160 Adams Ave. Hauppauge, NY 631-436-7330
Critic rating:Type: New American, Restaurant Special features: Bar scene Price range:
New American menu, live music Friday nights.Hours:
Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday.Ambience:
Rekindling requires a spark.
And the apropos pyrotechnics are in progress at The Grill, where new owners Michael Silva and Michelle Clarke have their production en route to ignition.
They’ve already brightened their part of the industrial park address. The Grill’s predecessor, The Grill Room, poured and cooked here for more than two decades.
This isn’t a part of town competing for architecture prizes. It was, and is, a colorless collection of office buildings that makes Motor Parkway seem like Las Vegas Boulevard. For reasons that don’t include neon, the whole complex looks better at night.
Over the years, however, the “Grill” end of the angular strip has been the equivalent of an oasis for anyone working nearby.
The Grill continues its role as the lure under executive chef Michael Heinlein, unless you’re swiftly seduced by The Sexy Salad, sushi at Umi, or surrender to the sandwiches of Dunkin’ Donuts. There are a few other alternatives, almost all of which will inspire you to spend more time at the bar here.
But it’s a polished one, on the edge of the dining room, where you may see solos channeling “One for My Baby,” more upbeat guys touring the taps, and energetic duets in a hurry veer toward pulled pork tacos and dry-rubbed, roasted chicken wings.
The bartender is invariably patient and polite, listening and mixing, unafraid of eye contact and what must seem the first of many far-reaching conversations. And the restaurant itself can be pleasant enough, courtesy of an earnest, friendly and periodically hovering staff.
There’s live music two nights a week. Expect a two-piece, rock-meets-jazz, FM-style program on Friday; and a Saturday piano player, who opens the Great American Songbook. The crowd is in tune with it, perhaps content to miss most of the contributions from this year’s higher-maintenance Grammy winners. It leads to a mood a lot more easygoing than hyper-charged, under the soft lantern lights and harder industrial ones.
The kitchen, as if patterned after the design, looks for a comfortable, shock-free middle ground. Everything is straightforward; any surprise seems accidental.
Flavors favor the sweet much more than the spicy. “Pissed off’’ prawns keep their anger in check. “Burnt ends” taste more like mild nuggets of filet mignon ordered medium-well than the coveted, charred, bark-like tips of brisket so beloved at better barbecue joints.
The banh mi spring roll of “Asian spiced” pulled pork materializes timid and overdone; most salads are as underdressed as Sports Illustrated’s bathing suit issue. Spongy waffles don’t partner well with the braised beef short rib.
Dishes that matter at The Grill include the duo of juicy, cooked-to-order Kobe beef sliders and midday sandwiches; the oven-roasted and dry-rubbed chicken wings; and a meaty, well-seasoned crabcake with shaved apple-and-fennel salad
Likewise, the hefty pork chop stuffed with prosciutto, spinach and Havarti cheese; a Portuguese-inspired seafood stew with a jolt from chourico sausage; and, especially, the pan-roasted local striped bass, served with a pilaf of red quinoa and couscous, caramelized cauliflower, and carrot-coconut broth.
Skip the weary desserts, whether apple-ginger cake or cappuccino crème brûlée. Someone must be working on a light-my-fire finale. The Grill has the tinder.