inconsistent). You may need to register (free) to read review.
                      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/nyr...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DonShirer

                        This month's CT Magazine has a review of Bespoke and the reviewer (do not care for her at all) gushed over this place and gave it four stars (extraordinary).

                      2. We ate at Bespoke yesterday, and maybe one should not judge a restaurant on a busy Saturday evening, but we will not go back. The food, when we got it, was superb and probably merits the CT magazine reviewers 'extraordinary' rating. Unfortunately the rest of the experience was negative. First a long wait at the front desk while the host and hostess argued over seating arrangements, then we were seated, and given a wine list and no more attention for 20 minutes. I began to wonder if we were invisible! The noise level in the upstairs room was so high that the only way we could converse was to lean forward over the table and yell at each other. Then the tables are so close together that the waiter has his rear end in our face every time he attends the neighbouring tables.
                        The quality of the service does not match the price level. Our waiter was arrogant and inattentive, I had to ask for my water glass to be refilled, and he commited a big faux pas by bringing our check before we had asked for it, and without asking if we would like anything else. They need to take lessons from the always impeccable service at Union League cafe. That is what we expect in that price range.
                        All in all Bespoke was a frenzied, noisy and nerve-jangling experience and we could not wait to get out of there. Too bad, because the food was outstanding.

                        1. I went there this week for dinner. I missed all the hype and chose it from a list of new restaurants in New Haven, mostly based on an interesting/promising menu. My expectations of this restaurant was based strictly on the menu (and the prices) and the atmosphere of the restaurant. I also didn't realize that this Bespoke had any ties to Roomba until the waiter mentioned it.

                          In any case, I found Bespoke to be a huge disappointment. Nothing was bad, but you don't pay premium prices for mediocrity. Let's start with the unprofessional service. The waiter was friendly and not incompetent but a bit too casual. Perhaps he wasn't experience. He didn't offer us the drink menu again when he informed us that the pineapple juice for a cocktail we ordered was being delivered from Roomba, something that took 10 minutes. Our entrees were served to the wrong people. The waiter also asked us if we wanted our food packed while we were still eating.

                          More importantly the food was at best just average. The four of us shared our appetizers with each other. None of them were unique as the menu suggested (description and price). My entree, the porcini dusted halibut, really missed the mark. The fish was bland except for a few salty spots. The porcini did nothing for the halibut, nor did the foamy asparagus puree. It could have benefited from salt, pepper and a lemon wedge. Luckily, the shoe string fries that we ordered as a side were very salty, but a good addition on top of my bland fish. The trout dish was tasty, but like all the dishes, it suffered from an amateur tendency for superfluous additions. I did like the corn flan side dish. The mushrooms sprinkled on top of the flan added nothing. We skipped dessert dmostly because we didn't have much hope for anything impressive. Cocktails were also very ordinary, contrary to the description on the menu.

                          In summary, there was nothing that was horrible at Bespoke, but the atmosphere and the space are the only reasons to really go. (Seems silly to go to a restaurant to sit and not drink or eat.) Even if the prices were lower, I'd be hesitant to return. New Haven offers better food options.

                          1. We went to Bespoke the other night primarily bc I read about their battles with the university that should welcome creative efforts in New Haven but doesn't. That said I wanted to try it and support their efforts. Roomba was never a fav of ours, noisy and claustrophic. But then we are not in our 30s anymore (not even close:). We loved our meal there, from the cocktails - I had the tangerine margarita, really good and not at all sweet - the shrimp appetizer-excellent flavors and our main courses (mine tuna, his duck) were perfect - creative interesting flavors and textures. The service was good, our waiter was new on the job, did a very nice job, and was personable without being intrusive. The manager came and spoke to us to be sure we were happy. I was very impressed usually if I go out it is only to Union League or Thali. I have no problem cooking better than any restaurant but need a break occasionally. I am amazed that New Haven does have restaurants that impress me-- it is not exactly a seat of sophistication in New England.... I would consider it more a sea of red sauce and garlic - which to me is so easy why go out for it. We should be happy to have some fine restaurants and support them, esp Bespoke which is striving to succeed against a mighty goliath....

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ElsieB

                              If you've read some recent articles it seems that Bespoke owners are the problem or at least they are not without fault in holding things up on resolving this with Yale.

                              1. re: Scargod

                                How do you get that from the articles? Seems like Yale has some kind of long-term plan for the lot in back of the restaurant, plans important enough to suffer a short-term PR hit over Roomba's closing. They made a deal with the Bespoke people, then backed out of it the same day because they wanted to preserve their property rights over a measly little alleyway. I'm not saying either side is right or wrong, just that Yale has a very long-term view and has chosen to ride this out. They own this town, and sometimes they forget to hide the fact that they know it.

                                1. re: newhavener07

                                  Roomba and Bespoke "people" are one in the same. BTW, I don't have a strong opinion either way. Just seems like there is a tendency to paint Yale as the mean goliath.
                                  This was in the Register on March 21 and is from a Yale representative as a "letter to the editor":
                                  The Bespoke situation is as perplexing to Yale, a nonprofit university that regularly pitches in to help our neighbors, as it must be to Register readers, and the characterization of the situation by the owners of Bespoke omitted important facts.

                                  Yale and the owner of the property in which the restaurant operates sorted out the issue of access through the university property behind the restaurant several years ago. The university provided a license under which the owners agreed that they would not claim permanent, so-called “adverse possession,” rights to the university’s property. The university entered a similar agreement with the owner of the Owl Shop property next door without controversy.

                                  The Bespoke owners ultimately purchased the building, but refused to sign the license or acknowledge Yale’s full ownership of the property. The basis of current litigation is that they are attempting to prevent the university from asking a judge to decide whether their claim has any validity, perhaps because they feel it does not. The owners of Bespoke have said these issues could be resolved “in a matter of weeks” if the university would provide a sum of money to them or purchase their building.

                                  Meanwhile, Bespoke is in full operation with no need of right of passage over the university property at its rear, which is why this matter is so perplexing. Yale has met on several occasions with the owners to attempt to settle this matter, but will not do so by paying a second time for property it already has purchased.

                            2. Went this past weekend for Mother's Day dinner....hadn't eaten there in a long time. While we were drawn to Roomba's, I don't feel the same about this restaurant. The food was good (though overpriced), and everything had so much sauce on it. It's a bit 'too big for its britches.'

                              On the "Welcome" page of their menu, the owners felt compelled to write about how Yale evicted them from the Roomba's space- yada, yada, yada. This, I found very disconcerting and unprofessional. Whatever the issues were: 1) GET OVER IT! and 2) Don't blame others. I think the owners are really nice people but this is juvenile.