Bespoke is simply the best

Simply put, Bespoke might be the best restaurant in New Haven. The only comparable eateries — in terms of both price and quality — are Ibiza, the High Street restaurant specializing in Spanish-inspired food, or Roomba, the Nueva Latina restaurant owned by the same family that brings you Bespoke. But while most Elm City restaurants known for flavorful fare specialize in the international, Bespoke — the newest name in casually elegant New Haven dining — brings the same approach to contemporary American food. And while it’s too expensive for the average student budget, don’t be surprised if this restaurant outpaces Union League Cafe as the new hot spot for Parents’ Weekend dinners.

The food at Bespoke fuses exotic preparation and familiar dishes. Executive chef Arturo Franco-Camacho brings a haute-cuisine approach to simple fare, infusing salmon with flavors of lemon and cucumber and topping glazed duck breast with fried rings of orange rind for a zesty contrast. A generous prix-fixe menu includes such delights as melted goat cheese over microgreens and pomegranate-glazed rack of lamb. The desserts are particularly to die for — fruit-topped puff pastries filled with custard, ginger creme brulee and pumpkin-flavored cheesecake are available as individual items on the menu or can be combined in a dessert sampler tray for the indecisive or the simply curious. The array of imported cheeses and extensive wine collection are also highly recommended for the true gourmand.

Bespoke’s hip bar and extensive wine collection make for a Parent’s Weekend dining experience that tops even Union League Cafe (in terms of price as well as quality).
Kathleen Koch
Bespoke’s hip bar and extensive wine collection make for a Parent’s Weekend dining experience that tops even Union League Cafe (in terms of price as well as quality).

Perhaps most impressively, the dishes at Bespoke — while overwhelming in variety — do not overwhelm the palate. The food is flavorful, but never overpoweringly so; rather, spices and aromas — like the ginger and lychee — are combined for a subtle effect. Dishes also combine textures to keep the meal interesting; diners will never tire of a dish before having cleaned their plate. Even dishes that can traditionally be heavy in texture or strong in taste — like lobster cassoulet or pumpkin cheesecake — are pleasantly light on the palate and continue to leave diners wanting more. This delectable fare is presented in a highly attractive manner, making creative use of sauces and garnishes. The chicken mousse-stuffed shell pasta, for instance, is served with white truffles, and the cassoulet is topped with a single lobster claw.

Bespoke’s passion for presentation extends to the restaurant itself. Located on College Street directly opposite the Taft Apartments, the building’s façade is narrow but almost entirely windowed, which makes for a beautiful second-floor dining area looking down on the restaurant’s first-floor bar as well as the street outside. The interior walls are mostly white-washed brick, with edgy, modern fixtures and dark, upholstered seating. Diagonally-slanted wooden wine racks are decorative features in addition to a practical space saver, and the lighting along the walls gives the impression of candles floating high in mid-air. The general feel of the restaurant is modern yet elegant, and the wait staff is attentive and eager to please.

One drawback to the dining experience at Bespoke is the price tag. Despite its close proximity to Yale’s Old Campus, Bespoke is not a restaurant valued for students, and while the food and service are impeccable and easily worthy of a restaurant in New York city or the Hamptons, this isn’t exactly a place to take your screw date for dinner. Appetizers and drinks range from about $10-15, while entrees are priced at around $30 and the full prix-fixe menu stands at $60 per person. That said, parents will be much more likely to splurge for a meal at Bespoke, particularly on special occasions — and once they do, they are sure to come back.

¦ Bespoke

266 College St.

$40-45 per person, plus drinks and tip

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