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Hamptons feast! Best new restaurants on the East End

 

Going to the Hamptons used to mean grilling at home. One good reason
was local produce, local fish and local meats. But it was also nearly
impossible to get a reservation at the best restaurants in the area.

Now everything’s changed. Suddenly there are a lot of restaurants
worth leaving home for. Some of them will become fixtures (with
impossible reservations) before long. These restaurants share a real
pride in what Long Island
grows – fresh sweet corn from the farm stand just down the street,
flounder straight from the dock, rosé from a neighboring vineyard,
sweet strawberries hiding under their leaves in a nearby field.

For young chefs here, it’s a perfect opportunity. There’s a captive
audience of diners who are accustomed to eating in the best restaurants
in Manhattan and around the world.

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There’s also a wealth of wonderful ingredients that redefine the idea of local, which in the Hamptons means really local. In Manhattan, that often means within a 200-mile radius, but here local often means within 10 miles.

The Hamptons are now a culinary destination themselves, which is
something no one would’ve said five or 10 years ago. Here are the very
best new restaurants at the beach.

KOBE BEACH CLUB

If you’re in the mood for a $375 plate of meat – and who isn’t ? –
stop by Kobe Beach Club, a Hamptons outpost of the Kobe Club in midtown
Manhattan. The room has the feel of an eclectic nightclub – creamy
leather banquettes, subway-tile walls and chandeliers that look like
samurai-sword wind chimes. One way to over-look the prices is to order
a $15 glass of the P.I.N.K. punch. Or you can opt for a bowl of it for
$150, made of muddled strawberries, vodka, lime and rosé Champagne.
Only at Kobe by the beach can you get a summer steak salad with any cut
of beef you want, including the wagyu.

I ordered the American-raised wagyu, which had a clean minerality
and was excellent when paired with ripe chunks of apples and
gorgon-zola. 44 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton, (631) 604-2610

ALMONCELLO

Once upon a time – last year, that is – Almoncello was an average
Mexican restaurant called Almondito. But the owners have been spending
a lot of time in Northern Italy.
They not only brought back a taste for Bolognese cooking, they also
brought back a real respect for the house-made culture of Italian food.
The charcuterie platter at Almoncello is piled with fatty ribbons of
duck prosciutto, hearty fennel sausage and a melting globe of
house-spun mozzarella. The wild shrimp cavatelli comes with sweet
shrimp sausage and even homemade breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. By all
means don’t miss the scallop carpaccio, scattered with black-and-white
sea salt. Afterward, try the nutella ganache, a disassembled cannoli
made of mascarpone mousse sandwiched between crunchy hazelnut cookies. 290 Montauk Highway, East Hampton, (631) 329-6700

OSO

For the last 10 years, Peter Dunlop has been the chef at Sag Harbor’s American Hotel. Now he’s in the kitchen at Oso in Southampton,
an American restaurant that’s proud of its steaks. The $39 porterhouse
could easily feed four adults, and there’s a porterhouse for two that
would fill up a CroMagnon family. Two inches thick and charred just
right, it’s accompanied by a hand-mashed beet puree. I ordered a
wonderful blue claw crab cake speckled with peppers. The porcini
ravioli was extremely simple – mushroom slivers bound in thick, doughy
casings and spooned with a pungent Parmesan sauce. The only real
disappointment was the room itself, which is indistinctive. 91 Hill St., Southampton, (631) 283-1166

SEN SPICE

In every way, Sen Spice defies the beach. It’s dark, moody, urban,
industrial. It’s also Indian – freshly baked naan, brightly colored
chutneys and pyramids of basmati rice on nearly every table. I started
with a Mamizu cocktail, a clean, summery drink made of muddled
cucumbers, lime juice and a green sake-based liqueur called Ty Ku.
Anything from the tandoor oven is worth ordering, especially the lamb
kebab and an appetizer of chicken wings. The naans are all bubbly,
charred and fragrant. My favorite, the Peshawari Naan, studded with
raisins, cashews and coconut, might even belong on the dessert menu.
Don’t miss the succulent prawns with five types of mango, including
mango chutney and mango sea salt. 29 Main St., Sag Harbor, (631) 725-0101

SURF SHACK

Every year, it seems, there’s a new restaurant in this no-frills roadhouse on Montauk
Highway. This summer it’s the Surf Shack, and I hope it will be next
year, too. It’s flip-flop food – lobster rolls and buckets of mussels,
shrimps and clams, or (before 7 p.m.) a $12.95 steamed lobster with
fresh corn on the cob. I asked for grilled fish in the fish tacos, not
fried, and it was the right choice – a soft taco stuffed with fresh,
flaky codfish, guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce and a splendid lime crème
fraîche. The crème fraîche is a sign that there’s a 23-year-old in the
kitchen. So is the candied lime zest on the calamari salad. The chef,
who worked the line at Oceana, Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park,
is Matthew Purcell.
His cooking is as playful in spirit as the surf post-ers lining the
walls. Save room for the fresh-cooked Belgian waffles and cupcake or
apple pie ice cream. 2095 Montauk Highway, Amagansett, (631) 267-6980

THE SURF LODGE

Let’s forget that Sam Talbot
was a “Top Chef” contender. Let’s remember instead what he’s doing at
the Surf Lodge right now. He’s passionately committed to local
ingredients. And because he cooks at the tip of Montauk, he’s able to
use the very freshest fish. The flounder makes a very short trip from
Gosman’s dock to your plate, but the transformation it undergoes as it
passes through the kitchen is amazing. It’s fried whole, topped with
vinegar-soaked cherries and accented with homemade curry oil. Talbot
takes an unexpected turn in every dish. There are some surprising
combinations here – like a crab ceviche tossed with popcorn, juicy
blueberries, ginger and pickled onions. Or consider the coffee-rubbed
filet mignon or the charred scallops – rare in the center – resting on
a pedestal of pickled watermelon and seasoned with mint, smoked sea
salt, chimichurri and ricotta salata. Eat outside, if you can,
overlooking the pond. 183 Edgemere St., Montauk, (631) 238-5190

TUTTO IL GIORNO

Last year Scott Conant
was the chef here. When he left to open Scarpetta in Manhattan, the
owners redesigned the restaurant – a country house – to look exactly
the way it should have last year, with white wood beams overhead, a
long communal farm table and a fireplace painted the same weathered
gray as the rest of the room. Now the chef is Maurizio Marfoglia,
who was the executive chef at Barolo in SoHo. To my surprise, the menu
isn’t really missing Conant. There is a phenomenal ricotta ravioli with
bits of raw and cooked Granny Smith apples, and lamb ragu braised in a
red wine and cocoa reduction. I also recommend the veal paillard –
served on the bone and crowned with spicy broccoli rabe – and the
grilled Montauk swordfish, with minted cauliflower – purple, green and
white. And then, to cap off the meal, a marvelous saffron soup with
blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. 5 Bay St., Sag Harbor, (631) 725-7009

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