“When I do something, I go all in,” said chef Terrance Brennan the other day with a laugh. Picasso had a Blue Period, Brennan a wild game one, also a cheese period, also a French period. “Now is my seafood period,” he told us by phone from the Hamptons. Brennan is one of the country’s most respected, honored chefs, and his 40-year, Michelin-decorated career has included stints at Le Cirque, several of Europe’s finest kitchens, and his own Picholine, which before closing in 2015 brought haute cuisine to Manhattan’s Upper West Side for nearly a quarter-century. Somewhat astonishingly, Brennan has done no real cooking in our neck of the woods, though that will change come Memorial Day, when he’ll be at the helm of a new summer pop-up in Southampton.
“It will be there through, obviously, Labor Day, but they want to keep it open year-round,” said Brennan of Blu Mar, a restaurant he’s opening with Zach Erdem (of 75 Main) at the new Harpoon House guesthouse on Main Street., in the space Maison Vivienne occupied last season. The cuisine will be French-Mediterranean with an emphasis on whole fish, a fascination Brennan is returning to after a long detour. “Picholine was more a whole-fish restaurant when it first started,” he said, “and only gradually turned into a fine dining place.” The shift isn’t just an instance of a chef’s career coming full circle. “It’s also the way I eat now,” said Brennan, whose diet is largely plant-based and meat-avoidant these days.
That said, Blu Mar’s updated menu — early versions published on the internet are inaccurate, Brennan advised — does feature dishes like Florentine T-bone with beef dry-aged for 50 days, and duck a la rhubarb, its birds from Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue. Still, Brennan has his sights set firmly on the ocean. Blu Mar will offer an extensive and daily-changing list of whole fish served grilled and deboned (unless otherwise specified), and on any given evening the offerings might include black sea bass, loup de mer, Dover sole, dorade royale, Spanish turbot, pompano and more.
“I’m also excited about the pasta section,” said Brennan, which will feature noodles both handmade and extruded for such dishes as his spaghetti with sea urchin and crab, as well as a fideo negro with “ruby red shrimp, a shellfish emulsion and romesco aioli.” The 160-or-so-bottle wine list at Blu Mar will feature a heavy Mediterranean presence and include a dozen or so rosés, as befits a summer table.
Extensive modifications made to the kitchen by Brennan and his team included adding a new pasta cooker, switching out a “terrible” broiler, and installing an eight-foot-long grill for the fish. “Kitchens are frustrating enough in a perfect environment,” the chef said. “But if you don’t have a big enough grill, it’s like adding salt to a wound.” A total of 40 tables will be spread throughout Blu Mar’s indoor and outdoor areas, with capacity seating of 75 and 125, respectively.
“I’m very excited,” said the chef of his impending Blu Period in the Hamptons, even as he doubted he’d see much of the celebrated summer playground beyond the kitchen. “Listen,” he said. “I like it, but I literally just work. I get up, I work, I meditate, I eat healthy, maybe walk on the beach. I don’t party.”
Brennan doesn't come cheap. Expect to pay upward of $85 per person for dinner.
Blu Mar opens Memorial Day weekend and will offer dinner Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m. Brunch will be served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant is at 136 Main St. in Southampton. 631-488-4570, blumarhamptons.com.