Bistro 25 East
154 Montauk Hwy., Blue Point
SERVICE: Polished but easygoing, as if your neighbors donned aprons to feed you
AMBIENCE: A spirited bar thronged with locals gives way to a soothing, gray-on-gray dining room
ESSENTIALS: Dinner 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday. There is a separate, more casual bar menu written on a chalkboard (though the full menu is also available there). Credit cards accepted; on-site parking; wheelchair accessible.
When you track restaurants for a living, a perpetually full parking lot is nothing to shake a stick at. So it was with Bistro 25 East: Even on weeknights, cars could spill from its parking lot onto an adjacent side street. Piqued, I dipped my head in twice, both times finding the place so thronged there was no space to linger.
Could it be the food, the vibe — the name recognition? In the months since it opened, this eastern satellite of Bistro 25 in Sayville (opened in 2011) had already earned a devoted following. Like the Pied Piper, the owner of the original (partnered with one his longtime managers) was luring hungry eaters a few miles east to a spot that has seen, and shed, a succession of identities: Bliss, Bluepoint Bar and Grill, Blue Point Bistro & Grill, and most recently, Corey Creek Inn.
The cars, the crowds, the clamor, all suggested this one was a keeper. That devotion starts in the bar, which also has high-top tables and where generous pours abound. In addition to beer and a quiet but decent wine list, barkeeps turn out mixed drinks such as blueberry-basil margaritas with salt-and-pepper rims and lemon-lavender martinis with spheres of mint oil floating on top.
The adjacent dining room is a more aggressively neutral space of washed gray walls, sultry lighting, and innocuous wall art. Despite the thrum of classic rock, it’s quieter than many restaurants, and servers reinforce the soothing vibes with easygoing warmth.
The “East” of the name had dual purpose: On chef Chris Hendrickson’s menu, pan-Asian influences (ginger, chili, wasabi, coconut and soy) meet more traditional American and Italian fare (burgers, wings, pasta, steak and the like) for dishes that seems edgy at first, but play out in uneven ways. The house fried calamari, for instance, is slathered in a crimson slick of chili sauce — sounding good on paper, but in reality soggy and smothered with sweetness. Chicken wings confit — also clad in a vaguely Asian pepperiness — fall from the bone gamely but in clumps, as they are overcooked.
The fusion approach plays out better in pork belly buns, pillow-soft and with a riot of flavor tucked into their folds, from kimchi slaw to spicy mayo. Crisp, fried Buffalo-style cauliflower florets are more assertively spicy, a stand-up app for vegetarians; another gut-busting winner is the clam dip, so creamy it feels barely held together, dense with clam meat and very comforting. I wished for more than two small crostini for dipping, though.
Local oysters play a starring roll. Montauk Points on the half-shell, though, were so dainty that a few drops of mignonette put the kibosh on its flavors. As a base for broiled oysters casino, they were barely sturdy enough to carry bacon, but were still tasty little morsels.
These little guys were outliers for a kitchen that seems to put stock in big portions, as well as exuberant, sometimes too exuberant, saucing. A double-cut pork chop so giant you could use it as a weapon is cleverly served quasi-Milanese-style, with a Greek salad cascading along its top — but the meat was dry, dry, dry. Local duck breast, cooked to medium doneness, is sliced and served over nutty farro — promising enough, but doused in too much orangey hoisin sauce. A strip steak was tougher than it should be, though gooey, fried potato croquettes served as a cheesy distraction.
The house burger appears with flourish, leaning sideways under the weight of its own largesse. But its blanket of barbecue sauce and melted Gouda couldn’t mask a patty that wasn’t particularly flavorful. Instead, the best of the entrees was linguine with clam sauce, al dente pasta brimming with shell-on clams and sauteed shrimp in a buttery, garlic-studded broth with much depth.
One of the most alluring dishes, spring pea soup, had run out early during two visits, a minor tragedy for both people who ordered it. Ditto for shrimp ramen.
Bistro 25 East makes its own gelato, and the server recited so many flavors that we needed a repeat. The peanut butter and Nutella version was as sumptuous as it sounds, though more akin to ice cream. It eclipsed, by far, a coconut creme brulee whose crackly surface revealed a slosh of loose cream.
There’s little doubt Bistro 25 East has already found its local tribe. As its bumpy fusion settles to a more balanced tempo, this restaurant’s sphere may radiate further in every direction.