2 Spring St., Oyster Bay
SERVICE: Poised and informed, with as-needed assists from all hands
AMBIENCE: Cozy, contemporary bistro with lots of brick, glass, sultry lighting and tables close enough for eavesdropping
ESSENTIALS: Open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 pm., Thursday to Saturday noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10:30 p.m.; reservations essential for dinner and recommended for lunch; major credit cards accepted; challenging for wheelchairs
For a hamlet ringed by some of Long Island’s wealthiest pockets, Oyster Bay’s dining scene has long been relatively low key. It was probably inevitable, however, that a restaurant like 2 Spring would one day arrive.
Inside this polished New American spot, which opened on a downtown corner this winter, dinner can be an adventure, with small plates as compelling to look at as they are to eat. To test this theory, start with 2 Spring’s spot prawn crudo, deconstructed into dewy, sweet flesh beaded with caviar and shells fried into briny snacks that crackle with each bite.
At the controls is chef Jesse Schenker, who has two well-regarded Manhattan restaurants (Recette and The Gander, both now closed) under his belt and was lured east by building owners Claudia and Michael Taglich. His quirky talents have found a seductive setting: By night, 2 Spring takes on an almost enchanted feel, with lots of glass, brick, sultry lighting and sleek lines. An inviting bar and a few tables cluster downstairs, and upstairs, the loft dining area feels like an aerie. Every detail seems to have been considered, from heavy, faceted water glasses to a teal leather banquette that extends through the downstairs dining room. With only 45 or so seats, dinner reservations can fill long in advance. (Lunch, the only time of day to grab 2 Spring’s slightly messy burger, is better suited for more spontaneous visits.)
As befits the elegant environs, cocktails here exude poise — from sours to a rye spritz to a crystalline, warming pisco drink called Out of Fashion. Artisanal ciders, rare-ish craft beers and wines that reach to places such as Greece, the Finger Lakes and France’s Loire Valley round out a thoughtful drinks list.
The menu, equally thoughtful and sometimes offbeat, channels its coastal setting; there are multiple crudos and plenty of seafood. Seemingly disparate spices, sauces and techniques intermingle in original ways with occasional assists from shaved black truffles, foie gras and caviar — reflective, maybe, of the well-heeled crowd that hangs out here.
Servers are invariably warm and knowing, and may stagger a multicourse meal so that it might extend to three hours. That ephemeral spot prawn crudo is not a bad place to start; neither is a hamachi crudo spiked with slivered jalapeños, a lush salmon tartare with jagged rye crackers jutting from its top or a briny, excellent Caesar salad threaded with endive. A chunky chopped salad wilts from the weight of too much vinaigrette, however.
Occasionally, dishes suffer the curse of too-muchness. A delicate cod fritter is clobbered by an acidic lamb ragu beneath it. An abundance of sour tang (as well as chewy clams) overburdens linguine with clam sauce, though that same linguine is musky comfort food with black truffle mushrooms shaved over the top. (It’s petite for $45, and a fleeting indulgence — black truffle season comes to an end soon). Also opulent is pillowy roasted langoustine bookended by pork terrine, then topped with a Champagne foam, a seemingly odd pairing to which you should just surrender. Less complicated, but satisfying in an earthier way, are ribbons of short-rib meat sprawled in Romanesco sauce and smoldering with green chili heat.
Some larger plates, such as hunks of lobster and a crispy bread pudding in a harissa-spiked carrot sauce, feel overly wrought. Conversely, other feats improbably work, such as an anything-but-simple roast chicken, parts of which have been shaped into a brick of luscious confit. Or sliced, rosy-pink duck breast layered with another beguiling terrine, one laced with foie gras. A New York strip steak left mostly unadorned, save for an onion ring, is superb.
Desserts at 2 Spring, whether a deconstructed s’mores or similarly disassembled apple tart, are puzzling, requiring thought at just about the time your well-sated brain is shutting down, or steadying itself for the bill. With some small plates arcing about $30, dinner can easily top $100 a person.