On Tuesday, September 29, Spoon visited Oak Haven Table & Bar, a chic and comfortable gastropub located on State Street.
Oak Haven offers exceptional and creative flavors and prides itself on its quality, freshness, and seasonality, striving to always excite and to be on the cutting edge of cooking. Serving New Haven for eight years, it has been recognized as one of the best bourbon bars in Connecticut and offers over 150 selections of whiskey.
Entering Oak Haven, we immediately noticed a bar bedecked with high quality wines and liquors, modern lighting hanging from the ceilings in mason jars and oversized light bulbs, and red brick walls adorned with wooden plates.
In pre-COVID times, the bar would be buzzing with happy hours patrons, birthday celebrations, and romantic nights out with a partner. Even during our visit and in the midst of social distancing, Oak Haven maintained a warm and cozy ambiance against a backdrop of quiet pop music and lively conversation.
Albert Greenwood and Craig Hotchkiss, the bar’s co-owners, were incredibly personable and welcoming — they stopped by to chat about our experience and speak with us about the history of the restaurant and how Oak Haven sourced its food.
Soul of Calypso —
While Oak Haven is known for its bourbon, the Soul of Calypso, a cocktail made of angostura white rum, tempus fugit kina l’aéro d’or, ripe organic bajan punch, and luxardo grenadine, was also one of the highlights of our visit. The drink has a natural, fruity sweetness created by the bajan punch and a floral aftertaste that lingers on the tongue.
Spanish Dove —
The Spanish Dove is one of Oak Haven’s most popular drinks and features a creative spin on the margarita. The drink is made using hornitos reposado tequila, bruxo x mezcal, lime juice, basil infused agave nectar, giffard grapefruit rose liqueur, rimmed with activated charcoal sea salt rimmer, and shaken and served in a rocks glass. The drink creates a beautiful harmony of flavors starting with a pleasant saltiness on the lips right away, followed by the tanginess of the lime and a strong burst of flavor from the tequila.
Oak Haven Sangria —
Oak Haven’s signature sangria is served over ice with italian rosé wine, giffard pineapple liqueur, tepache spiced mexican pineapple liqueur, cerasum aperitivo, lemon, lime, and club soda. The fruity drink was reminiscent of trips taking sips of sangria on summer balconies in Barcelona in pre-COVID times, with an immediate fruitiness followed by more subtle hints of pineapple, a bubbly undertone from the club soda, and acidity from the lemon and lime.
Crab Cakes —
Oak Haven’s crab cakes are made with fresh, locally sourced crab meat, whisked and combined with sautéed onion, red pepper, and celery, and served with a dip of spicy remoulade. The dish crumbles in your mouth, with a crunch in the first bite followed by the delicate blend of the cake’s interior. We found the spice of the dish pairs wonderfully with the remoulade, the spiciness of which highlights the flavors of crab.
The Panzanella is one of Oak Haven’s signature seasonal dishes — people across Connecticut travel to New Haven in late summer to early fall to savor the taste of creamy burrata, plated on top of diced cherry tomatoes, toasted French bread croutons, and topped off with a balsamic drizzle. In one forkful, we experienced the satisfying crunch of homemade croutons paired with a bite of melt-in-your-mouth burrata, perfectly accentuated by the acidity of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.
Camembert de Normandy —
The camembert is the star of this dish—its texture and flavors are well-complemented by the contrast presented by the crispy French bread and the sweet peaches. The pungent grass fed cheese pairs deliciously with the hint of bourbon from the peaches to create a flavorful bite.
Delivered fresh the day of our visit, the scallops are one of Oak Haven’s signature dishes. The surface of the scallop is crispy and seared with touches of caper brown butter and accompanies an impossibly tender interior. The intense taste is reminiscent of the ocean itself—and pairs well with the mild, buttery cauliflower purée, creating an incredible explosion of flavors.
Duck Carbonara —
This innovative spin on carbonara takes the core elements of carbonara—cheese-based sauce, peas, and slivers of meat — and presents a creative twist. Oak Haven’s house-made tagliatelle contained hints of black pepper accented by the creamy sauce and tiny bits of smoked duck. The duck carbonara has a unique umami flavor throughout the sauce and the dish as a whole.
House Made Ricotta Gnocchi —
Oak Haven’s gnocchi is handmade the day of and is light and creamy, with cloud-like texture and a delicious blend of potato and cheese. The dish is served in a basil pesto cream or in a stewed cherry tomato sauce, of which we sampled the pesto — the cream has a delightful subtlety and is fresh and rich without being too heavy or oily.
Blonde Lava Cake —
Oak Haven’s lava cake combines the richness and warmth of a molten chocolate center with the strong underlying flavor of vanilla, which adds interest to the dish. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the dish almost resembles that of a chocolate chip cookie skillet, yet has a unique texture that distinguishes it from both the lava cake and the traditional cookie.
Apple Beignets —
The apple beignets reminded us of donut holes filled with the delightful crunchiness of diced apples. Topped with powdered sugar and served warm, the beignets put a classy twist on a classic comfort food.