Yolande Lacan grew up surrounded by great French cuisine. Her father, Noel, was a gourmet French chef. As a child, her family lived in an inn that featured a handful of restaurants—one that specialized in old-world French food and another that served sweet and savory crepes. When Lacan found that New Haven lacked an inviting corner bistro with good onion soup, escargot, and steak tartare, she took it upon herself in the fall of 2012 to open Yolande's Bistro and Creperie, which incorporates all of these staples of French cuisine.
Lacan and her cook Stephanie aim to create traditional French cuisine that is “not too fancy or intimidating,” such as frog legs Provençale and duck leg confit. In addition, Lacan folds imported cheeses and salmon into gluten-free buckwheat and oat-flour crepes, and chops champagne bottles open with a saber. Dinner and brunch feature plates that are a touch fancier than the average cafe, while lunch features casual French-inspired fare such as cracked-pepper burgers and bistro beef sandwiches.
The menus at Sakimura's two locations change regularly in order to incorporate the freshest seasonal ingredients and the chefs’ newest culinary muses. The Simsbury location is known to intermingle traditional Japanese flavors with contemporary flourishes, with specials taking forms such as foie gras with sweet miso sauce. Both locales’ sushi chefs also invent their own creative rolls, such as a deep-fried Godzilla roll and an Out of Control roll filled with shrimp tempura and topped with seared pepper tuna.
Diners seeking a hot dinner can gather around hibachi grills and watch as chefs sear their choice of shrimp, chicken, scallops, filet mignon, or any number of other gourmet ingredients. The hibachi rooms' smokeless grills and modern yet warm decor combine to create a pleasant dining experience.
Within Hana Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar, groups can watch hibachi chefs add dollops of teriyaki sauce to chicken and veggies on the grill in front of them. As flames rise over the tableside grill, the air fills with meaty aromas and applause from diners watching chefs’ virtuoso performances. Dishes include crispy duck with chili sauce, traditional udon noodles, and 11 house-specialty rolls filled with eel, lobster, and other ingredients sourced from the ocean's teriyaki-filled depths.
John Gogas first became a chef in Greece, eventually traveling throughout Europe helping to establish Club Med kitchens. He relocated to the United States in the 1970s, where he opened Jordan's Restaurant and developed a menu focused in Italian cuisine. Entrees include fettuccine debosco with ham, mushrooms, and peas, as well as baked ziti and veal marsala. Groups can share one of six specialty pizzas, such as a clams casino with bacon, garlic, and a choice of sauce. Of course, there are also a few Greek dishes: pitas can be stuffed with pork, beef, chicken, or pages from Aristotle's rejected film scripts.
With four generations of culinary wisdom running in their blood, the Pace family has a pretty good idea of what it takes to run a successful restaurant. Foremost on the list are top-notch ingredients—all meat served at Pace’s Steak House is handpicked in New York City’s famed meatpacking district and aged onsite in aging rooms filled with special lights and fans. After aging, some cuts are marinated for 24 hours. The menu's meatier selections—sizzling rib eye, filet mignon, and porterhouse steaks—are supplemented by oysters on the half shell, fresh seafood steaks, and a wine list, which includes 15 wines by the glass.
CW's American menu—which features locally sourced seafood and thick-cut steaks—combines the comforting nostalgia of classic Americana with contemporary cooking techniques. Their modern methods include rubbing each cut of meat with a proprietary blend of spices before broiling them at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit to seal in juices. When possible, the chefs source their seasonally changing ingredients from local businesses to encourage the local economy and give their wheelbarrow driver a break. In addition to the contemporary fare, Friday and Saturday evenings bring merriment and dancing as the restaurant showcases live jazz and prerecorded FDR fireside chats.
As a man who grew up on the river, the grandson of a boat builder, Dick Blakeslee knows all about the sea and its creatures. Blakeslee even owned a former ship store on the river, the Sun DEK Marina, but his dream was always to own a restaurant, so he turned that store into a snack bar, and from there, it continued to grow. Now it's a full-service gourmet steak and seafood restaurant with a full raw bar overflowing with clams, oysters, and shrimp and seafood entrees including broiled salmon and fish tacos.
Situated right on the water, The Oar offers views of boats bobbing, whether you’re seated on the outdoor patio or in the nautical-themed dining room. Its wood paneling, sailboat art, and crisp white linens evoke the decor of a luxury yacht. Even during the wintertime, the riverside eatery brings cheer with views of the annual Christmas boat parade—a heartwarming display of twinkling lights and Santa riding up and down the river at the top of a water-ski pyramid. The tradition, which brings thousands to the river every year, was actually something dreamt up at The Oar 10 years ago.