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.