If you accidentally blinked for too long, you might have missed New Haven opening like four hundred new restaurants. Luckily, your trusty friend Josh is here to pile food into his body so you, the discerning reader, can decide whether or not it’s Worth It.
I haven’t tried out the new Bear’s BBQ location (THE STACK!!!) yet, mostly due to not really eating meat. But I’m considering a temporary moratorium on non-meat eating to write a review.
What do you think?
In the meantime, New Haven now has more Asian-inspired food options than ever! But, are they any good?
Otaru Brings New York Sushi to New Haven
Tucked away under the brutalist Temple Medical Parking Garage, Otaru Sushi attempts to flourish where others have come and gone (Roly Poly, Atlus Greek Diner or some such thing… ?). While the location is brutal (pun intended), the sushi is otherworldly.
One of the co-owners waited our table and she certainly knew how to turn up the charm. Personable and friendly, she explained the dishes, including some special sauce which came with one of the rolls. She explained they’re from New York and don’t really know the area. I assured them it’s only like four square blocks and they’ll be fine.
Admittedly, the menu is a little aggressively priced. They have a $25 lunch special (la di da!), as well as a deal where if you order two rolls for just-barely-exorbitant pricing, you get free soup or salad. I did the two-rolls deal due to the continued existence of my mortgage: the salmon avocado and some strange whitefish roll I’d never heard of.
The sushi itself is pretty incredible. You can tell they use top-notch ingredients because the salmon just tasted fresher and fuller. The whitefish was… a little weird. I enjoyed it but some ingredient was weirding me out. But I’m weird so we called it a draw.
The miso soup was also excellent, which is especially impressive because typically it’s a totally forgettable dish. But this had big chunks of tofu and was perfect on a cold day.
I still ended up spending like $17, which for lunch, doesn’t feel like an every day treat. But these New York-based owners are definitely providing a premium sushi product. Only you can decide if you’re the kind of person who is willing to spend that kind of money on a Tuesday afternoon.
They even give you the check in these adorable “Thank you” cards. Tres chic.
Pros: Excellent sushi, solid service, personable waitstaff
Cons: Forgettable location, rather expensive
September in Bangkok Brings Delicious Thai Food… Eventually
In another location where business has been tricky (who knew it would be so hard to run a restaurant next to a highway overpass?!), September in Bangkok brings Thai food to East Rock. Sooner or later.
I don’t know if they weren’t expecting customers, but when we arrived at September in Bangkok, the place was packed and there seemed to only be 2-3 employees. According to Bicycle Street Co-Op owner John Martin, the place is typically pretty quiet, so they were a little unprepared.
Well, maybe a lot.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous. Wood accents give it a cozy, but upscale feel. And the way the restaurant is laid out prevents it from getting too loud.
It took maybe 10 mins to get a drink order in and even after we ordered we waited another 30+ minutes or so for food. Even the food we got was… not quite right. They added a chicken appetizer to our order, and even after we had it returned, it still ended up on the check, which of course involved another 10 minutes. They also forgot to add tofu to Dave’s order. You can’t just fuck with Dave like that.
Still, when we did get the food, I have to admit, it was excellent. Probably the best Thai food I’ve had in New Haven. Look out, Rice Pot. You have a new competitor.
I don’t want to slam them too hard for the service, but it was a rough go. They seemed cool enough. Just caught them on an off night.
I’ll hope it’s an aberration and the place continues to do brisk business, cause they certainly know how to make Thai food. I’d recommend the squid dish. I don’t remember the exact name but you’ll figure it out. It was awesome. If you have the patience for it.
Also, the front door is weird and doesn’t seem to have a handle. Maybe a get a handle on that, folks?
Edit: I just want to point out that several redditors let me know they have had nothing but excellent service here, so it may just have been an off night. I can only speak to my own personal experience, but I wanted to at least share other people’s opinions.
Grade: C+ (A- for food quality)
Pros: Excellent Thai food, beautiful spot
Cons: Took forever, order was not right/mischarged, front door hilariously hard to use/find
Kuro Shiro Enters the Ramen Game, but Can it Compete with Mecha… ?
Nestled away in an unmarked spot near 116 Crown, Kuro Shiro (Black and White, eh?) adds another ramen/pho flavor to New Haven. It also features hip music, a modern environment, and a variety of food. But can it dethrone Mecha?
In a word… nah.
I’ve been a couple of times and have noticed there’s a pretty wide variety of quality depending on the dish. I went on an ill-fated date here and we both ordered the veggie ramen. She seemed more impressed with it than I was. (Though less impressed by me, personally.)
Perhaps it’s the lack of awesome sauces to add, but I just don’t think the broth hits the levels of Mecha.
There was also this pancake-like app we tried, and I gotta say, it was pretty awesome. I wouldn’t call it a breakfast pancake, but it was flavorful and not too dry. The bao was very good, but again, maybe not quite at Mecha level.
However, the wait was non-existent! So if you don’t feel like waiting in line at Mecha, this is a totally viable option.
I just wish either of these places would offer a seafood ramen for the discerning pescatarian. Per chance to dream.
Pros: Cool environment, interesting menu, hip vibe
Cons: Inconsistent menu, broth not at Mecha levels, I don’t think my date liked me that much
(I’m kidding about the date. Well not really, but I won’t blame the establishment.)