29 May 2008

Casual Dinning on the East End

One of the pleasures of summer on the East End is having lunch at a casual place, which offers interesting and occasionally outstanding meals. Here are notes from some places where we recently have had lunch.

Jamesport Country Kitchen
1601 Main Road
Jamesport, NY 11947

Located directly on Main Road in Jamesport, this buttercup yellow house/inn offers the informed diner a wonderful meal and an opportunity to sample local North Fork wine.

The simple dining rooms are crisp and clean and reflect the sparse but satisfying food served in a pleasant country environment. Service is not only pleasant, but quite professional.

The menu features American classics and modern American interpretations of international classic, all prepared with the best ingredients and with attention to details. Go simple and you will not be disappointed.

The Country Kitchen features all local wines at reasonable prices, maybe due in part to the fact that the table next to yours may be occupied by a local winemaker or winery owner. Go local, ask for a recommendation and you will be pleased.

Jamesport Country Kitchen – Highly Recommended

Dune Road
Hampton Bays, NY 11946

A large seafood restaurant located on a fishing marina, overlooking the inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay shouts in flashing neon “Tourist Trap.”

But Oakland’s is anything but a tourist place. It is a excellent Seafood/American restaurant professionally managed with a kitchen that prepares first class American food.

In addition to the outstanding location, the New England Lighthouse designed restaurant features a large inviting bar area, a huge dining room, with panoramic windows on three sides, and a large outdoor deck and tiki bar.

The American/Seafood menu features local seafood. Frequent nightly specials include the Lobster Bash, a true New England clam/lobster bake of chowder, shrimp, clams or mussels, cob of corn and 1 ½ lb lobster.

The limited wine list is priced incredibly low. Many local wines are featured.

The wait service is surprisingly good despite many local high school students serving as the waiter/runners.

Oakland’s – Highly Recommended

Dockers Waterside Restaurant & Marina
94 Dune Road
East Quogue, NY 11942

The only East Quogue restaurant on the barrier island, Docker’s is a great place to sit outside, overlook the Shinnecock Bay and enjoy a simple American or Seafood lunch.

The beach shack d├ęcor is perfect for the location and the menu is perfect for what one seeks at such a place. Preparation by the kitchen varies between good/very good/excellent. Nonetheless, the food is always decent to very good, served in a polite and friendly manner.

A limited wine list is matched to the food and waterside environment.

Dockers – Recommended

Modern Snack Bar
628 Main Road
Aquebogue, NY 11931

The Modern Snack Bar is the iconic building featured recently in a Toyota television commercial. It is also a relic of a different era, which is played to the nines by the staff dressed in 50’s waitress outfits.

The menu is composed of American classic and a few German influence dishes such as sauerbraten. The food is prepared in a very 50’s style, over cooked and occasionally over sauced. While far from the highest level of quality or preparation, the food is very satisfying.

Wine is served, but this is not a food and wine place. Stick to soft drinks and beer.

Service is friendly and acceptable.

Modern Snack Bar - Acceptable

Cutchogue Diner
Main Road
Cutchogue, NY 11935

A historic landmark 1930's diner is located in the middle of Chutchogue, which is almost a museum in that it has more historical character than functionality.

While the architectural value is high the food value is marginal. The menu is traditional American. The kitchen, frequently one short order cook, prepares marginal food composed of quality local indigents. Prices are surprisingly high.

Local North Fork wine is served, but the selections limited.

Service is adequate.

Cutchogue Diner - Acceptable

23 Main Street
Sag Harbor, NY 11963

For years Sen in Sag Harbor was the place for sushi on the East End. The Japanese minimalist place located near the wharf area in lower Sag Harbor had the design, service and most importantly the fresh sushi that made is a destination location.

Apparently recent ownership and management changes have transformed Sen into at best a mediocre sushi place.

A recent lunch was composed of old and over cooked Endame, and some of the worst sashimi and sushi we have ever been served. The preparation was amateurish, the rice was not sticky rice and the overall composition was awful.

And as bad as the food was, the service was worst.

The limited wine list is grossly over priced.

Sen - Unacceptbale

More East End Long Island Fine Dinning

With the Summer Season here, we would like to provide our dinning notes on our most recent dinning experiences around the East End over the past few weeks.

The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn
143 Main Street
East Hampton, NY 11937

The name "The 1770 House" alone raises concerns this is one of those classical colonial American dinning places that populate New England and the Middle Atlantic states, and the appearance along Main Street in East Hampton re-enforces the stereotype that the dinning will be acceptable but not memorable.

However, once one steps inside the traditional/colonial architecture derived dinning room of The 1770 House, one realizes this is in fact one of the top restaurants one can experience anywhere.

The front staff is 100% professional, the dinning room is well laid out, the chairs and seating at the tables is comfortable. The lighting is perfect and sets a relaxed/romantic mood. The stemware, plate and silverware are first class, which sets a perfect mood for great food, wine and service. And that is exactly what one receives at The 1770 House.

The menu is composed of modern American/International cuisine, featuring local products whenever they are available. Salads use locally grown greens. Oysters on the half shell featured Peconic Pride oysters that can challenge the best world class oysters for flavor, meatiness, and texture. Main courses feature local fish, duck, and meats. The kitchen executes with near perfection. The combination of composition, ingredients, and preparation of the dishes result in a wonderful meal in a beautiful setting.

The wine list is comprehensive, featuring excellent examples of local, American, New World and European wines. Wine service is professional.

Overall the wait service is world class, and remarkable for an East End restaurant.

The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn - Highly Recommended

Plaza Cafe
61 Hill Street
Southampton, NY 11968

This hidden away restaurant with an entrance in the back of a nondescript building off a small street, is a truly a hidden gem.

The interior is somewhat neutral and nondescript with limited interior design features other than the height of the room which is impressive. The overall design is not offensive and perhaps even romantic due to a large and functional fireplace that warms the room on a cool or cold night.

The modern American menu feature local products, prepared in most satisfying ways. The menu is dominated by seafood, most of it local. While the prices tend towards the high end, during the week there are fixed priced menus that are great values, and allow a diner to sample some of the kitchen's more interesting dishes.

The wine list features American wines, including a limited number of Long Island wines. Prices are slightly higher than at comparable places, but overall the wine list is acceptable.

Service while earnest, it is not up to the high level of the food, and some management attention to service is warranted.

Plaza Cafe - Recommended

Inn Spot on the Bay
32 Lighthouse Road
Hampton Bays, NY 11946

The location of Inn Spot directly on the Shinnecock Bay just before the Ponoquogue Bridge from the mainland to the barrier island, makes it one of the most perfect places to enjoy the beauty of the East End.

The sparse New England decor matches the panoramic views from both the dinning room and porch areas, and adds to the nautical feel.

Like many East End places the service is marginal at best and sometimes far worse than that, at least based upon a recent dinning experience. While well meaning the service execution at our last meal was amateurish and occasionally down right infuriating.

The menu is modern American, with emphasis on seafood and local products. Unfortunately not all the products seem to be of the highest quality or freshness. And the execution of kitchen under the direction of a co-owner and chef is spotty. Not all preparations are first class. The recent meal had a number of lows; poor selection of oysters on the half -shell, over sauced local duck, and a very over sauced fillet Mignon.

Wine selection is limited, eclectic, fairly priced and quite acceptable.

Inn Spot on the Bay - Acceptable

755 Montauk Highway
Water Mill, NY 11976

Other than its yellow paint, Robert's would be a somewhat undistinguished saltbox located on the Eastside of Water Mill directly on Montauk Highway. The charming decor of this country inn type restaurant and garden makes an inviting environment.

The front desk was professional and willing to accommodate our reservation request.

Unfortunately based upon a very recent meal, the kitchen has lost not one recipe but all recipes. The Italian influenced menu promises far more than we experienced. Salads were sad affairs unceremoniously dropped on bowls. Pasta dishes were composed of ill prepared pasta mismatched with other ingredients and sauces that defy recognition.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that the Hamptons’ crowd that dines at the latest trendy places keeps Robert’s alive, whereas in Manhattan it would not survive a month.

The high priced wine list was acceptable.

Service while friendly, perhaps too friendly, was marginally acceptable.

We rarely have dined at a place we would not return to for at least one more opportunity for it to redeem itself, but Robert’s is not worth a return visit.

Robert's - Unacceptable