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Aug 8, 2008 04:23 PM

New Haven, CT - Any "must eats"?

Looking for some new restaurants to authentic food (no chains) and something not too spicy. Please let me know if you have any inside info. Thanks.

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  1. There is a relatively new place in New Haven call Foster's. I can not give you any advice about it, but maybe some one else viewing this post can, I just put in on because you wanted someplace new. ( I hope this is some thing like you were looking for. Good luck Earle Ct.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Earle

      We had a pretty awful meal and had intention of returning. But now that I see some positive reviews paired with their wine special (Wed. nights bottles are 1/2 price I seem to recall), I'll give it another try.

    2. I just replied to your post but something must have happened - i don't see my reply, maybe it got lost.
      So, I'd recommend Foster's - good food, good service, and good ambience. They have a "Game meal" maybe once a month, not sure.
      I'll also recommend Barcelona (small plates - tapas) - I can't wait to go back. Great wine list, bread and olive dipping oil was to die for. The bread is made especially for their restaurant. You might check their website for further info.

      2 Replies
        1. re: EastRocker

          I agree that Foster's is excellent! My husband and I both love the creative food combinations that the chef creates for the menu. One of our all-time favorites is the fried macaroni and cheese. Their variation on the cesar salad is a great one to try. I've tried and loved their pork tenderloin and steaks, as well as their mushroom ravioli. The service is always friendly and the chef always comes out to see how we've like our food. I definitely recommend it!

      1. I don't know how new is new for you, but here are some of my favorites.

        21 Replies
        1. re: EastRocker

          Let me add my 2 cents to EastRocker:
          Nini's Bistro
          While none of these are new, they are all consistently excellent.

          1. re: lsnhc

            Right on with Nini's Bistro. It's an excellent pre fixe BYOB.
            Also, Bentara is fantastic authentic Malaysian food. Although, Malaysian food tends to be spicy, they could tone it down to your preference.

          2. In our half-dozen visits, or more, we have never been dissatisfied with either food or service.
            There's this: and my own personal thread with photos:

            1. re: EastRocker

              We went to L'Orcio on Fri. for the Restaurant Week special. It was disappointing pretty much from start to finish. When we arrived, the woman at the door (who I assume is one of the owners) brought us immediately to our table. Then we waited at least 20 min. for our waitress to acknowledge us (the owner went by twice and said said she would be with us soon). Well, let's put it this way - service WAS NOT attentive. After we ordered our 1st glass of wine, I had to remind the waitress to pick up our order and deliver it to us. She had totally forgotten we placed a drink order. The restaurant was busy, but not THAT busy. There were a couple of empty tables after we sat down, so that can't be the reason for poor service. There was quite a long period of time after our appetizers and our wine glasses were empty and we didn't see our waitress. Again, we had to motion to her to find out where our entrees were and could we get another round of drinks (this is not a good thing!) We weren't in a hurry, but I was hoping that one or more of our entrees weren't just sitting in the back getting cold while one of the others was finished. I ordered the sea bass and when it arrived it was luke warm. It tasted good, but it wasn't hot. My husband got his favorite dish of all time (veal saltimboca) and it didn't look anything like veal saltimboca. He said it didn't taste that way either. I had the chocolate mousse for dessert and it was quite good. When we were leaving, I thought the owner would be at the door and ask us how everything was, but she just passed us and didn't say a word like "thank you for coming!" I had read lots of good things about this restaurant and was really looking forward to our visit, but we were all less than thrilled with our meals and the service on Friday night.

              1. re: joan mar

       out what you say about L' Orcio. Seems to be a sore subject with some of the Ch members in here.

                1. re: spork5150

                  I'm just saying it like it was - mediocre!

                  1. re: spork5150

                    I said here,, that the last, recent meal, at L'Orcio, was not perfect. The service was occasionally a little slow, but to be fair, the upstairs was virtually full, when we arrived. That is why I said service was very good, because, in general, it was.
                    If you read my reviews, I am not shy about dispensing criticism. I (with SO), have eaten at L'Orcio around four times and my SO, has eaten lunch there about a dozen times without me. We keep going back because the food and overall experience is worthwhile.
                    Though I am friends with some restaurant owners and chefs, I do not care whether they talk to me, suck up to me, or buy me a drink. I think I might know who the owners of L'Orcio are, but I cannot truly say. It is not relevant to me whether they ask how my meal was or not. I just haven't had a "bad" meal or "bad" service experience at L'Orcio. YMMV. It happens. Friday night, of New Haven Restaurant week, is a tough test of any restaurant's mettle.
                    If you order something and it doesn't look like, or taste like what you ordered, why wouldn't you question it? Could it have been chicken? SO had chicken saltimboca... it was delicious!

                    1. re: Scargod

                      If there is an owner present, I do expect him/her to ask how I enjoyed my meal or the service as I leave. I'm amazed to hear that you don't. It wasn't THAT busy at L'Orcio on Friday night. And, if it was, they should have prepared for that and had more waitstaff. Sorry, but I don't give them a "bye" because it was restaurant week. The veal saltimboca was not on the menu published on the internet, but it was VEAL. It just wasn't very good veal saltimboca. I'm thinking that they should be shining during restaurant week, if they want you to come back!!

                      1. re: joan mar

                        My husband and I went to L'Orcio about a year ago and also had mediocre service. We haven't been back since. That is to say, we've tried making reservations during this past year and were told rudely over the phone they had nothing earlier than 8pm. The way we see it, we'd rather spend our dinner out at an Italian restaurant with more selection and better ambiance and service. We are big fans of Cafe Goodfellas, which down the street from L'Orcio. They have excellent food and make us feel welcome whenever we go there.

                        1. re: bhayes

                          I wanted to point out the new review of L'Orcio in the Connecticut section of the NY Times.

                          Also, Jim Leff said, "The sublime Italian cooking at L'Orcio is worth a special trip to New Haven from just about anywhere".

                          bhayes: I am surprised that everytime you called to make a reservation they were rude! I just haven't had these experiences.....
                          To clarify, you said the service, a year ago, was mediocre, correct? They weren't rude when you were there, were they?

                          I've often thought of trying Cafe Goodfellas but thought I would find it too kitschy from what I see from their website. Do they still have big-screen TVs everywhere on the wall playing old gangster movies? I don't think I would enjoy seeing that and listening to Sinatra and Dean Martin repeatedly. The food would have to be awfully good. I do (as I have noted), really enjoy Tre Scalini, down the block.

                      2. re: Scargod

                        All restaurants are hurting from this economy, especially in New Haven. They should have been dropping prices way before restaurant week. Why should that week be a test of their mettle? I went to Bespoke on Tuesday and I was hungry going in, I was still hungry coming out. It doesn't take a genius to understamd that if they load you up on pasta, they will make their money back. I went to a private wine dinner at Basta Wednesday night and again mediocre food from an instituion that should have shined especially with a captive audience. The owners sitting on their behinds while the staff struggled to get the food out in a timely manner. It baffles me that one would wait for a high profile week such as that. I walked by Scoozi's a few nights and they were packed! I did not see them on the list and you generally do not hear a lot from them anymore, but packed. They must be doing something right.

                        1. re: spork5150

                          I agree with you mostly and have almost always enjoyed Scoozi but don't know if I would rate it in my top three, for Italian.
                          A friend recommended Basta as their go-to Italian place. Do you normally like it? It doesn't seem to get much exposure on CH, and when it does, it is usually unfavorable.
                          RE, mettle: I only meant that Friday nights are usually a busy, hectic night anyway (without "restaurant week").

                          1. re: Scargod

                            Personally, I think Basta is terrible. There are literally dozens of mediocre Italian places in New Haven, but Basta doesn't even reach the level of mediocrity. I'm not big on Claire's either. I will eat lunch there if need be, and I've had some fantastic desserts there. Even with a sort of low opinion of Claire's, I was shocked at how bad Basta was.

                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                              After that experience, it will be my last...serving an entree at 10:30PM while the two owners sit on their fat arses is disgusting. The best dish was the past with buternut squash/mascapone cream sauce. I wish they served more of it.

                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                Last night, six of us went to Basta. This was my first time to step foot in the place. I've also not been into Claire's Cornucopia.
                                We had a reservation for 7:30PM and they were only half full. About 8 or so they got busy and completely filled up. For those not familiar, Basta is small! It will seat about thirty or thirty-five people, if they're not too big. The kitchen is very small. It can barely accomodate two cooks. They don't have a "bar", as such, and are very limited in mixed drinks they can make. They only offer Dewars scotch, and I think, one vodka. Still, my martini was very good. The wine list is decent and interesting. I ordered a bottle of Arneis, Fontanafredda, an almost dry white wine from Italy. It was $36, and I thought a good value. I've never seen it anywhere before.
                                I ordered two appetizers: Mussels and Clams “Zuppa” and Sicilian Calamari. I thought they were both excellent. When bread came, the one piece of bread I tried was really too hard to eat.
                                One guy ordered a ribeye steak which came with a handful of large, cheese stuffed and breaded, toasted olives. The olives were really nothing special.
                                I had Sicilian Style Sea Bass. It was good but not terribly hot and not a very big portion. The presentation sucked.
                                My SO had Pollo con Funghi (or something similar with risotto). It was swimming in about a third of a cup of olive oil! It did taste good and the chicken was very tender and flavorful. The guest of honor had Capesante Zio (garlicky pan-seared scallops), which I tasted and liked. They claim it is finished off in their "wood burning oven." This may be technically true, but it is a gas-fired oven! I saw a few, small scraps of unburned wood off to the side, inside the oven.
                                Baby bok choy was the vegetable du jour, which came whole, was not so baby-sized and seemed to have been boiled or very over steamed. It was mushy and nondescript.
                                I don't know anything about the other two entrees. I didn't hear any complaints and I didn't ask to try them.
                                Same for dessert. One creme brule and one slice of special cake, resembling a large piece of Tiramisu (but not), was passed around. The odd thing was the creme brule was in a small coffee cup! I was told that both desserts were good. Less tip, our bill was $300.
                                The service was good and the restaurant was warm and cozy. I would consider going back, though there were some significant flaws.

                                1. re: danieljdwyer

                                  I agree on both counts- Claire's is TOTALLY overrated (except for the Lithuanian coffee cake) and Basta is mediocre at best.

                                  1. re: GoodFoodie

                                    Sorry about this, but I intensely disliked the Lithuanian coffee cake. OTOH I'm in the minority on that.

                              2. re: spork5150

                                We ate at Scoozi last month for the first (and last) time. We thought it was awful across the board. The service was terrble, the waitress was absent and clueless and the food went from mediocre to bad. I couldn't understand the ingredient combinations of most of the dishes, seemed like they just threw anything they could find in. The only thing that was okay was my app, which was mussels and calamari in a tomato sauce with israeli couscous. Everything else was downright bad.

                                1. re: sibeats

                                  Oh! Sad... We have had so many decent meals there, but we have not been there in six moths or more.

                                  1. re: sibeats

                                    We had lunch at Scoozi recently and it was a disappointment in several respects.
                                    It took forever for a waiter to show up. I went to the front and complained and when I returned our waitsperson had arrived. I think they saw me going to the host station and scurried back there. After all, they only had a few tables occupied, so it was not like we weren't obvious. Also, the waiters were out and about, but ours ignored us. Service was a little slow at first and it took a while to get our drinks and bread with all the "goodies" rack.
                                    The Rucola arugula salad with a minuscule amount of Gorgonzola cheese, huge, whole, dried strawberries, sliced raw almonds, red onions and honey-lemon dressing with balsamic vinegar was good, but had issues. The strawberries and some of the arugula was too big. The whole, dried strawberries are too much for a single bite, IMHO.
                                    SO's chicken Panini (sandwich), was good, according to her.
                                    My Paella was not. It had way too much chicken, with a few compulsory bits of seafood and sausage. They say, on their website, "gulf shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, clams, chicken and pork sausage, peas, red peppers, saffron". They use pluralized words! There was no multiples of anything except sausage and chicken. There was lots of chicken! It was if they cooked some rice and added one of each. This is not the way to cook paella and it tasted it.
                                    I have had paella in Spain. I have made mixed/seafood paella numerous times. This was undercooked; the flavors were not developed. Paella is supposed to have a crispy, caramelized, toasted bottom crust (called socarrat or pegado). This paella was undercooked and so "al dente", and gummy, it stuck to my teeth (dentals), like chewing gum. I felt like the dish contained Elmer's glue mixed in with the rice.

                                    I kept trying to put my arms up on the seat back of the booth-like area where we sat, and I could not rest my arms there. All I ended up with was exercise and lint. The seat-back and trim area was covered in lint! I find this really odd, given the pretentiousness of the restaurant and the clientèle. Next to us were executives having a power lunch, with secretaries taking notes... The place almost filled up with middle-aged affluent people in suits.
                                    The dessert, Tiramisu, was very good.
                                    We spent $73. It should have been a lot, LOT better!

                        2. re: EastRocker

                          I've said it elsewhere, but I'll say it again, here and now: Thali is fantastic! We had lunch there again, today. Great service and incredible food. Garlic nan (Kulcha), lump crab Konkan appetizer, Andhra chicken, Mother's Lamb stew. And a great $9/glass Shiraz!
                          The rice was very fancy and delicious and we got a free dish of tasty lentils, too.

                        3. Foster's is very good. It is co-owned by one of the owners of Miso on Orange Street (the best Japanese I've had in Connecticut). L'Orcio is excellent (handmade pasta dishes; great gnocchi). Scoozi and Consiglio's also are good for Italian (sit outside at Scoozi). Not a big fan of Nini's Bistro (very musty inside).

                          1 Reply
                          1. Stowe's has great CT-style lobster rolls and is fairly inexpensive (as lobster rolls tend to get pricey). They have a whole selection of other stuff but the lobster rolls are the best item. They only have outdoor seating and may technically be in West Haven.