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Acacia review

"Acacia's Best" mussel pot includes lobster, black truffles,

"Acacia's Best" mussel pot includes lobster, black truffles, pancetta and cheese fondue at Acacia in Huntington. (Jan. 11, 2014) Credit: Daniel Brennan

There's a sharp, new show under way opposite the Paramount theater.

Acacia rapidly takes root in Huntington with energy, style, music and a lot of mussel pots. It's full-flavored and fun.

The subtly lit, storefront restaurant is a few bowling alleys wide and deep enough to host a major party. Three nights a week, a DJ raises the decibels. And on Wednesdays, an acoustic guitarist keeps things in tune with the kitchen, from a comfortable space up front bookended by sofas.

Seafood is the specialty, as you'd expect from chef Matthew Maxwell, whose experience includes fishwork at the departed Riverbay in Williston Park and The Water Club in Manhattan. He and owner Michael Cassano, stockbroker-turned-restaurateur, oversee downtown's big catch.

Their musselmania dominates the food here. But before diving in, enjoy the plump, meaty crabcakes, with lemon aioli and rounds of hot-and-sour cucumber. The house's lobster bisque is rich and thin.

A quartet of salads, including Caesar and beet-and-goat cheese, tuna tartare, and shrimp cocktail with tomato-horseradish salsa, are ample lead-ins.

"Acacia's Best" is the designation for the first mussel pot. This lavish number includes nubbins of lobster and pancetta, a whisper of black truffle and a nutty, broth-thin spin on cheese fondue that will require a second bread basket. The supporting cast is very good; and the fat Maine mussels are excellent.

Other pots have seasonings Thai, Provençal and Indian; versions suggesting bouillabaisse, cioppino and paella; and a "New Yorker" that travels to Buffalo, as in blue cheese and celery. Louisiana and Vera Cruz are represented, too.

Maxwell stands out with seared, dry sea scallops, artfully arranged on once-crisp discs of Yukon Gold potatoes and capped with a spirited leek relish. Fennel-crusted, rare yellowfin tuna arrives on a raft of Napa cabbage, pea shoots and bean sprouts, afloat in orange-ginger sauce.

In addition to the marine fare, Acacia sends out fine grilled filet mignon, with lush, generously cheesed scalloped potatoes; and tender, oven-roasted organic chicken breast with a hint of thyme.

You'll also find very satisfying penne with grilled fennel, Japanese eggplant, red peppers and zucchini in a roasted tomato sauce.

Desserts are thorny. A slice of chocolate polenta must have seemed good in concept. In execution, it has the texture of baby food. Apple brown Betty is more sandy than crumbly. Cheesecake and ice cream are alternatives.

But you'll still want an encore from Acacia.

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