The building at 399 Jericho Turnpike in Syosset must be heaving a sigh of relief. After the tenancy of two polarizing restaurants (the isn’t-it-too-upity Italian Palio and the isn’t-it-too-expensive Chinese Philippe Chow), the month-old Vintage Grill is a crowd-pleaser. The restaurant shares ownership with Vintage Prime Steak House in St. James as well as the recently closed Fulton & Prime steakhouse in Syosset, but Vintage Grill explores New American and Italian territory in addition to steaks and chops.
The new decor is casually glam, with crystal chandeliers, ruched window treatments and pony-skin-upholstered chairs. The wine list is thoughtful, with a good selection of wines by the glass. On a recent weeknight, service could not have been more accommodating — though it’s true that the dining room was very sparsely populated.
The standout among starters was an “angry spaghetti” (a bargain at $14) which was duly forgiven for being on the mild side because it had such big, tasty lumps of crabmeat in it. In fact, mildness was a theme that ran right through our meal: Beet salad ($12) was pleasant (if too cold) but neither the dressing nor the goat cheese supplied any zing. Tender, duck tacos ($12) had the sweetness of hoisin but the promised kimchee, which would have added a note of sourness, was apparently M.I.A. It was indicative of the kitchen’s general meekness that instead of some assertive, vaguely Asian greens, the tacos were served on bed of chopped mesclun.
The weakest of our main courses was the cowboy rib steak ($41), gorgeous and perfectly cooked but pallid on the tongue. Fat “lamb porterhouse chops” ($36, what used to be called, simply, loin chops) and an even fatter veal chop were better. The carni-phobe in our group enjoyed a pretty dish of seared scallops. Parmesan-truffle fries were nice, if oddly restrained.
Nice but restrained also described two desserts that shouldn’t have been: a thin apple crisp and a hefty slab of flourless chocolate cake.
Vintage Grill has so much going for it, I wish the kitchen had more cojones .?.?. and used more salt.
Vintage Bar and Grill is at 399 Jericho Tpke., Jericho, 516-364-4641.