Think about your last dinner date. How did you go about selecting the restaurant? Did a friend or family member recommend it? Did you choose based on the plethora of good reviews? Or did you choose a restaurant based on familiarity? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you fell victim to the dinner date routine! We can sympathize. We’ve been there before and while routine is not necessarily a bad thing, it can get a little boring after awhile. Tonight, we ventured into an Indian restaurant that masquerades as a small hotel and quaint little bakery/cafe that hides across from a Citco gas station on the Berlin Turnpike.
Haveli India Restaurant
Overall Grade: B+
Location: 1300 South Main St., Middletown, CT
Atmosphere: 8.5/10-Haveli India Restaurant rests just off the highway in the middle of nowhere. There are no other restaurants nearby. This is why Haveli India Restaurant qualifies as a M.O.N.E (Middle of Nowhere Establishment) instead of a hole in the wall. This intrigued and confused us. If we hadn’t been looking for Haveli, we would have dismissed it as a modest hotel. When we first entered Haveli, we were reminded of the Stanley Hotel from the 1980 horror flick The Shining. We noticed the same, creepy rug pattern and to add to horror-esq vibe, were the only ones there! Fortunately, an older couple and a family arrived shortly after us and the creepiness wore off. We found the Indian paintings pleasing and dug the authentic music as well. The track repeated after 15 minutes or so. Authentic music enhances any restaurant environment. We would have loved more variety.
Service: 9/10- Service is a “make it or break it” deal for restaurants. Bella Anthony’s cracked under pressure with only four small groups of people. Haveli’s served about the same amount with ease. They handed out the menus as soon as we sat down, delivered the food in a short amount of time (while it was still hot and fresh) and constantly refilled the drinks at every table. We never needed to ask for “more” of anything and we didn’t have to wait long for a check. The waiters weren’t too personable but they compensated with their dependability.
Price/Selection: 8/10- The price is fair but it is somewhat disproportionate to the amount of food you receive. We expected larger portions but that can be a petty American bias. Haveli’s offers a wide selection in terms of hot/cold appetizers, vegetarians specialties, seafood specialties, chicken and lamb specialties, Indian bread, Kebab’s, rice, and desserts. Haveli only offers a small amount of Indian drinks such as Lassi, a salted or unsalted yogurt drink that is flavored with sugar, rose water, or crushed cumin seeds. The American/Euro-centric amount of drinks could pertain to general pickiness.
Taste: 9.5/10- We ate “seafood” that tasted like a TV dinner at Red Lobster earlier today so we welcomed the savory taste of Haveli’s dishes. Highlights include- the extra doughy bread that soaked up flavor residue like a sponge, the coconut flavored white rice and the curry that complimented our taste buds and cleared our sinuses. We strongly recommend the chicken or vegetarian curry if you are losing your Indian-cuisine virginity or if you long to revisit your first taste of Indian cuisine with an enlightened perspective.
In a nutshell-35/40- Haveli India Restaurant scores a solid B+ in total and an A in taste. We cannot emphasize this enough. This is one of the more authentic Indian restaurants in Connecticut. We recommend you stop by for the exquisite taste, the fast service, and of course, the Shining vibe.
Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop
Overall Grade: B
Location: 262 Brockett Street, Newington, CT
Disclaimer: We base this grade off of only the dessert/cafe experience. Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop also offers a wide variety of specialty cakes. If you’re looking for potential catering, we strongly recommend you contact Vida Doce and schedule an appointment. You should also look for personal reviews from previous customers who used Vida Doce’s catering services. We can say that the cakes look creative and simply stunning.
Atmosphere: 9/10-Vida Doce’s interior looks adorable. It has plenty of tables for two, which is an unspoken welcoming for couples to sit, sip some cafe drinks and socialize. I secretly longed for some mellow music for my girlfriend and I to chill out to. There was something special about sitting right next to window while the snow fell (even though I normally hate snow after December). The vibe is inherently New England and somewhat reminiscent of the cafes I visited in Paris. I longed to share that experience with her so it was nice finding a place that hinted of French tranquility.
Service 10/10: Vida Doce’s staff is very personable and very organized. We appreciated their pleasant demeanor and the fact that they refrigerated our take-home food while we ate and talked. The staff also keeps the place very clean without a single crumbs in sight! If you’ve visit enough cafes, you’ll notice that is not always the case. Finding a cafe in which the staff doesn’t need to wipe down the tables before you sit is a rarity. The length of time the customers spent in Vida Doce also speaks to their excellent service.
Price/Selection: 7/10 Vida Doce loses a few points on its price and selection. The pastries average $3-5 per portion. This wouldn’t be a problem if Vida Doce provided larger portions. We finished our pastries in very little time and we were already pretty stuffed from Haveli. The pastry selection lacks some variety. The desserts on display looked appetizing but they left us wanting more to choose from. One can probably attribute the lack of variety to the fact that Vida Doce specializes in its special event cakes. We surveyed plenty of variety in this category! Vida Doce is also a fairly new establishment. You’ll notice that the pastry portion of their website is “under construction.” They do not list their pastry at the counter so you need to ask. They are probably still in the experimental phase with these categories.
Taste: 8/10-We felt satisfied with the taste of our pastries. We could easily differentiate these pastries from the pre-made imitations that other restaurants attempt to market as gourmet food. Their cafe selection wins in the taste category, however. We recommend you try the cappuccino or some mocha. The succulent flavor rivals that of Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts. Best of all, they serve it in a large cup and fill it to the top. Chain restaurants that supposedly specialize in cafe drinks will often fill it only three-quarters full. *Cough McDonalds*
In a nutshell-34/40– Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop scores a high B in our book. They are new and promising so this grade is definitely subject to change for the better. We recommend you visit for the cafe, the friendly service, the adorable tables for two and make your own judgement on the size-portion ratio of the pastries. If you’re interested in specialty cakes, please visit their social network sites or stop in for a visit.