391 N. Windsor Ave. Brightwaters, NY 631-665-8300
Seafood restaurant also open for catering and private parties.
Hours: Mon.: Closed.; Tues.-Wed.: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat.: 4 p.m.-Midnight.; Sun.: Closed. Notable dishes: Pan-seared cod, rib-eye steak, mixed grill, tuna tartare.
Sea Levels goes above and below. The amiable New American restaurant takes over the former home of As Time Goes By and turns the place into a cozy 40-seater. Sea Levels' dining room is separated from its popular, shoulder-to-shoulder tavern by French doors. They're very valuable dividers, keeping the eatery's noise level to a modest but ever-rising buzz. It's a comfortable, homey, accommodating spot, with sofa seats as well as chairs, earth-tone beadboard wainscoting and darker walls. Consider the appointments a neutral backdrop for chef-proprietor John Peter Montgomery's colorful, satisfying food. Montgomery, who cooked at The Bridge in West Islip, serves an eclectic, creative mix. Most of it is good, and sometimes better, brought to you by a gracious, easygoing staff. A few of the tavern-menu dishes go next door, too. They include a generous chicken-and-corn chowder, with chunks of white meat; and a version of lobster bisque, with a shrimp perched on the bowl, that could have stayed in contact with the shell a bit longer. Montgomery's Long Island duck cakes are on the dry side, and the crab cakes need more crab. Tuna tartare, however, is fine, sent out with wonton chips to do the lifting. A salad of arugula, thinly sliced apple, candied walnuts and goat cheese; and the Caesar salad festooned with crisp rock shrimp, refresh the appetite. Likewise, the combo of organic greens and lightly fried, near-blond calamari. Pan-seared cod "just in from Montauk" makes a toasty, first-class trip to the table, accented by a chipotle pepper-and-mango coulis. Spice-rubbed triangles of tuna bring in an Asian note, with soba noodle salad, mellow baby bok choy and sesame-soy sauce, and add a tropical-architectural note with a vertical slice of crisp plantain. Parmesan-crusted swordfish swims in with tomato-caper sauce and rock shrimp risotto. Montgomery is equally at ease with a mixed grill of smoky jumbo shrimp, a tender lamb chop, and petit filet mignon, with sauteed spinach and herbaceous mashed potatoes. And the flavorful 20-ounce "cowboy rib-eye steak" gets a boost from blue-cheese sparked creamed spinach. But "chicken Gorgonzola," or rigatoni with breast meat in a roasted garlic-cream sauce, is surprisingly bland. Chicken Milanese, capped with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, shows up overcooked. So does a hefty, braised, barbecued pork shank. At dessert, bread pudding is dense and dried out. Instead, enjoy the hybrid "bananas Foster crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e"; the workmanlike cheesecake and apple crisp; or the brownie sundae, with malted milk ball ice cream. They keep everything afloat, including you. Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti