The Inn Spot on the Bay
32 Lighthouse Rd. Hampton Bays, NY 631-728-1200
Centered by a building that dates back to the 1850s, and featuring full views of Shinnecock Bay, this restaurant and inn provides an elegant, year-round place to stay and dine in the Hamptons. Guests can lodge in either the main house or in villas (rates change seasonally), all of which have private bathrooms, air conditioning and cable TV. The restaurant is open Thursday thru Sunday for dinner and Sunday brunch (and for lunch daily during the summer season), with a menu of salads, sandwiches and soups plus appetizers, and full entrées for dinner created in contemporary style - all set to be closed by a selection of desserts, and possibly followed (or preceded) by a number of cocktails.Hours: Restaurant hours: Thu: 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri - Sat: 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sun: 9 a.m.3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Reservations: Recommended Credit cards: Accepted
Shinnecock Bay beckons from the dining room windows, so close that you half-expect to see a chef returning with a bucket of shellfish for tonight's meal.
It's change of seasons in the country.
The Inn Spot on the Bay, Hamptons in location and New England in spirit, is a comfortable, homey restaurant that rapidly juggles traditional and contemporary cooking. Mostly, it works.
This Inn Spot, which opened last spring, is the ambitious scion of The Inn Spot in Quogue, a popular breakfast/lunch eatery also owned by executive chef Colette Connor and pastry chef Pamela Wolfert. The chef de cuisine at The Inn Spot on the Bay is George Torres, whose local experience includes stints at the departed Duke's in East Hampton and Bistro 26 in Hampton Bays.
Here, they oversee a bucolic destination, a place as sunny and warm as the yellow and white hues that define the dining room.
The main house dates to 1902.
But the kitchen moves to the present. The Inn Spot on the Bay serves brittle tapioca crisps as bread. The menu advises: "At your request we will bake a French baguette; this however will take some time and is subject to an additional charge."
Before you think a major bakery has opened in the back, know that you'll receive a pale, bland piece suitable only for an underseasoned bean sprout hero. And, as Woody Allen would add, there's so little of it.
Smuggle in your own oyster crackers for the light, Manhattan-style Shinnecock Bay fish chowder. The Inn's "creamy lobster bisque" has smooth texture, but no great depth of flavor. There is, however, a cute pastry lobster to identify it aswim on the surface.
Things improve with the plump, steamed mussels, in a lively white wine-Thai chile sauce. The "crisped calamari" are crunchy enough and good, as are the house's fried oysters.
But the shrimp-and-crayfish rolls, billed as coming with a "Vietnamese dipping sauce," are pretty dull. Instead, pick the straightforward shrimp cocktail.
Salads are respectable alternatives. The house salad tosses pine nuts, currants and local goat cheese amid the mesclun; the Caesar gets a boost from pecorino Romano; and the snappy seaweed salad is juiced up with sweet rice wine and toasted sesame seeds.
Steamed lobster "in the rough" is a logical main course, and it arrives moist and unadorned. The lobster potpie also is recommended, with sweet meat, peas and carrots in a modest bechamel-style sauce, under a tasty pastry crust.
Seafood Newburg, shellfish in a sherry-shot cream sauce, is mellow and fairly light compared with the rich and buttery textbook version. Crab cakes, with Israeli couscous, dried cranberries and scallions, compete favorably, too.
Delicate, pan-roasted striped bass benefits from a subtle ginger beurre blanc. And wild salmon, soft in texture and comparatively refined in taste, is steamed in parchment with a julienne of vegetables for a deluxe diet plate.
For a heartier entree, there's chicken-fried chicken and all it implies, from the cream gravy to the mashed potatoes and creamed spinach with a generous dose of nutmeg. It's very good. So is the blunt, meaty, pan-roasted chicken.
Beef Wellington is a dish best left to history, and the Inn Spot's rendition does little to inspire a revival: dry beef, soggy pastry. Have your filet mignon undisguised.
Skip the overdone version of cassoulet. Here made with duck confit, chicken, sausages and white beans, it will have you thinking less of menus in southwest France than south- central Suffolk. The change of seasons already may have claimed it.
The house version of tarte Tatin, with creme fraiche, is limp stuff. You're better off with the crackling creme brulee or the near-flourless chocolate cake with ice cream.
Or content yourself by looking out the window. That's summer on the horizon.