Back for round two, here’s the cream of last year’s crop.
Perhaps you couldn’t get a table at Bistro Été, or you’ve been dreaming of the wagyu on brioche burger from Jobs Lane Gastro Pub ever since you had that last cheese-drenched bite last July. Whether you’ll be visiting or revisiting, these five restaurants that proved themselves on the Hamptons restaurant scene last year are well worth putting a table under your name.
Flagship (466 West Lake Dr., Montauk)
With an ocean-focused menu and Martha Stewart-esque ambiance, Flagship opened to rave reviews last year for being far more than just another sunny but mediocre seafood restaurant. Headed by the father-son duo behind East Hampton’s Bay Kitchen Bar—Adam Miller in the kitchen, and Eric behind the bar—it sets itself apart by hitting the refresh button on staple seafood dishes. A bass crudo, for instance, comes with vinegared corn, mussels are served in a lemongrass-infused miso broth, and day boat scallops come red and shiny in a pomegranate glaze.
Mixed in with the more mold-breaking recipes are salads and a raw bar for the health-focused, an ultra-fresh fish n’ chips and seafood stew flush with a pound of lobster for the purists, and bacon-flecked crab cakes and a dry-aged burger with a duck egg on top for the decadent. Eric’s drinks menu is equally extensive, divided into sections of specialty cocktails based around fruits, vegetables, and herbs; build-your-own sours; and classic cocktails served as “bottle service” for groups; as well as a long list of fine wines. Come prepared to make decisions, then let the lapping waves in the marina out front wash your cares away.
Bistro Eté (760 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill)
One of two French success stories of 2017 in the Hamptons was Bistro Été, whose menu of French dishes that span the country’s most beloved staples saw its tables continually booked out last summer. Though born in Italy, head chef Arie Pavlou received most of his culinary training in the South of France before moving to New York to continue his career, sharpening his knives at top-tier restaurants including Le Cirque 2000. In his own establishment here, though, there’s no need for high heels and suits. The décor is simple and the service is warm, his point being for diners to focus not on what or who is around them, but instead on the beautiful food in front of them.
Take, for instance, the octopus, which is arranged with grilled romaine to look like ocean waves, while thick strands of homemade papperdelle are wrapped around braised short ribs like a king’s crown—even more royal if you choose the option of having fresh black truffles shaved on top. Escargot, smoked local duck, and mushroom-brie puffed pastries are de rigueur, while vegetarian and gluten-free menus ensure that diners with dietary restrictions are welcome too. When it comes to drinks, however, Bistro Été is decidedly un-French. Rather than wine, Pavlou has developed a unique cocktail menu that makes heavy use of gourmet food items, black truffles notwithstanding. That said, happy hour shouldn’t be missed, when an order of foie gras affords a free glass of wine.
Calissa (1020 Montauk Hwy, Watermill)
Seeing that Dionysus is one of the gods most celebrated on the Greek isle of Mykonos, it’s fitting that Calissa opened last year as one of the buzziest hot spots in Watermill. After the success of a number of restaurants in Manhattan, owners Steve Tzolis and Nicola Kotsoni forayed into the Hamptons with this sun- dappled restaurant inspired by the bistros of Mykonos, where groups can come share big platters of dips and breads and veggies while drinking the day or night away.
There are big spreads of melizana and kafteri to start, and local seafood and meat dishes are kept true to what one would find in the isles—branzino in the lovely lemon salmoriglio sauce; Montauk bass under a smattering of olives, tomatoes, fennel, and potatoes; and brisket kalamaki or dry-aged “Thieves’ Lamb” with tzatziki and herbs for two. Last summer, its après-beach parties in the late afternoons were a hit with bocce ball and DJs catering to a rose-sipping crowd, so keep an eye on its calendar to see what’s in store for this year’s sunny months.
Jobs Lane Gastro Pub (10 Windmill Lane, Southampton)
For more than a decade, Hamptonites flocked to chef-owner William Oster’s Tuscan House whenever they were craving a big bowl of fresh pasta and everything drenched in olive oil. However, last year, Oster felt that it was time for a change. He closed the joint down, worked some magic, and reopened it as Jobs Lane Gastro Pub, focused on craft drinks and haute-pub fare.
You can tell just by reading the menu—“Steak Tidbits” drizzled in wine and “Gods Butter” to be spread on ciabatta with roasted femur bone— that he had fun reinventing his restaurant, and the result is a refreshing change from what’s normally seen in the Hamptons. When was the last time you saw an elk and bison burger on the menu, or wild boar chili? As is par for a pub, most of the menu is composed of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and salads that fall into that lovely category of high-end comfort food: a fish sandwich with kale and lentils, a fruity harvest salad, premium cheeses and meats on the pizzas, and sides of rosemary truffle fries. For devotees of Tuscan House, favorite items from the old menu are still available, like the Creole rigatoni, now pair-able with a much wider selection of craft beers and wines.
Lulu’s Kitchen & Bar (126 Main St., Sag Harbor)
If, on an early summer stroll down Main Street in Sag Harbor, you’re met with the smell of wood burning, don’tbe alarmed. It’s the siren call of Lulu Kitchen & Bar, a Mediterranean bistro that was opened last year by financier Marc Rowan as his third restaurant in the Hamptons. Headed by French chef Philippe Corbet, Lulu’s menu draws inspiration from countries on all sides of the Mediterranean: grilled octopus, paella, and pizzas recall the east; hummus and wood-grilled marinated artichokes the west. But Corbet’s native cuisine is undoubtedly his specialty, with classics of bouillabaisse, tartare, cassoulet, and tuna Niçoise sharing a menu with grilled halibut under Port wine onions and whole branzino with smoked tomato provençal.
Produce, meat, and seafood are largely sourced locally and are cooked, of course, on the enormous, custom-built wood oven, whose delicious aromas give a certain hominess to the sophisticated ambiance. Hop up to the bar for sundown bites of bone marrow, come in late for the post-10 p.m. menu of romantic raw bar or pizza, or enjoy a leisurely three-course meal from the prix-fixe menu.