47 Front St., Greenport
SERVICE: Vigilant, warm and informed
AMBIENCE: Downstairs, a stylish bistro awash in light; upstairs, the buzzy deck of a yacht
ESSENTIALS: Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. to close; Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to close, with no food between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Closed Wednesday. Reservations encouraged; major credit cards accepted; street parking; wheelchair accessible.
“I’m not eating any fish,” half-joked a family friend one night at Anker, scanning a menu that listed — well, mostly fish. We were seated on the roof patio, feeling a little as if we were on the deck of a yacht.
Instead, we were in Greenport. At Anker, which opened on Front Street in May, chef Wolfgang Ban could probably convert the fish averse into the fish-curious, and maybe even disciples. Spare, gorgeous and subtly offbeat, Anker hums at a high frequency, and seafood is the metronome: Fluke crudo with blueberries, or grilled whole with clarified butter? Check, and check. Grilled blowfish with salsa verde? Yes, that too. Weakfish tacos drizzled with avocado crema? It’s about time.
Raised and trained in Austria, Ban arrived in New York City in the early aughts, presiding over several restaurants there, including Seäsonal and Weinbar, Edi & the Wolf, and the Third Man; at the now-closed Seäsonal, Ban and chef Eduard Frauneder received a Michelin star in 2010.
Last year, Ban came east, opening Green Hill Kitchen, another bi-level restaurant across the street from Anker, with partners Christoph and Robin Mueller. This spring, they renovated what was the Deep Water Bar & Grille into an oasis of light. Downstairs is a dining room cast in oceanic tones, with a curved bar and bistro-like tables — upstairs, a stylishly covered deck with its own bar, counters and tables, that feels like an instant hot spot.
Up and down, service is tight, and every detail seems considered, from fiery snapdragons on the tables to meticulous plates — primarily fish, vegetables and fruit — that exude OCD-level attention to detail. That precision extends behind the bar, where drinks are studies in balance, from a tamarind margarita with a kick to a dangerously smooth fusion of gin, grapefruit and lavender. The wine list is succinct and solidly Old-World, puzzling for a place that showcases local fish and produce; ask what not be off-menu, such as a juicy zweigelt rosé I drank one night.
Ingredients are mostly left to speak for themselves, and little is as you expect it to be. Instead of mignonette, oysters are dressed in tart yuzu “air” (a foam, really, and the first of many) and a sprig of dulse to up the brininess. A fluke crudo is brought to life with pops of acid from blueberries, pepper from radishes, and earth from beets; on another small plate, tender lobster meat with grilled mango and a smear of avocado uplifts via both color and gentle smolder.
This lightness of being appears over and over again: A lobster bisque that’s foamy and diaphanous, with lobster-stuffed wontons at is core. Cucumber soup that cools on a hot day, celery leaves zinging each slurp. Next to these, though, rubbery burrata with tomato pesto fell like a thud.
You could piece together a meal of small plates alone, including those blowfish, lightly charred apostrophes tasting somewhere between mackerel and flounder, or the excellent tacos lined with weakfish filets, which have more presence on a tortilla than cod ever will.
Speaking of cod, Anker’s version, an entrée, is like butter, soft and luscious, dressed in foam and celeriac puree but also undercooked fava beans, a distraction. A crisp-skinned sea bass filet was stilted by comparison, a gravelly baritone to the cod’s sparkling tenor. The kitchen’s take on a lobster roll looks as if it came together in a secret garden, and lurks underneath watercress, mizuna, and other greens. When you reach it, the lobster is almost sweet, barely adulterated, just sort of itself, chilling on a toasted bun.
This chef is Austrian, after all, and known in part for wiener schnitzel, veal pounded into wisps and fried to delicate crispness. Stewarded by aioli-slathered potato salad and creamy cucumbers, it feels straight out of the family recipe book, comforting without clobbering.
Desserts are pretty to look at but sport sometimes uneven matchups, such as an inordinately excellent basil ice cream with an otherwise uninspiring lemon cake-raspberry construction. The least high concept of these, a dark chocolate cake with mocha mousse, was the most stupendous, with a racy key lime pie running a close second.
When a newcomer encounters something overly familiar and begins interpreting it in new ways, it’s akin to a golden hour. Anker is doing that with local seafood, and we are lucky to bear witness.