Written by guest author Gabi Wallk
Photos by editor-in-chief Alara Degirmenci
One of the first parts of our experience at 116 crown was meeting Chef Olivier Durand. As he told us about his childhood growing up in Lyons, France, I could tell that the flavors of his youth shaped each dish at 116 Crown. All of the restaurant’s cheese is sourced from a special farm in New York, where the chef has a personal relationship with the owners and says “you can’t find cheese like theirs anywhere else in the US.” After sampling the rich, creamy burrata in a fresh heirloom salad with figs, I can’t disagree. The cheese and charcuterie board also features a range of fresh sheep, goat, and cow’s cheese from the farm. He also sources many key ingredients from the urban garden that borders the serene outdoor dining space, making each dish fresh and in tune with the cycles of the year. Now, Chef Olivier is featuring beloved fall vegetables such as delicate squash in the delectable truffle risotto and baby turnips and brussel sprouts as an accompaniment to the straight-from-the-water organic salmon. In the Winter, Chef Olivier plans to integrate more of the traditional dishes he grew up with in Lyons, as he says they are heavy and rich and just what you want when it’s cold outside.
In addition to the locally-sourced ingredients on the menu, the cocktails were outstanding. The Glitterati is an excellent choice if you are looking for something sweet, and the rose colored drink is presented beautifully. Another crowd favorite is the Fourth & Clyde, which I found to hit a perfect balance between bitter and spicy; the salemme chili flakes and st. germain elderflower liqueur animated the drink. I will note that 116’s cocktails are strong — a few sips at 5 pm on a Thursday can take you somewhere else.
Ultimately, 116 crown walks the line between hip, young bar and fine French cuisine like no other restaurant I’ve seen. It serves some of the best cocktails in New Haven while offering a menu that certainly shines on its own, respecting food and ingredients to a level you can taste.