The wave of change transforming Gurney's, Montauk's oceanfront resort, crests with Scarpetta Beach.
This is the ambitious offspring of the Meatpacking District mainstay. It succeeds The Seawater Grill, last year's much-publicized production, which lasted slightly longer than the tide.
The overhaul that yields Scarpetta Beach is even more dramatic than The Seawater Grill replacing its predecessor, The Sea Grille, a time capsule of nautical, continental kitsch that defined dining here for decades. The second makeover has a sleeker, airier design with seaside hues and endless-summer style. Dine inside or on the deck. Take in the beach and the whitecaps.
Scarpetta Beach arrives via LDV Hospitality. LDV has restaurants and bars across the country. Star chef Scott Conant, who established the original Scarpetta and is involved with some others, isn't in the kitchen here. The Montauk team is Jorge Espinoza and Jon Oh.
Their repertoire includes Conant classics and Scarpetta staples. And the results are extraordinary.
Raw yellowtail, finished with olio di zenzero, ginger oil, is subtle, marine, refined, perfect. Preserved truffle turns a tuna "susci" roll into an East-West treat. Sunchoke and citrus accent excellent fluke crudo. A crisp fritto misto of calamari, shrimp, squash, lemon and a few irreverent anchovies makes you forget the last 100 you've tasted.
Mix a fricassee of truffled mushrooms into intensely creamy polenta. And, above all, order pastas. They're sensational, from the concentrated simplicity of spaghetti with tomatoes and basil to the lush complexity of duck-and-foie gras ravioli drizzled with a Marsala reduction; elegant tagliatelle with lobster, asparagus and basil bread crumbs to either soulful cavatelli tossed with guanciale, goat cheese, fava puree and mint or short-rib agnolotti emboldened with a tease of horseradish.
Braised short ribs also stand out with vegetable- and-farro risotto. Jus flecked with chicken liver ideally complements juicy chicken with spaetzle. But the kitchen soars with seafood. Black cod with caramelized fennel, wild striped bass touched with a jus of pepperoncino, and pan-seared halibut with a brioche-bread crumb crust, leeks, endive and salsa verde are terrific.
So are all desserts, led by limoncello semifreddo, coconut panna cotta with caramelized pineapple and guava "soup," and an espresso budino with hazelnut gelato.
Scarpetta Beach is slated to stay open all year. It's the first Gurney's dining room to rival the great location. Today, this is unquestionably the best restaurant in Montauk and in the top tier on Long Island.