38 W. Main St., Patchogue
SERVICE: Young, chummy and slightly harried
AMBIENCE: A party inside a barn
ESSENTIALS: Open Tuesday to Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to “tentative.” Wheelchair accessible, full bar, reservations recommended on weekends. Allow extra time for street parking in Patchogue.
It’s the era of the small plate, petite dynamos that are pushing entrees further and further into marginal territory. At Flight, which opened on Main Street in Patchogue late last year, small plates are given another conceit, one drawn from the world of drinks: three iterations of, say, jumbo shrimp or mac-and-cheese, served together on oblong trays.
This concept comes via Flight owners David Johnson and James Bonanno (who also own Patchogue’s Tap Room) after visits to Spain, land of the tapas crawl. To execute it, they hired chef Jason Tepper, a Long Island native who trained at Johnson & Wales University and has spent more than a decade in kitchens in Miami and Las Vegas.
In Vegas, the theater of the dining room often can be just as important as the food. The narrow, sexy Flight has dramatic ambience down, letting in the energy of the street via an open-air facade, and pairing it with rustic quietude — reclaimed wood walls, exposed brick, high-top tables illuminated by curving vintage lights, and a soaring wall of wooden cubbyholes jammed with wine, liquor bottles and glassware.
With the mute button on, it would appear placid. During the Saturday night rush, however, the room amplifies every thumping bass or whoop from street, stereo and fellow diner. It’s so loud you might have to shout at your companion or to your server to order.
Those servers are young and slightly harried, but patient as you muddle through the multi-page drinks menu or the lengthy food menu broken into small plates, large plates, flights, pizzas and sides.
The bar offerings are ambitious, with novel cocktails, beers and wines interwoven with drink flights that arrive on chrome trees, sort of like boozy candelabras. Some work, and some are more cerebral than sippable (looking at you, tequila flight).
The food here flirts with drama, too, at least in plating. Tumbles of meat in earthy sauces are the rule — as are showers of minced bacon or pepper relish, cheesy grits and mashed potatoes, much of it brightened by a plumage of microgreens.
Dive in via the pretty charcuterie board, dabbing jalapeño jelly on herby toasts with a smear of Brie or pâté. (Soppressata, chorizo, aged Cheddar, cornichons and cider mustard share the real estate, too.)
The rest of Flight’s small plates are uneven. Some hit the mark, while others taste underrealized. A plate of “lollipop” chicken served over mashed potatoes is saucy, satisfying comfort food, as is an earthy tangle of duck confit and bean-flecked compote over mashed cauliflower. A pair of deeply seared scallops over black-rice risotto tastes underseasoned — ditto for a cold plate of roasted beets, boiled potatoes and hard-boiled egg over a slab of cured salmon. You could make a small meal out of a pile of creamy duck confit risotto, but Brussels sprouts that appear crispy might be hard and underdone inside. A quartet of butternut squash ravioli practically drowns in a puddle of overly cloying brown- butter sauce, but the punchy blood-orange reduction beneath a watermelon-burrata caprese brings it to vibrant life.
Sometimes the “food flight’’ concept almost works against itself, unveiling missteps. That shrimp flight, for instance: One is encased in a ribbon of prosciutto grown tough with heat, though the barbecue sauce and grits underneath are addictive; another, coconut-crusted, fried and anointed with pineapple salsa, is slurpable; but the third, butter-poached, is bland. Better is a flight of sliders — Cheddar-topped Kobe beef, chicken, and peppery tuna — served on crackling, glazed rolls. A lamb flight of medium-rare riblets over a mélange of purees and sauces? Succulent goodness.
Curiously, it’s the entree-size plates that are among the most polished here: An enormous, caramelized pork chop melting into roasted apples, or a slab of perfectly cooked swordfish with a springlike green puree.
Leave room for dessert: The kitchen’s version of a fried Twinkie is messy fun, glammed up with molten chocolate and strawberries. A flight of lava cake is velvety and worth the calories.
With its of-the-moment vibe and imaginative plates, Flight is a kinetic place to grab a drink and some solid nibbles. If the kitchen focuses and unleashes more inner boldness — more citrus, more tang, more of its punchier sauces — Flight could become a Patchogue mainstay.