On a Friday night before the onset of the ongoing midterm season, the Chew Haven team enjoyed a lavish early dinner at Tavern on State, an East Rock establishment located a fifteen minute walk away from the central Yale campus (on State Street, nestled among other restaurants previously reviewed by our blog). The multitude of fine restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood usually more than justify the lengthier trek for discerning students looking to sample the food and drink scene beyond the immediate Yale bubble, and Tavern on State proved to be no exception.
Despite being relatively new to the area, Tavern on State manages to stand out through their constantly evolving selection of expertly crafted dishes and cocktails (the menus change daily, and are consequently printed in-house to keep up with the chef’s pace of innovations), and the wealth of experience brought to the establishment by the founders/managers. Upon entry, we were treated to a magnificently cozy and softly lit interior, with the entrance framed by an intertwining synthesis of hanging vines. The interior is wooden from floor to table to ceiling, with the single exception of an exposed brick wall. The string lights that frame the bar are a particularly striking sight, and the decor’s motif of frames is rounded up with the lone exposed brick wall, which is adorned with ornate (but empty) frames. The philosophy of balance (between food and drink) espoused by the restaurant, which is owned and operated by the duo of head bartender Shane McGowan and head chef Emily Mingrone, is also resplendent in the interior. Our guest for this review visit was Rachel Calcott, a Yale sophomore from South Africa.
After we were comfortably seated on a central table, we were provided with a sampling of cocktails — the cleverly named and expertly crafted quartet of Concrete Tiger, Infinite Wisdom, Engines Ready, and Cellar Poor. Being unique creations of Shane’s, all four cocktails had compelling and unconventional flavors with an excellent alcohol balance and a complex yet easily palatable flavour profile.
The food line up opened with stracciatella on toast with persimmon, harissa honey, walnuts & tarragon. served with grilled peaches. Stracciatella is a stringy, sweet type of gourmet Italian cheese, and it went beautifully with the crisp toast. With every bite, one gets a perfect combination of different textures and sweet and savory ingredients: first you bite into the crunchy toast, then you feel the soft and sweet peach slices that are grilled to perfection, and finally the soft stracciatella cheese slowly enters and melts in your mouth.
Next up was the grilled octopus with crispy potatoes, pickled peppers & chili butter. As avid seafood lovers, we couldn’t get enough of this beautiful dish. The tentacle (served whole) was perfectly charred, consisting of a crisp exterior and a perfectly cooked interior. Served on top of crunchy fingerling potatoes and an incredibly delicious sauce with chili butter, each ingredient in this dish complimented another to create a perfect harmony of flavors.
We then tried the duck leg confit over fried brussel sprouts with spicy apple honey & szechuan salt. The duck was well cooked, the meat sliding off the bone effortlessly, and it was topped off with a soft melt-in-the mouth glazed exterior. The brussel sprouts are, true to their name, deliciously crispy and seasoned well, making these fresh vegetables burst with flavor.
Emily’s previous experience as a butcher complements her training as a master chef in the construction of her non-vegetarian dishes — from the cut of the meat to the plating of the dish, every aspect is consistently pulled off to perfection.
Up next was the pork shank confit with stewed cranberry beans, salt roasted cabbage & salsa verde, which impressed us as well as the party sitting next to us with its generous serving size and the baked beans on the side. Cooked to perfection to yield a juicy melt-in-the-mouth feel, this pork dish was among the best we’ve had the pleasure of trying yet. Bursting with a delicious flavor, the meat could easily be mistaken for lamb.
Finally, we had the whole fried sea bream with “green goddess”, which was airy and blended well with the unique sour cream/chai sauce. The sauce was beyond compare, leaving us wanting to jar up any remaining sauce to enjoy later.
Overall, we had an amazing experience at Tavern on State, and would highly recommend our readers to sample their ever-changing offerings. With their sensitivity to sourcing fresh and local ingredients, you’re likely to find that our favorite dishes reviewed above will have slight changes in the ingredients based on the seasonal availability when you visit. With a clientele that ranges from people in their twenties to people in their eighties, however, we promise that there is always something on the wide ranging Tavern of State menu that shall satisfy your taste buds.