Restaurant offers fine fare at low cost

The moment the doors of Gastronomique, a new restaurant on High Street, are opened, an aroma not easily found in a Yale dining hall fills the senses. Rotisserie chicken with risotto, salmon gravlox on pumpernickel, and butternut squash soup are being prepared, and the smell is intoxicating.

Copper pots and pans adorn the walls and ceiling, and behind the counter the customers watch as dishes are cooked with style and expertise. The intimate dimensions of the restaurant make the ambiance personal and comfortable, like walking into someone’s home kitchen.

In fact, this is chef Marc Woll’s kitchen. Woll, also the owner of Gastronomique, prepares his food — lunches and dinners strictly “to go” — in the “French classical manner.” Each night, Woll lists an entree du jour on the chalkboard in the restaurant, with meals that include braised lamb shank and pistachio-encrusted salmon. Customers call in orders ahead of time or simply come to the restaurant situated on High Street near Crown Street and wait while he prepares their dinners to go.

His past experiences pronounce him highly qualified: Woll worked as a chef at the famous restaurants Le Cirque and La Panetiere in New York City and the Homestead Inn in Greenwich.

Why did he leave such impressive digs to open up his own restaurant in New Haven?

“I wanted to bring the residents of this town something that wasn’t being offered by any other local restaurant: French-style fare that is affordable and unique,” Woll said.

The menu offers a variety of specialties from steak tartar to tomato basil quiche. Woll insists he “can make most anything.” His menu explains that he is also available for catering and private chef services.

Woll said the menu revolves with the seasons, and while he is now offering such items as roasted chestnuts, butternut squash soup, and caramel candy apples, the selections will change in the spring.

Entrees range from $5 to $8, salads are $4, and crepes cost around $6. He also offers organic juices and smoothies, with options running the gamut of fruit flavors.

Gastronomique opened Oct. 10. Since then, it has attracted all types of customers — from New Haven residents picking up gourmet dinners for their families to the Yalie grabbing lunch on the go.

Two such Yalies, Sam Arkin ’03 and Aaron Jakes ’03, were enthusiastic about the food at Gastronomique and lauded the reasonable prices. “In terms of value and quality, I haven’t found a single restaurant in New Haven that rivals Gastronomique,” Arkin said while eating the restaurant’s risotto. “It’s quick, in a good location, and so good.”

“If you’re sick of the dining hall and want some excellent, gourmet food, it’s worth a try,” Jakes added.

Woll found a way to use his restaurant to help out New Haven’s poverty-stricken in the coming weeks. Thanks to the generous donation of a turkey from faithful customer and New Haven resident Greta Lippe , he will be preparing Thanksgiving dinner for many of New Haven’s “tent city” inhabitants — the community of homeless living on the Green.

Woll said the chance to cook dinner for local homeless will be a good way to use his talents to help others. While he will not be preparing salmon gravlox — his favorite dish — he said he is looking forward to making a lot of people a little less hungry, even if it is with such “simple fare” as a turkey dinner.

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