116 Crown, New Haven
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Sliders, too, come dressed to kill, routinely furnished with gourmet add-ons like shallot rings and smoked cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon and roasted yellow tomato. But remember to say so if you like your beef rare. We didn't and ours is overcooked and dry. And don't skip the fries. Matchstick-thin, crispy, crunchy, hot from the pot, with fresh chives, Parmesan Reggiano and, if you like, sprinkled with truffle oil, these fries are from another planet compared to fast-food.
By now we realize that there's no way to corral the eclectic goodies on this free-ranging list into anything resembling a traditional meal. But why try? Giddy with freedom, we order a "Harvest Moon terrine," short ribs Rioja and-although we're told it will take 30 minutes to prepare-beef marrow.
The terrine is a vegetarian delight, a tasty mélange of red peppers, beets, spinach, walnuts, cashews and pistachios. I wish the short ribs had been cooked longer because they are still a bit stringy. I also wish for more of the rich, wine-dark sauce served with them. But the beef marrow would do the Tudors proud. Served in the bone, it's sensuously delicious-and devilishly difficult to dig out. The bone aperture is too narrow to excavate with a teaspoon and the restaurant does not provide us with long, slender marrow spoons. Odd that nobody seems to have thought of that.
Also a bit odd is the fact that 116 Crown offers only two desserts. More Zen-or a subtle nudge toward after-dinner drinks? They're a tempting lot ranging from Campari to absinthe. But we stay the course and order dessert. Make that two, both chocolate.
The chocolate fudge brownie is sinfully rich and comes with vanilla ice cream and freshly whipped cream. Warm chocolate-chip cookies, shades of a perfect childhood, come with a dynamite espresso. Less is not always more but sometimes it's precisely enough. Especially when it's chocolate.
116 Crown St., New Haven (203/777-3116)
Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 4 to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday till 2. Wheelchair access, front room only. Major credit cards. Price range: plates to share from $6 to $60 (osetra caviar).