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Artaux Fine Foods review: Caterer's restaurant is Sea Cliff's new star

The four-meat terrine at Artaux Fine Foods in

The four-meat terrine at Artaux Fine Foods in Sea Cliff elevates the concept of meatloaf. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Artaux Fine Foods started as a caterer. Now, you can join the festivities. Last month, James Muir's refined establishment received the necessary approvals to open a restaurant.

You may dine in the front room, with its stylish, modernist seating and personalized version of the colorful 1920s Delval poster for the aperitif Fap'Anis. Or treat yourself to a chair in the kitchen, at a grand, communal table hewed from a fallen tree in Locust Valley. It will give you an up-close experience, as owner-chef Muir and company prepare handsomely plated and invariably elegant fare. The menu is compact, supplemented with a few specials; and the short wine list is good.

Muir named his business for Gustave Artaux, his grandfather, inspiration, and a generous cook for the family in Mar del Plata, southeast of Buenos Aires. It's a flavor-packed tribute.

Enjoy rounds of near-sheer, subtle octopus carpaccio, thinner than a potato chip, finished with smoked paprika, scallion, sherry vinegar, and olive oil. Or nibble on the harissa-spiced skewers of lamb, set on fine hummus. A trio of empanadas filled with tenderloin, however, is on the dry side.

So, sample juicy mini-burgers on brioche. Pick a salad, led by a special of purslane with purple kale, peppercress, cider-braised mustard seeds, crisp morsels of osso buco, and a bacon vinaigrette; or soba noodles, with a julienne of squash, and flavored with scallion, sesame, and a spiced sesame vinaigrette.

They lead into a rich terrine packing in beef, veal, and pork belly, with a wraparound of bacon -- deluxe meatloaf. Ample, roasted beef short ribs arrive with creamy, white beans and a coulis of watercress. Tender, tasty bone-in chicken breast au jus rests on light, cauliflower puree.

Hake, flaky and delicate, is accented with Serrano ham, accompanied by an English pea puree and flageolet beans. Snowy, seared halibut comes with delicious morels and chanterelles, plus scallion and peppercress, and veal jus vinaigrette.

Until 4 p.m., Artaux offers panini, which include a smoked prosciutto cotto-Swiss cheese number with pickles and mustard emulsion and a union of prosciutto, Brie, arugula, quince and fig jam.

Muir's desserts take in a wobbly vanilla flan with caramel sauce, a napoleon with caramel and toasted meringue, an artful presentation of jarred chocolate mousse with perfectly caramelized banana, and a harmonious combo of chocolate chip cookies and vanilla crème anglaise.

They all make you want to return for the next party.

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