Tuesday, August 28, 2007

High Tide and High Marks in Huntington Harbor

117 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY
Dined: Multiple Times
Review: 8/28/2007

Long Island dining has always had the proverbial chip on its shoulder; although once in a while there are restaurants that flow through a menu with the refinement of the finest in the country, the shadow of Manhattan is always lingers. A LI diner cannot help but think in his head, the menu is contrite, forumlaic, catering-down to the simple tastes of the locals. However, executive chef Richard Farnabe, formerly of Montrachet, Daniel, and Jean Georges fame, has entered the Long Island dining scene on fire. His contemporary take on American style cuisine, while imparting French flare along the way, has blown away its competitors leaving Prime far and alone one of the best the Island has to offer.

Atmosphere (10/10): The restaurant is a huge sprawling complex featuring many intricate and thought-out spaces. The main dining room, as well as an outdoor dining patio, and dockside seating, give a breathtaking view of Huntington Harbor. Although this would make one wary that the day after Labor Day, not a soul will be in sight at this hotspot, I would beg to differ. Prime opened in December of 2006 to rave reviews from Newsday and the NY Times. Since, it has been the "it" restaurant for LI diners. There are two bars, one outside and a long, curvy "wave bar", which is directly across from the gleaming open kitchen where Chef Farnabe deftly handles his trade. Adjacent to that is a separate lounge for sipping cocktails and watching the game. This room has a distinct feel, almost like a lodge. Oddly placed, a full sushi bar with a large communal tables for diners sans reservations. There is an additional outdoor lounge overlooking the harbor as well. Large parties have the luxury of being placed in their Vine Room, which is a closed off private room with a prime view of their massive glass-enclosed wine cellar. This room can be divided if there is overflow of walk-in guests.

Food (8/10): Prime shows that a restaurant need not have the best food to be the best restaurant. Although I sing Chef Farnabe's praises, the food is not the main singer in this band. I would highly recommend for an appetizer their clams 'casino' which arrive with a crispy Pesto breadcrumb filling. Also, their bisque with a crab foam emulsion is also quite tasty. However their "Tower", a stack of mozzarella and tomato arrives dry, underseasoned and unappealing.

Entrees to enjoy include the Veal Chop "Parmeasean" in the literal sense; crusted with a Parmeasan breadcrumb topping, is tender and moist with the nutty tang of the cheese. The pasta side is confusingly dull and flat compared to the rest of the dish. Also, the Wellington featuring filo-pastry wrapped lamb is absolutely delicious. Pass on their salt-crusted Branzini which is a miniscule portion and will most definately leave you hungry. If you want to splurge, the Thermidor, their heavyweight weighs in at $46 dollars, features a tender, juicy Filet Mignon topped with a lobster tail. Also, you can also enjoy their steaks and chops a la carté, as the owner, the Bohlsen family, is adept at the steakhouse business (Teller's in Islip). Remember though, when you import a Manhattan-style chef, you will get Manhattan-size portions, so caveat emptor.

Desserts are hit or miss. Particularly enjoyed the panna cotta with balsamic glazed strawberries. Try the fun, Mid-Summer delight, featuring a chocolate covered Banana pop. The nutella filled beignets are far too filling for a dessert course, but sure are decadent. Skip the cherry cobbler, which doesn't come with the expecting crunch top.

Drink (7/10): Although the wine list is incredibly overpriced, it is very extensive, featuring over 800 wines, and 20 by the glass. There are a few gems in there to be found (look closely though, most wines are in the $75-150 range).

Service (10/10): The service and management at Prime could not be any better. Warm, but incredibly professional. They are very good at what they do. The GM, Antonello Paganuzzi, is often seen running food to the guests, and working in the kitchen as well. The sommelier flys around the dining room helping guests with his hand-picked wine list, and is not stuffy in the least.

Overall Rating: Excellent (35/40, 88%)

Overall Assessment:
After multiple, multiple visits to Prime, I'm smitten. This this restaurant is a fine addition to the Island and has been well received by critics alike. I highly enjoy this restaurant and give it my highest recommendation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Taking a walk on the mild side...

Wild Fin
368 New York Ave.
Huntington, NY 11743
( 631) 549-5757
Dined 8/19/2007
Reviewed 8/23/2007

After my last sucessful venture into Huntington Village, I decided to take another dining journey. This time, just across the street to Wild Fin, although this spot is anything but wild. Granted, I decided for an early Sunday dinner on a fairly dreary evening, but when I say that me and my guests were the only ones in the restaurant, I mean it. Something about empty restaurants gives me the impression that there's a secret about this place that I wasn't let in on. Regardless, the dining commenced...

The restaurant's ambiance is similar to that of Tom Schaudel's Coolfish; once a nice place but seems a tad run down. The lighting was harsh and not typical of the trendy atmosphere that many Huntington restaurants are known for.

Our server was very knowledgable about the dishes on the menu. He made very thought-out suggestions and was very convivial to my guests and I. For starters, go with the Portuguese style mussels with a spicy Andoullie sausage mixed into the broth giving a classing sauteéd mussels dish a much needed makeover. Stay away from the pan seared diver scallops which arrive unimaginative with a warm spinach salad that doens't truly compliment the mild elegance of the shellfish. For salads, I would recommend the hearts of romaine which come with a generous helping of buttermilk fried rock shrimp, prosciutto, and a delectable lime vinagrette dressing.

The entreés arrive plated generously with sprinklings of paprika (would have rathered Old Bay?. The Jambalaya is authenticly Creole and hearty - also with andoullie sausage and spicy broth. The pan-roasted Atlantic Salmon is not a hit, though. The black bean and corn risotto are an amorphous mush, and don't meld with the other flavors of the dish very well. Those flavors, mind you, that I still haven't figured out, since I don't believe it came with any of the promised key lime-maple emulsion which sounded particularly interesting.

The wine list is fair and moderately extensive. Overexterted into Italian and American Reds, which seems peculiar for a seafood restaurant.

Final assesment: Although the food is well-executed, it's time to appeal to a larger audience. The atmosphere of this "nice" seafood restaurant certainly turns a wild night...mild.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Honu Kitchen & Cocktails

Honu Kitchen & Cocktails
363 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY
Dined: 8/16/2007
Review: 8/17/2007
Atmosphere (9/10): Walking into Honu from the quaint village of Huntington makes it feel like you've been transported to a trendy downtown East Village restaurant in Manhattan. The room is dark, with candles on each table. The decor is most black themed, must different than the Hawaiian feel it had in its previous life as Blue Honu. Palm trees have been replaced by bare steel colums and big red curtains.

Service (8/10): The server was very attentive and knowledgable about the menu, which is impressive since it has only been open a little over a month. I asked for recommendations. Some were spot on, others not so much. Checked back with us many times to make sure we were still enjoying ourselves. The manager checked in with us and we told him this was a great addition to the Island.

Food (7/10): The concept behind Honu is "small plates"; very similar to a tapas bar or, depending on the restaurant, some Manhattan-sized entrees! The staff describes the food as "larger than appetizers but smaller than entrees". Although this depends on your interpretation of appetizer and entree size, it was pretty accurate. I would highly recommend the short-rib stuffed piquillo peppers. Also, the beef tenderloin with a Maytag Blue Cheese reduction was excellent. I would stay away from the over-Cilantro'd Red Snapper with mango, as well as the overwhelming bacon-y dish, Pork and Peaches. Everything on the menu seemed to match the theme of 'small' plates and small bites, though. Most dishes were priced between $12-$16.

Drink (6/10): Although the name implies some signature "cocktails", the drink menu itself is somewhat underwhelming. The peach mojito seemed enticing, but decided to pass. The wine list is small but very familiar to many guests. Most bottles between $40-$60 dollars but go way up into the $300 range. Also, Silver Oak Cabernet by the glass is a big plus when you would like to indulge a bit ($35/glass).

Overall Rating: 30/40, 75%

Overall Assessment: Very good addition to the island. Tapas and small plates seem to be catching fire in other parts of the country, why not the baby brother to Manhattan? Will definately go back for a reasonably-priced, trendy dinner.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

welcome to my epicurean dungeon...

I already know what you're asking...what good is another blog in this endless sea of e-opinions? Allow me to introduce myself before I'm placed on trial.

I am a 20-something young male in the New York/Long Island area. I work two full-time jobs to support my passions. What are those passions, you may ask? I love food. I love wine. I love dining. To me, the restaurant itself is an incredibly poetic place for everything in life. Without food, there is no life, so isn't it natural for restaurants to hold this almost primal place in all our hearts?

Also, in the efforts of full disclosure, one of those two jobs is as a server in a restaurant. I think its safe to say that I know a thing or two about how restaurants are run and/or how they SHOULD be run.

Join me on my quest to find true restaurant zen in a sea of endless choices in this area. I'll post you some of my favorites (and unfortunately, my not so favorites) along the way. I love feedback from others, so please...bon appetit.