215 Atlantic Ave., East Moriches
SERVICE: Earnest, accommodating
AMBIENCE: Inviting, tucked away, on the waterfront
ESSENTIALS: Open every day, noon to 4 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Weekend reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible, with ramp at entrance.
Coral’s waterside setting and soft sunsets compete with the cuisine of Alex Bujoreanu. He wins.
Situated in the aptly named Windswept Marina, Coral grows. It’s a comfortably contemporary dining room, plus alfresco tables in warm weather, and the appeal of a year-round destination.
Bujoreanu earned three stars for Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre in 2015. He’s equally sharp here.
Tapas are the snacks of Spain, savory mouthfuls to go with a glass of sherry or other drink. Bujoreanu’s selections in East Moriches aren’t always as bold as they used to be. But they’re almost all excellent.
Before you get to them, you may receive a gratis dish that’s truly an amuse: on a brush stroke of squid ink, three rounds of English cucumber topped with blue-cheese foam.
Boards of well-chosen cheeses and cured meats are worth sharing. A slice or two of Iberico ham would make the meat boards mandatory.
Then, pick the special-effects opener of lush smoked oysters, unveiled from under a cloche, sending out little plumes and sporting both a hint of chorizo, and a flavorful cloudlet of lemon “air.”
The snappy shrimp salad offers a refreshing counterpoint, as does the roasted pear-and-arugula salad accented with Cabrales blue cheese.
Seafood soup arrives aromatic and full-flavored, floating shellfish and calamari in a vibrant, tomato-hued sauce. Ask for extra bread to absorb it. Garlic shrimp finished with fino sherry and sweet nora chilies have the same appeal. Grilled Spanish octopus: tender and smoky.
The ingredients in perfectly fried croquettes vary, often daily. The chicken-and-chorizo number is popular. Bujoreanu’s patatas bravas are obligatory and addictive, if slightly less assertive than before. Brussels sprouts need more smoked cheese and a few partners to clean the plate.
Secreto, a delicious cut of organic pork, is paired with mashed purple potatoes and edible flowers, for a fine lead-in to bigger plates.
The juicy, dry-aged, grilled rib-eye steak delivers just enough char and plenty of pink at medium-rare. It’s accompanied by delectable mashed purple potatoes with panko, squid ink and carrots that taste the way a carrot should.
Coral’s grilled lobster, moist and sweet, comes with corn that also has touched the grill. The seafood paella is good, with saffron and tomato boosting the shellfish and squid. There’s a modest suggestion of the coveted socarrat, the toasty, crusty rice at the bottom of the pan.
At lunch, Coral’s food veers more American with a lobster roll and fish tacos, Buffalo-style chicken wings and a shrimp cocktail.
But desserts bridge day and night, with crema Catalana and flan with traces of coconut leading them, followed by respectable chocolate mousse and cheesecake.
Enjoy the view. The distance between Long Island and Spain is about 3,500 miles. It now feels a little closer.