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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Spanish, French
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 4:00pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–11:00pm
Sun 11:30am–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


13 River St.
New Haven, CT
(203) 878-2092
Bistro Basque
Even if the tapas are like Russian roulette, you’ll never want to leave

You enter Bistro Basque through a barrier of heavy, Baroque curtains. Beyond that is a bar area filled with dark wood, crystal chandeliers, and casual Thonet chairs at small tables. Then there’s the cozy dining room, with its paprika-colored walls, rectangular acoustic baffles on the ceiling, and tiny glass pots of wheatgrass at each table, which radiates warmth and feels like a chic secret. In warm weather, the back patio allows diners to enjoy their meals within earshot of Milford’s downtown waterfall.

The Basque region is a fascinating one; despite having its land split between French and Spanish regimes over the centuries, it adheres vehemently to its indigenous, ancient traditions. So does Bistro Basque’s menu, which is split into tapas and main courses. But beware—the tapas are larger than usual and very filling.

We’re coming back again and again for txipirones, ideally toothsome squid cooked in a deep, garlicky squid-ink sauce, served with a scoop of creamy, salty rice. This is one of the best dishes Milford has to offer.

Otherwise, we hate to say it, but quantity often trumps quality here, and seasoning is a rampant problem. A white asparagus gratin with Serrano ham has come both flavorless and overcooked—a real danger with white asparagus, whose firm texture is its main delight. A mushroom flan sounds great, but it’s a curdled mass of monotony; the accompanying sauce tastes like little more than reduced cheap beef stock.

Many dishes are plated identically, making the unsexy suggestion that the kitchen is something of a mechanized tapas factory: everything comes on square plates, tapas at the corners, pile of greens in center, garnished with diced tomato. And none of these are memorable; crispy lamb ravioli taste like glorified wontons, and pork toasts are too squishy and bready to deserve the moniker (although the meat is moist and nicely cooked). Paella is made with overcooked, bland chicken and shrimp, and the saffron gets lost in the overpoweringly bell-peppery sofrito, making it taste like generic Mexican-restaurant rice.

A dessert of blueberry clafouti, though buttery and rich, suffers from the same surprisingly dull flavors that plague the savory menu. They do make a delicious, fresh, and vibrant white sangría, which we will be enjoying on the back patio—with extra txipirones.

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