Rookies of the Year

The Top Four Restaurants of 2020

Nothing says ‘resiliency’ like a brand- new restaurant successfully claiming its territory in an already competitive dining scene, let alone against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Nevertheless, these four new hotspots have done so this year, largely thanks to outdoor seating, heightened safety precautions, top-notch cuisine, and atmospheres enticing enough to draw diners out of their houses and into face mask territories. Having survived this year, chances are they’re here to stay.

Main Street Tavern (177 Main St., Amagansett)In late July, Main Street Tavern opened its 54-seat garden in Amagansett in a well-developed bid to be the area’s favorite new, old-reliable neighborhood spot. It comes from the team behind East Hampton’s much-loved Highway Restaurant & Bar, which pulled over chef Anand Sastry from Highway (where he had led the kitchen for six years) and paired him chef de cuisine Yusuf Lovett to create and execute a menu that is equal parts sinful tavern grub and healthful, seasonal fare. There’s a lobster roll and a tuna melt, but also fennel-roasted Atlantic halibut; wings platters and ciabatta steak sandwiches, but also kale and quinoa or farro salads adorned with locally grown veggies. Big umbrellas shade the garden’s picnic tables by day, while bulb lights and votive candles usher in a convivial atmosphere for night.

Kissaki (670 Montauk Hwy. Suite E., Water Mill)

Few restaurants have retained their impeccable reputation to the degree of Manhattan sushi hotspot Kissaki during the course of the pandemic. After lockdown struck just a month after its second location opened on the Bowery (the original being in Midtown East), the restaurant quickly re-secured a safe fish supply, invested in a robot to aid the sushi- making process, and seamlessly continued offering its top-end sushi and omakase menus via deliver and takeaway in addition to sending gratis sushi boxes to healthcare workers at Mount Sinai Healthcare Center. Then in June, it opened its third location in Water Mill with outdoor seating on a beautiful patio and, more recently, a sushi bar inside. A range of chef’s choice omakase menus afford the most seasonal nigiri offerings, while sushi rice bowls and “fat-rolled” sushi rolls, nigiri and maki flesh out the rest of the menu. Rare offerings such as lean bluefin tuna, sea bream, live local scallops, salmon from the Faroe Islands and black Kaluga caviar make clear why Kissaki remains so celebrated, even in the direst of times.

Union Sushi & Steak (40 Bowden Sq., Southampton)
Bobby Vans and The Palm have long made Long Island’s steakhouse scene somewhat a mirror of Manhattan’s, making the modern new Union Sushi & Steak seem even more of a creative addition to the Hampton’s circuit. Expanding on the concept of surf n’ turf, the owners of the ever-popular Southampton Social Club and Union Burger Bar conceived their third restaurant from the notion of the Hamptons lacking a year-round sushi spot, a fresh and one-off steakhouse, and a nightlife scene for the older crowd. Union Sushi & Steak now ticks all of those boxes, with an extensive sushi menu of platters, by-the-piece and flamboyant original rolls (consider the Little Plains Roll, with fluke tempura topped by crab, scallop and tobiko, as well as sweet yuzu mayo and savory eel sauce); choice beef, pork and Australian lamb cuts offered with truffled wild mushroom sauce, gorgonzola brulle cream and Cabernet demi-

glace; and a splendid cocktail menu with options substantial and delicate enough to pair with the meat and fish both. As intended, the spot has been drawing a more mature crowd of diners so far, which only adds to its contemporary elegance.

NAIA (281 County Rd. 39A, Southampton)

The new darling on the hotel dining scene is NAIA, Capri Southampton’s just-opened poolside restaurant that has decidedly fashioned its atmosphere after the Mediterranean coast scene in the summer. Big pillowed patio furniture lines the sunny poolside, shaded by umbrellas and serviced with a special “Bathing Club” menu of fanciful light bites, such as tomato-and-mozzarella skewers, jalapeño-spiced shrimp ceviche, spinach cigars and a beautiful summer salad of spinach, strawberries and mandarin oranges. The bright, airy dining room continues to draw on the global concept with its full menu, with Branzino done in the Greek style of Lavraki, beet tartare with truffle cream, a classic filet mignon and a standout spicy lobster bisque. Knowing well its clientele, the most extensive portion of the menu is the vegetarian, with a tower of roasted vegetables, spinach rice mixed with quinoa, cacio e pepe, and a vegan Impossible burger that’s nearly indistinguishable from real beef. Other draws include bottomless brunch every day of the week, a delectable rosé tart and a fashionable crowd that errs on the younger side but remains discrete.