Most Crown Street passersby are unaware of its existence. Maybe it’s the heavy dark wood and black metal facade that prevents keen Yale foodies from discovering this chic oasis of gastronomic pleasure.
116 Crown’s earthy yet sophisticated ambiance transports its guests to a faraway exotic high-end spa retreat. The bar, composed of long, illuminated marble slabs like those on the walls of Beineke, greets customers upon entering the restaurant and creates a well-lit, tantalizing hallway that draws guests in to explore the depths of the darker lounges at the back of the restaurant.
Customers have numerous venues to choose from, each setting a different mood for their evening. On the opposite side of the bar are human-sized white cubbyhole frames lined inside with pistachio-green, cylindrical cushions that make perfect seating for a romantic “hole-in-the-wall” date. Past the warm glow of light in the front foyer there are steps that take you to an elevated dark platform, where small black centerpiece chandeliers light tables in the restaurant’s deepest realm. The walls in this section are of dark, ragged stone, and the mirrors add to the mysterious aura of the venue.
The plates are all “tapas” size — small and perfect for sharing. The menu includes many dishes featuring a cheese paired with a fruity flavor. For instance, the roasted beet salad is tossed in light vinaigrette and contains roasted beet and goat cheese. The salad is decorated with crunchy, fried cheese crackers that contrast the smoothness of the vinaigrette-slathered beet and cheese. The fried risotto balls — slightly larger than golf balls and filled with ground asparagus and a creamy molten mozzarella core — are served in a jumbo, stubbed martini glass and sure to satisfy any stomach.
While meat dishes are underrepresented in the menu, they are definitely worth trying. A petite Angus burger, seasoned with chopped grilled onions and laid on melted Swiss cheese, comes served on a two-inch wooden-block platter, and its French baguette bun is cut in two for convenience. The patty is tender and juicy so the insides of the baguette are soft with meat seasonings while the crust remains crunchy. The grilled chicken served on a bed of butternut squash puree and garnished with cranberry marmalade is a lighter option. The plate smells like homemade pumpkin pie, but when the chicken fillets and puree are combined with the cranberry sauce, the tastes fuse to create a sensation of caramel and fruit sweetness on the palate.
Dessert options are split between savory cheese platters and sweet confections. Sun-dried cranberries complement the creamy, buttery cheese platter, while the home-baked brownie ice cream sandwich combines ginger and cinnamon in a divine imitation of Claire’s Lithuanian coffee cake. Its fudgy warmness melts the vanilla ice cream from Ashley’s, fusing two of Yale students’ favorite dessert tastes and serving them in one hot-and-cold brownie masterpiece.
116 Crown accommodates events of any variety. Perhaps the most popular feature of the restaurant is its iPod lounge at the back, where a small step leads into a seven-by-nine-foot private lounge furnished with snakeskin booths and small cocktail tables. The stone walls are highlighted by the lit dark oak beams which line them. Integrated into the back wall of this private lounge is an iPod adapter that allows guests to bring their own music into the space, which is free of rent as long as guests order drinks. The venue is ideal for a private celebration or birthday get-together.
116 Crown appeals to all five senses with its dynamic venues and lighting, tantalizing aromas, personalized music and smooth flavors that give anyone a reason to visit and invite them to experience something different every time.