Jeffery Slade's resumé and ambition are too large to fit on small plates. But he packs a lot onto the ones at Hemisphere.
Slade's new playground is dubbed bar-lounge-restaurant, and it does come across in exactly that order. The stylized, upbeat spot livens up nightlife in Bay Shore with high-decibel music and high-octane beverages.
In this environment, Slade's carefully manicured dishes sometimes seem part of an extended, elaborate cocktail hour.
That said, however, the cocktails are well-made; the mahogany-and-granite bar, a handsome enough location for you to linger. The high-back, leather banquettes have their appeal, too.
Most of the food, as you'd expect, is fine. And anytime Slade isn't too reined-in, it's a good thing.
Slade earlier cooked at Madison's in Williston Park and the former Farmhouse in Greenport. He also has spent time at twin peaks of cuisine, The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Le Bernardin in Manhattan.
Here, his stage is sleek and modern, from the notice-me iridescent lighting to two long sections of wall art/design that at certain angles may remind you of oversize chocolate bars. It is, to be kind, compact.
The dining room staff is eager and in perpetual motion, but invariably under siege when the crowd grows. At least once, 45 minutes elapsed between removing main-course plates and the arrival of desserts. It gets hectic and apologetic.
Slade, however, sends out artfully composed pleasantries. Try the clever surf-turf union of diver scallops and crisp pork belly; or the crunchy rock shrimp paired with caramelized pineapple. Maybe Kobe beef sliders with caramelized onions and Fontina cheese on brioche rolls; or steak frites, starring braised short rib. Duck confit with endive, fried calamari on cucumber salad, and the spinach riff on Caesar salad also are very satisfying.
But the heirloom-tomato tart turns mushy; and the four-cheese crepe will remind you of a trisected mini-blintz. The vodka-brown butter-candied orange zest alliance makes beet-and-goat cheese ravioli taste like a dessert. A plate of roasted fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms and French green beans needs more verve to stand alone.
Bland "coffee & doughnuts" is far removed from The French Laundry's instant-classic cappuccino semifreddo-and-cinnamon-sugar doughnuts. Coconut bread pudding, wobbly as a flan, just collapses into itself. Much better are the cheesecake mousse, the caramelized banana spring roll, and, above all, the moist, rich flourless chocolate cake under a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Slade does tweak the menu. And there are moments when those little plates win big.