46 Gerard St., Huntington
SERVICE Mellow, yet vigilant and polished
AMBIENCE Dim and sexy, with amply spaced tables and eclectic touches such as reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs
ESSENTIALS Open Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday 4 to 9 p.m.; wheelchair accessible; parking in Huntington village can be challenging, so leave extra time to find a spot.
When chef Marc Anthony Bynum opened Hush Bistro in his hometown of Farmingdale, his “American soul food” — like sticky ribs and molten mac-and-cheese — amassed a following in a village still on the upswing.
Can he do the same thing in Huntington? Late this summer, Bynum closed up shop in Farmingdale and decided to throw his fortunes into the restaurant-dense burg, moving into the Gerard Street space where Salumeria Pomodoro closed this summer. After a quick renovation, Hush 2.0 reopened with theatrical lighting, an apothecary-like bar and a menu that builds on Hush’s original docket to include more seafood and luxe touches (shaved foie gras, fennel pollen glaze) but still sticks to the small-plate format.
And small is a key word here. You’ll need five or six dishes per couple to approach satiety, and at $9-$18, it can add up. As you pore over the lengthy menu, you’d be wise to do it with two things in hand: one of Hush’s imaginative cocktails (such as a bourbon-driven Main Street Swizzle, tarted up with orgeat and Campari) and a board of biscuits and cornbread. Served with velvety maple butter and berry preserves, the cornbread crumbles in all the right ways, and is a harbinger for the most poised dishes you’ll find here, those that stick to the soul-food wheelhouse. For one, those inky ribs, which fall from the bone with the prick of a fork and are slathered in racy sweetness. Or that smoky mac-and-cheese, dotted with crumbled bacon. Or a dry-aged-beef burger topped with a slab of ricotta salata that sounds overadorned on paper but deeply satisfies.
Sadly, though, Hush’s fried chicken is a flop — its overly thick coating laced with intriguing Indian spices, but falling away from dark meat that’s muted in flavor.
Though Hush was out of its daily crudo on one night, on another it was a delicate, thinly sliced hamachi over a smoldering wasabi cream that was truly exquisite, if tiny. Another no-fail choice is a “WTF” salad of gingery tuna tumbled with watermelon, edamame and crumbled wonton, then showered tableside with foie gras “snow.” It’s something you might want to order a second time in lieu of other, less successful seafood dishes. The grilled octopus tentacle suffers the indignity of too many other flavors on the plate, as well as being served lukewarm. The seared scallops may also have lingered too long on the pass. No one has ever dreamed about cold scallops, ever.
If you’re a ramen fan, you’ll find a kindred spirit in Bynum, who is somewhat obsessed with the deceptively complex dish. On one night, though, the glossy surface of a pork ramen hid overcooked, gluey noodles and a plodding shoyu broth. We pushed it aside in favor of a burnished duck confit served with a trifecta of fennel pollen, wilted fennel and pureed fennel that, like Hush’s burger, improbably works.
If Hush makes its mark in Huntington, it will be in no small part due to the quiet battalion of vigilant servers who seem to intuit when to lay off and when to lean in. They make you feel welcome from the moment you step through the door until the hour you rise to leave, the hip-hop seeming a little bit louder than when you arrived.
There are many moments when you realize you are in practiced hands. After all, Bynum didn’t take home two “Chopped” victories for nothing. His flights of imagination, when they work, hit a high octave.
While Hush tries to find a consistent groove, it is still one of the most charming places in Huntington.