The Man Behind the Bistro
Chef Arie Pavlou brings flair to his menu and a delicious personality to his Water Mill Eatery, Bistro Eté. A conversation with the man reveals more than just what he cooks and where he learned to do it—picture a chef whose personality is as delicious as his food. HM checked in with Arie, and he shared his thoughts and ideas, as well as some interesting memories taken from his past connections to Long Island beyond the Hamptons.
Looking over your menu, there’s quite a bit of yummy saucing going on, which seems to lean a bit on the rich and sweet side of the palate. Does this come from training or personal preferences?
The “rich and sweet” tend to be more for the foie gras because the fresh fruity sauce pairs so nicely with the naturally savory, buttery, and creamy texture of foie gras. And yes, rich because the cream and butter holds up to the rich flavors of wine I like to pair with my meals.
More importantly, the sauces tend to change with the season. Even though the fish may be available year-round, the seasonal diet of the fish effect the flavor of the fish itself that will dictate the complementing sauce I prepare. For example, in the early summer when the striped bass are eating shrimp, their meat is sweet as opposed to the fall when they are feeding on bunker when their meat is a little more pungent, like bunker. Also, sometimes the meat/fish has so much going on you don’t want to mask it with a sauce. The saying holds true, “you are what you eat.”
Just like when I hunt, when deer are feeding on apples or grapes, it’s like your game is coming pre-marinated. So back to your question, my sauces are not preferably rich or sweet, they are made to complement the natural flavors of the game, meat or fish.
You were born and raised in Cyprus, but you also spent quite a bit of your youth on Long Island. When it comes to food, is there a “middle ground” where eating habits of the two islands in your life meet?
Not so much in my youth, but living and running my restaurant in Southold, I opened Couer d’Vigne when I was 22 years old with my family, allowed me to bring my Cypriot roots to the Island with the abundance of farmland and sea. It didn’t feel far from home, but when I felt like an All- American Hamburger, it wasn’t, and still isn’t, far away.
I understand you spent some time learning under iconic Chef Philipe Da Silva in the south of France…pretty impressive, sir! Tell us, are there any dishes that are Hamptons favorites that might be foreign to French cuisine but would be, in your opinion, a smash there?
Hmmm, I think I have to go with the Zucchini Spaghetti…I never would have put this on my menu anywhere. My wife lives on it and I refused for a long time to put it on the menu. Now, it’s one of our biggest hits.
Are there any East End hits you could tweak for an intro to France, and if there are what would you try and what sort of tailoring would you do?
If we moved our concept to France — which definitely crossed our mind on our recent trip to Paris — honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing because being Cypriot, having lived in France and being half Sicilian, I have already blended all these cuisines in my kitchen. Hence, true Mediterranean. My cooking is not pretentious, just like true Coastal Living it’s about the moment; food is to enjoy life with every forkful.
Any wrinkles or unexpected dishes coming our way?
If I were to tell you they wouldn’t be unexpected. That’s the most fun I have, when I create a dish at 4:30 pm for a 5:00 pm dinner service. That’s how my salad dressing was created on the opening night of Coeur d’Vigne. On a whim I whisked together some ingredients because I didn’t want a traditional vinaigrette and it’s now one of my best-selling to-go items.
Time to talk about perfect plates and pairing, which should be great for you as drinks at Bistro Ete are smashing. What’s your top recommendation from your menu for people making their way to the Hamptons for the first time this year, and what’s the best drink to pair it with?
First start off with one of my custom cocktails made with all fresh-pressed juices; we don’t have cans. If I can’t get the fruit fresh and squeeze it, it’s not available. The favorite “opener” is our Pink Grapefruit with house-infused, homegrown rosemary vodka and fresh- squeezed pink grapefruit to order. We’ll stop with that because we can fill the page with our seasonal cocktails.
Fast-forward to mid-July, and it’s HOT. A group coming back from a boating trip stops in and is looking for something with some “cool” to it. What’s your perfect plate and paired drink for this situation?
For drink, Caribbean Mule with our Pyrat Aged Caribbean Rum with a splash of ginger beer and fresh-squeezed lime. Boating just makes me think of pirates so that’s perfect. Hungry? Perhaps start with Long Island’s own Crescent Farm duck wings served with house-made BBQ jerk sauce and an order of our day boat ceviche.
Jumping forward in time again, and now it’s September, Tumbleweed Tuesday has come and gone. The days are warm but the nights are chilly. A couple seeking a romantic bite arrives. What’s the dish and drink to add a little heat to the occasion?
My spicy margarita is always in season and adds heat to any occasion with my house-made margarita mix and heat from my homegrown habaneros. As for dinner, oysters are always a good aphrodisiac, especially when they are covered with champagne caviar sauce. Then, pair a sexy bottle of Bordeaux with my striped bass smothered in a champagne truffle sauce!
Anything new and interesting happening on the Bistro Eté menu for the season we should know about?
The Zero: this will be a Zero Point Weight Watchers Dish on our menu. If you’re not familiar with the program, WW has a list of foods you can eat without tracking. This entrée will have only those items in it without lacking tastiness.
Cooking Demos are new for the season. I started doing Demo, Wine, and Dine classes over the winter for private parties. We started to offer them to everyone and it’s taking off. Lots of fun to be had, great food to eat, and delicious wines to pair!
760 Montauk Highway, 631-500-9085, bistroete.com, @bistroete