In a topsy-turvy decade, Honu has had almost as many periods as Picasso, starting with "blue." Eventually, Blue Honu lost its hue, went from large plates to small and back, and stretched the name to rival the length of its bar.
And in March, Honu was sold to a restaurant group that includes owners of Kasey's Kitchen and Cocktails in Rockville Centre. Lots of movement for a place named for a green sea turtle that's perilously near extinction.
Butin its new life and under new management, this Honu thrives. Robert Flaherty, formerly sous chef, runs the kitchen, and his new menu deserves your attention.
So does Honu itself, still a dramatic downtown destination, from the high ceiling and glittery chandeliers to the exposed brickwork and panels of modernist art. The space is big enough to house a Tea Party rally and still have room for a convention establishing Occupy Long Island. Honu is very good for groups.
Categories abound. Your meal may be divided into soups, small plates, seasonal salads, steaks and chops, large plates, surf and turf, burgers and sides, and, in one of the new listings, "on a stick."
The impaled include chicken, steak and shrimp. The shellfish have been marinated and made the passing acquaintance of a mild chimichurri, the herb sauce beloved in Argentina. The chicken turns Thai with crushed peanuts and peanut sauce, but stays on the dry side. Charred steak is just overdone.
Instead, you may want to sample an excellent roasted butternut squash soup, upscaled with maple crème fraîche, for a satisfying bowl of autumn. Equally ample and tasty is the coral-shaded lobster bisque, with nuggets of Maine meat, some basil and sherry. Tomato-Cheddar-bacon soup, more saucy than soupy, trails them.
From the small plates: savory hoisin-laced mouthfuls of Beijing duck on paper-thin pancakes the size of a silver dollar; and a modest pan-roasted crabcake, boosted by roasted poblano-pepper aioli.
The large plates are led by a fine, braised lamb shank paired with roasted root vegetables; the steaks and chops, by a juicy pork chop in a bourbon-and-cider reduction.
No need to poke around the shrimp-and-sea scallop risotto with butternut squash. The pasty production comes together but in the wrong way. The very reliable, very good Cheddar burger, with applewood-smoked bacon and red-onion marmalade, trumps many of the formal entrees.
The dessert sampler includes chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, and bananas Foster rolls. Cubism must be coming.