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The best restaurants for fine dining on Long Island: Our picks for 2018

From don't-miss lamb vindaloo in Wantagh to 49-day dry-aged porterhouse plated by an ultra-talented woman chef, fine dining on Long Island took some unexpected turns in 2018. Here, Newsday’s food critics pick their Top 10 favorite new restaurants.

Piccolo Mondo

Baked little neck clams with EVOO, garlic and
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Piccolo Mondo (1870 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington): Piccolo Mondo opened in Huntington in 2005. It was made new in 2018 under chef Steven Del Lima, who earned the Italian spot a place on the Top 100 list of Long Island restaurants. Del Lima’s best dishes are an eclectic group, inspired by both the Italian-American and New American kitchens. They include an epic tomahawk veal chop Parmesan; a tender and juicy brined Berkshire pork chop with cherry peppers; pan-seared Alaskan halibut with grilled local corn, sweet potatoes and couscous; and crisp soft-shell crabs with mango-jicama-pea shoot slaw, plus grilled pineapple, tomato, toasted coconut and a coconut-lime vinaigrette. Equally excellent: baked clams oreganata, grilled lamb "lollipops," pappardelle alla Bolognese, and cinnamon-sugar dusted bombolini, akin to square doughnut holes. You won't be bored. More info: 631-462-0718, piccolomondoli.com

Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant

Cod fish and chips, Kingfish Oyster Bar &
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant (990 Corporate Dr. (The Vanderbilt), Westbury): Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Westbury is chef Tom Schaudel's latest adventure in eating, situated in The Vanderbilt, a luxury rental residence and hotel. His focus is "Atlantic Rim" seafood. That category includes outstanding oysters on the half-shell or grilled with Sriracha mayo; and undersea "charcuterie," which may include smoked bluefish pate, beet-cured gravlax, sea urchin custard, marinated sardines and Champagne-and-orange smoked salmon. The lobster "knuckle sandwich" and warm, buttery lobster roll head the casual choices. Or veer toward the butter-poached lobster set on corn-and-tomato risotto with caramelized fennel. Mushroom-spinach risotto complements pan-roasted striped bass. Fish and chips made with cod, snowy and tempura-fried, could feed two. From the land, go for the cinnamon-balsamic vinegar brined pork chop. All the desserts count, from Key lime pie to an ice cream sandwich, each with a playful Schaudel spin. More info: 516-640-5777, kingfishoysterbar.com

Taj Indian Fusion

Gobi Manchurian cauliflower served in a lettuce bowl
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Taj Indian Fusion (1929 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh): Taj Indian Fusion in Wantagh sparks appetites with flavor-packed food and gracious style in the most modest of strip malls. The comfortable dining area and bar are a stage for fireworks, Indian and otherwise. The winning openers include "drums of Heaven," a Hong Kong-inspired riff on chicken wings finished with a snappy Sichuan sauce; cauliflower fritters Manchurian-style in a sweet-spicy sauce; and paneer galouti, or rounds of pan-fried cottage cheese on toast with dried fruits and cilantro. Rogan josh, the classic of lamb in gravy that hints of cardamom, cinnamon and clove; and fiery lamb or chicken vindaloo are mandatory. Likewise, whole red snapper, marinated in a spice blend and yogurt, then grilled in the clay oven; and Bengali-style mustard fish, or mahi mahi simmered in mustard, yogurt and fenugreek gravy. The Indian breads are essential, from onion kulcha to garlic naan. In addition to gulab jamun and kulfi, you can have a very good tiramisu. More info: 516-900-1700, tajindianfusion.com

Puglia's Italian Steakhouse

New York strip steak, Puglia's, Seaford, Oct. 19,
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Puglia's Italian Steakhouse (3943 Merrick Rd., Seaford): Puglia's Italian Steakhouse in Seaford brings together the two most popular cuisines in Nassau and Suffolk, and offers a big taste of Little Italy. This restaurant is the suburban offspring of Puglia in Manhattan, traveling east on a sea of red sauce, with southern Italian and Italian-American favorites. And you'll cut into some first-class steaks. Share the hot antipasto, starring eggplant rollatini, baked clams and shrimp oreganata. Slice into the chivalini wheel of sausage with peppers and onions. Taste the meatballs with ricotta and marinara sauce. The linguine with clam sauce that you've been looking for is here. So is Sunday sauce, available only on Sunday, with beef braciola, meatball, sausage and pork on cavatelli, rigatoni or penne. The thick pork chop with both mild and hot cherry peppers and ample chicken or veal Parmigiana are specialties. A light alternative: sauteed flounder oreganata. The steaks are led by a 42-ounce tomahawk rib-eye and a 36-ounce porterhouse, both for two; and a superior 16-ounce New York strip. The dark chocolate layer cake, a "tower" for two, is the peak sweet, unless you're committed to cannoli, tiramisu or chocolate profiteroles. More info: 516-809-9922, pugliasitaliansteakhouse.com

The Village Raw Bar

The Village Raw Bar, just recently opened, is
Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The Village Raw Bar (88 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre): The Village Raw Bar brings a taste of Cape Cod to Rockville Centre. The briny-sweet, white beadboard addition has roots in Hyannis, where owner L.J. Sealey-Ashford's family has a raw bar. Of course, start with the oysters. Choose from at least a half dozen varieties. Then, consider the stuffed and baked quahog clams. The coral-hued lobster bisque, with morsels of shellfish breaking the surface; and the New England-style clam "chowdah" are excellent. The Maine "lobstah" pot is expert, with potatoes, corn on the cob, coleslaw and a generous cut of smoky, snappy kielbasa. Broiled lobster, topped with jumbo lump crabmeat, truffled corn and Parmesan crumbs, dubbed "the village idiot," is a smart selection. The kitchen also prepares a spirited jerk chicken sandwich and a main course of Barbados jerk chicken with red potatoes. There's a good selection of beers plus exceptional signature juices. Among them is a combo of orange juice, whipped cream and cinnamon, for dessert in a glass. More info: 516-678-9888, villagerawbar.com

Elaia Estiatorio

Grilled octopus, Elaia Estiatorio, Bridgehampton, May 25, 2018.
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Elaia Estiatorio (95 School St., Bridgehampton): Elaia Estiatorio was 2018's main addition to East End dining, with lively, refined Greek cuisine and genuine country style. It's a summery scene you'll want to visit offseason, too. The evocative spot takes its name from the word "olive." And the look is airy and light, avoiding cliches and emphasizing freshness. Begin with tender, meaty grilled octopus. Enjoy the beet salad with butter beans and pinenuts on Greek yogurt. Definitely order feta saganaki, sesame-crusted, pan-fried, accented with tomato marmalade. Nibble on fried slices of zucchini and eggplant. Notable main courses: giouvetsi thalassinon, a seafood stew with a hint of ouzo; leg of lamb cooked in parchment; charcoal-grilled pork chops; and lush pastitsio. Desserts are highlighted by orange-infused yogurt cake, rice pudding with orange zest; and ideal versions of galaktoboureko, baklava and ekmek kataifi, with creamy custard and cherry preserves. More info: 631-613-6469, elaiaestiatorio.com

Perennial

Pan-seared monkfish sits atop farro, beech mushroom and
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Perennial (990 Franklin Ave., Garden City): Perennial has a minimalist aesthetic, all the better to throw the focus onto chef Peter Mistretta's expressive plates. The kitchen is deeply dedicated to local and often organic ingredients, with a bias toward vegetables and what's in season. Mistretta cures his own organic pork belly, for instance, then crisps it until the outside crackles for the don't-miss house bacon. A jewel of monkfish might come on a bed of nutty beech mushrooms and farro — or with a soubise sauce over lentils, depending on the season — and spaghetti with a toasty, crunchy and inventive cauliflower ragu. Cocktails mirror the kitchen's botanical bent, such as the foamy sour called the Heart Beet, beet juice spiked with vodka, then gussied up with elderflower, orange liqueur and beet greens. More info: 516-743-9213,  perennialrestaurant.com

Harleys American Grille

Bone marrow, Harleys American Grille, Farmingdale, Aug. 14,
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Harleys American Grille (283 Main St., Farmingdale): Behind every aged steak is a story of deterioration, which often happens hidden from view. Inside Harleys American Grille, that process is on full display behind the host stand: giant cuts of beef in a salt-lined locker, breaking down and building flavor. After 49 days, these are butchered and fired by chef Allison Fasano, whose porterhouses and Kansas City-style strip steaks have an edge of aged tang. Meat may rule, but don’t forego Harley’s seafood dishes, including halibut in creamy Thai coconut curry. Wherever you eat, either in the sun-dappled front bar or the sexier back dining room, you’ll be tag-teamed like a treasured guest. More info: 516-586-8000, harleysamericangrille.com

2 Spring

Duck breast with foie gras terrine, pistachio puree,
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

2 Spring (2 Spring St., Oyster Bay): The former longtime home of Café Al Dente received a diametrically different tenant this year: Chef Jesse Schenker and the gilded 2 Spring. Schenker’s meticulous yet idiosyncratic plates, which change with seasonal rhythm, might marry charred octopus with braised cabbage, harissa and miso or sliced duck breast with hearts of palm and pistachios. This quiet intensity feels unlike most anything else Long Island, and is backed by a supporting cast of well-tuned mixed drinks and a 1,700-bottle wine cellar. More info: 516-624-411, 2springstreet.com

The Preston House & Hotel

Burnt Basque cheesecake with organic meyer lemon curd
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The Preston House & Hotel (428 E. Main St., Riverhead): Riverhead’s first boutique hotel harbors a polished restaurant that feels somewhere between a Scandinavian farmhouse and waterside bistro. Chef Matthew “Matty” Boudreau uses super-fresh scores from local baymen, fishermen and farmers for deceptively understated New American dishes. Dive in with local Peconic Gold oysters, house-cured bacon with tomato jam or tuna tartare shimmering with citrus and delivered atop whipped avocado. The kitchen’s daily “really good piece fish” special might be black sea bass with paper-crisp skin and minced herbs; carnivores can turn toward a falling-apart duck confit with seasonal kumquat chutney for tangy pops of sweet and sour. Pastry chef Maribel Ochoa’s Basque burnt cheesecake with Meyer-lemon curd is one of the best desserts on the island. More info: 631-775-1550, theprestonhouseandhotel.com

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