95 School St., Bridgehampton
SERVICE: Attentive, efficient
AMBIENCE: Rustic Greek, Hamptons-style
ESSENTIALS: Open Wednesday to Thursday, 5. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5. to 10 p.m. Reservations recommended weekdays, necessary weekends. Major credit cards accepted. Two steps at entrance, difficult for wheelchair access.
The Greek islands number more than 2,000.
Refreshing, bright and ready for summer, Elaia Estiatorio presents the Greek classics with Hamptons flair. Elaia itself means the olive, the source of so many gifts from the 170 populated isles that dot the Aegean and Ionian seas.
The evocative restaurant that takes its name from the olive tree makes the East End season come alive with excellent food, an openhanded manner and a sense of place. It can be a pricey spot, but less expensive than a cruise.
Owners Chris Boudouris and Sofia Crokos opened Elaia in July 2017. He has transformed the dining room, which had been occupied by Osteria Salina. Before Osteria moved in, Boudouris had owned and operated Copa, a tapas spot that offered very satisfying flavors of Barcelona during its 3 1/2-year run.
Now, he oversees what, dish for dish, bids fair to be the tastiest Greek restaurant on Long Island.
Airy and light, decorated with seaside images and macrame that suggests fishing nets, Elaia updates the local Grecian formula, avoiding cliches and emphasizing freshness.
Start your trip with tender, meaty grilled octopus, accented with fava beans and pickled vegetables. Enjoy the colorful salad of red and yellow beets, butter beans and pine nuts that rests on honeyed Greek yogurt. Try feta saganaki, sesame-crusted and pan-fried, complemented by tomato marmalade. And, if the special of fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with Feta, mint, sea salt, Kefalogaviera cheese and Greek olive oil is available, consider it mandatory.
Spanakopita flakes on cue, with crisp phyllo surrounding the spinach-and-feta pie. Order tiganita, fried slices of zucchini and eggplant, skewered and plated as if to suggest wheels moving through tzatziki sauce.
Tzatziki is one of the better spreads too, fine with warm triangles of pita. But the yellow split-pea puree has the texture of baby food. And the taramosalata, made with salted and cured roe, is a very timid version. Keftedes, or braised lamb, beef and pork meatballs, will reawaken your appetite with grated kefalograviera cheese, and tomato sauce with a hint of cumin.
Whole, grilled local black sea bass is adroitly chargrilled, finished with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon, accompanied by dandelion greens. Not the fattest fish around, but very good. The bigger catch is Kakavia, similar to a seafood stew with shellfish and calamari, orzo and tomato sauce with a note of ouzo. Aromatic, savory roasted local fluke, seasoned with capers, lemon and parsley sauce, is perched on a pilaf of spinach and rice.
Leg of lamb, cooked slowly in parchment with potatoes, carrots and shallots, falls tenderly off the rosemary-speared bone. It’s terrific. So are the charcoal-grilled pork chops, with grated kefalograviera and hefty fries. The kitchen also makes a generous pastitsio, akin to a Greek lasagna, with beef-and-lamb ragu and béchamel sauce. Stuffed and baked eggplant adds caramelized peppers, onion, tomatoes, pine nuts and a shower of semisoft manouri cheese, a creamy byproduct of feta.
Elaia’s Greek desserts are uniformly outstanding. Pick at random from orange-infused yogurt cake with orange syrup; delectable galaktoboureko with vanilla bean custard and lemon zest syrup; a turret of rice pudding with orange zest; superior baklava with honey syrup; ekmek kataifi, with creamy custard, fresh cream and cherry preserves.
Greece has 250 sunny days a year. Elaia Estiatorio imports one for you.