When we got an email asking us to check out a new restaurant in East Rock, we couldn’t wait to get the inside scoop on what sounded like a great venue. We finally got to visit Oak Haven Table and Bar last month, located on State Street in East Rock (home to one of Chew Haven’s all-time favorites, The Pantry). Just 5 minutes from Old Campus by car, Oak Haven offers a brief getaway from the immediate downtown food scene.
The restaurant was cozy and casual, but elegant. Owners Craig and Al greeted us and showed us around the warmly-lit rooms, with a spacious bar and enough seating for about 40 people. A fireplace added to the welcoming atmosphere, and a group of 20-somethings gathered in the back room for a Monday night dinner party.
The menu is set up tapas-style with four sizes of dishes and an assortment of seasonal weekly specials. By offering different portions, you can create a diverse spread to share with everyone in your party that’s sure to satisfy. Some of our favorite dishes included the scallops, meatball, and arancini, and there was still plenty that we didn’t have room to try.
The snack plates are the smallest offerings on the menu, perfect to open your appetite at the start of the meal.
These sprouts are pan-seared in garlic and shallots and drenched in a sweet maple reduction. They’re an interesting twist on the savory flavors you usually get in Brussels sprouts and retained a tender, flaky, texture.
The pretzel snack dish was equipped with a side of german beer mustard and a cheddar dipping sauce. The cheese dip had the taste and consistency of a good mac and cheese sauce and was incredibly addicting. These nubs (as we like to call them) are fresh baked, soft, and satisfy any carb or cheese craving.
The arancini was a cheese lover’s dream. A blend of mushroom, local cheese, and rice was coated in breadcrumbs and fried. What might sound reminiscent of deep-fried rice balls was actually a surprisingly delicate addition to the meal.
Moving up the menu, the small plates offered a more diverse range ingredients and were easily enjoyed among the three of us… so maybe not-so-small plates.
I never knew a meatball could taste so good. From the slightly spicy tomato sauce to the savory scone sides to the melted fresh mozzarella topping, I was beyond pleased. The meatball itself was the clear show-stopper, about the size of a large hamburger (bun included) without any useless bread filling to bulk it up. A can’t-miss if you like meat, pasta, or amazing cheesy scones.
One of our favorite dishes, the yellowfin tuna small plate was an arrangement of thick slices of sushi-grade fish with a balsamic glaze topped with baby arugula. It’s one of the most popular dishes for a reason.
We didn’t make it to the large plates, but found that the medium plates were more than plenty for us to handle.
Having tried the scallops at Zinc, I can say with confidence that Oak Haven’s Diver Scallops are serious competition for some of the best scallops in town, and cost half the price. Three jumbo scallops are pan-seared with a slightly sweet glaze over a bed of roasted vegetables tossed in a verjus beurre blanc. The seasonal vegetables for January were a combination of delicately roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and potatoes.
The buratta plate managed to showcase a cheese in its full glory as a medium plate, accompanied by soft eggplant and sundried tomatoes with a balsamic drizzle.
The cookie plate stuck to the classics with two large cookies, one chocolate and one chocolate chip, with dulce de leche gelato on the side. The cookies were soft and chewy and so irresistible that we finished them before the ice cream even began to melt.
Pot de Creme
The dairy party didn’t stop until we tried the pot de creme (literally “pot of cream”), a soft chocolate custard topped with whipped cream.
Espresso Creme Brulee
Whoever thought of adding espresso to the near-perfect creation that is creme brûlée is a genius and needs to hang out with me ASAP. Seriously though, this dessert was an incredible combination of soft, creamy, custardy, crunchy, and coffee-y. The espresso tamed the overly sweet flavor you get in regular creme brûlée and might have given me energy to stay awake through the food coma that followed my feast at Oak Haven. Quite the end to a fabulous night.