The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.
Its less than a mile from the Nautical Mile, but Pier 95 is a world away from Long Islands most boisterously notorious waterside bar scene. Located alongside Freeports tranquil Hudson Canal, the 11-year-old restaurant exudes a sense of gracious, subdued calm.
That calm came after quite a storm: In October, Sandy almost destroyed the restaurant. The unanticipated renovation that followed, however, has left Pier 95 in tiptop shape freshly painted, furnished and decorated.
Like most waterside restaurants, Pier 95 focuses on seafood but it does so with a Portuguese twist. Owner Ramiro Santos and chef Manuel Fernandes were born in Portugal, and their menu is infused with the gutsy, simple fare of their Iberian homeland.
Before I even glanced at the menu I was transported by Pier 95s dense, moist broa (Portuguese bread) and a glass of lightly effervescent Vinho Verde. These proved worthy accompaniments to a first course of octopus, braised into tenderness and bathed in paprika, garlic and good olive oil. (The bread came in handy when the octopus was finished.)
After such a generous appetizers, I opted for another starter: croquettes made from dried codfish (the indestructible Portuguese staple, bacalhau, which no doubt enabled Magellan to circumnavigate the globe). Beautifully fried, and garnished with frizzled leeks and sitting in a puddle of tomato-herb sauce, they were much more delicate, but no less delicious, than the octopus.
Pier 95 is at 95 Hudson Ave., Freeport, 516-379-9898, pier95.com.