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First bites: The Wobbly Olive, Hauppauge

"Cenzilla" burger at The Wobbly Olive

The Wobbly Olive is one of those deceptively small-looking places that turn out to be cavernous. The new eatery and bar occupies a corner spot in the same Hauppauge strip mall as The Grill Room and Umi. Its sign reads: Gastropub and Social Fusion. I can’t even begin to think of what that last term means.

The big draw here is chef-tenor Richard Desmond, who earned three stars at his previous gig, Public House 49. The night I went, he didn’t emerge from the kitchen to sing, but dinner began on a high note with house-baked focaccia and a lively green-olive relish.

A skilled chef, Desmond does have a tendency to gild the lily. So a perfectly delicious pair of crab cornbread cakes (light yet comforting) were served with not one but two sauces, yellow pepper and the same green-olive relish offered with the bread. I loved the ornate but delectable “Cenzilla,” a juicy grilled burger topped with a white Cheddar “fondue,” bright romaine relish and tomato jam. Fine hand-cut fried potato wedges accompanied, along with a vibrant slaw. Breaded pork chops with apricot sauce, plated with a broccoli Cheddar bread pudding and sauteed spinach, wasn't bad. Just heavy eating.

Dessert, though, was one of the airiest, most appealing versions of tiramisu encountered, accompanied by a snowdrift of freshly whipped cream.

The verdict: More promising than wobbly, but in need of a few tweaks.

The Wobbly Olive is at 160 Adams Ave., Hauppauge, 631-951-0026.

Pictured: The "Cenzilla" burger

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