Jellyfish is an aquatic museum. A party venue. A historic 19th century "cottage." And, oh yes, a restaurant whose kitchen is commanded by all-star chef James McDevitt, its sushi bar under Morimoto alum Johnny Shih.
Like the creature for which it's named, the restaurant is an amorphous entity that slips precise definition. Enter via a downstairs corridor, to piped-in dance music. You'll pass an eerily lit room filled with aquarium tanks, plus a trout pond. Upstairs, check in -- and check out the grand staircase, over which hangs a trio of stunning Murano glass jellyfish fixtures.
The view of Centerport Harbor pairs well with the namesake lemon basil martini. After ordering, you'll get a gratis loaf of sourdough bread, cross-hatched and laced with melted mozzarella, Parmesan and Gruyère and scallions, to be pulled apart by hand. It's big and messy, and your appetizer hasn't even come yet.
The sushi, though, is pure refinement. From Shih comes eye-opening hamachi sashimi, slices of yellowtail topped with fresh jalapeño and cilantro in a pool of yuzu sauce. Scallop tiradito is delicate, refreshing; a lush volcano roll detonates discreetly on the palate.
McDevitt, who once starred at Four Food Studio in Melville and the late Two Steak & Sushi Den in New Hyde Park, came into the job at the last minute and inherited parts of the menu. It's sort of New American, with Asian influences and an emphasis on seafood.
He does well, given the challenges. Tender, meaty syrah-braised octopus with white bean puree and piquillo peppers have a hearty allure. Better still is McDevitt's rich, roasted-chestnut soup, served in a mini tureen, an opulent slab of seared foie gras on top. An autumn salad with kabocha squash, frisee and pomegranate seeds honors the season.
Roasted chicken with potato puree is crisp-skinned, juicy, herbal -- great cold-weather eating. So, too, Maine diver sea scallops with cauliflower puree. But Cantonese-style lobster with pork belly and vegetables in a thick brown sauce doesn't quite come together. Lobster is put to better use in house-made trofie pasta, sunchokes and spinach. While L.I. duck breast with creamy faro and plums has lovely flavor, the plate looks so very brown. Scottish salmon: cooked to dryness. Another night, though, spiced tuna loin is a triumph: roseate, velvety spice-rimmed slices of fish juxtaposed against charred tomato and piquant salsa verde.
Desserts, by McDevitt's wife, Stacey, are homey and very good -- sticky toffee cake and autumn crumble with vanilla gelato among the favorites.
On your way out, you may get a tour of the downstairs aquarium. Who knew that the male sea horse can get pregnant?