Off the Hook was once a kitschy-casual fish market/restaurant in an East Northport strip mall. Although that place closed last year (the building that housed it was slated for demolition), a revised edition recently dropped anchor in Massapequa Park. Chef Christopher Fusaro is back at the helm, but now, he owns the multipurpose spot, which fits seamlessly into the downtown scene.
The current incarnation is much more restrained in its nautical décor than the original was. Gone are the fishnets and anchors; a marlin wall-hanging above the lobster tank is about as crazy as it gets. The focal point here is a showcase filled with fresh, glistening seafood. Up front, a little dining space with table service seats about 16.
You may want to start with a big bowl of local clams in a garlic-white wine sauce. They’re plump and briny, served with garlic bread to sop up the sauce. Fusaro makes a crabcake that’s big and crab-intense, with breadcrumbs playing only a minor role. But a somewhat gritty breadcrumb topping detracts from his clams oreganata featuring whole mollusks. On days when a bowl of chowder seems obligatory, the New England version is a rich and creamy choice. The tomato-based Manhattan chowder is rife with chopped clams and vegetables but a bit heavy on the dried herbs.
Judicious spicing complements rather than overwhelms an entree of Cajun grilled swordfish. The generous cut of fish is served with rice and bright, fresh garlic-sautéed green beans. Those same green beans, along with a nicely baked potato (thankfully, no foil wrapping), accompany a well-turned-out slab of grilled wild salmon in a miso teriyaki glaze. In the case of fish and chips, Fusaro produces crunchy-crisp logs of snowy cod but serves them with previously frozen fries unworthy of sharing the same plate.
Fish sandwiches excel. True, a fried shrimp po’boy may not technically fit the New Orleans-style definition, since it’s served on a butter-grilled brioche bun rather than French bread. Even so, the sandwich — with fried shellfish, a spicy rémoulade, lettuce, tomato and red onion — is all the easier to eat. The same holds true of a crisp fried flounder sandwich. A thick grilled tuna steak, done precisely to specs, also works well on that same bun. Accompanying all, in addition to fries, is likable coleslaw that’s a trifle sweet.
There are no desserts, and the place doesn’t have a liquor license either. What it does have, though, is friendliness and seafood so fresh it’s just about off the hook.