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Jack Halyards American Bar & Grill review

The Maryland crab cake is well-made at Jack

The Maryland crab cake is well-made at Jack Halyards American Bar & Grill. (April 27, 2013) Credit: Jeremy Bales

A halyard, often a rope, is used either to hoist or to lower something. It's definitely chef John Brill's role, elevating the cooking at the revamped and retooled Jack Halyards American Bar & Grill.

The successor to Fiddleheads, a seafood house, expands the repertoire in this dimly lit stretch of downtown Oyster Bay. Once more, there's life north of Main Street.

Brill, who sparked appetites at the departed Blue Lagoon in West Babylon and 105 Harbor in Cold Spring Harbor, prepares very satisfying New American dishes at the streamlined, smart-casual restaurant, where the service is dependably attentive and the mood upbeat.

You'll feel that way after tasting ahi tuna tartare nachos, a refreshing curiosity with good fish, pineapple-red onion salsa, guacamole and wasabi crème fraîche. And share the "four taters" starter, a quartet of different, crunchy spuds with dipping sauces of cheese, chipotle pepper, roasted onion and sriracha ketchup.

The "Sicilian quesadilla" shows up flavorfully packed with broccoli rabe, sausage, a tomato bruschetta mix and, geography notwithstanding, Fontina cheese. Crushed peanuts, Asian sprout salad and sesame-garlic sauce spur kung pao calamari. Citrus salad and a smoked-onion spin on sauce rémoulade do the same for a well-made Maryland crabcake.

Smoked duck salad arrives on the dry side, as do cornmeal-crusted oysters. An opener of otherwise respectable sliders overdoes the toppings, especially Thousand Island. And a main course of blackened cod veers toward carbonization.

But Brill expertly grills Atlantic swordfish and finishes it with avocado relish and a "garden grain" pilaf. Crisp pork shank, juicy and generous, partners easily with a mushroom risotto and charred-tomato demi-glace.

Even better: a special dubbed "porchetta," which is a pork loin wrapped with prosciutto and coppa, seasoned with rosemary and basil, and inspired to be still more porcine with applewood-smoked pork belly. Wilted spinach, broccoli rabe and a porcini-scented risotto add to the festivities.

Tender, crisp-skinned local duck gets a boost from mandarin orange-miso beurre blanc. The lamb-and-beef shepherd's pie with peas and carrots, under a mantle of mashed potatoes, contributes to the homey category.

The concept reappears in a playful dessert named "meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas & carrots," that stars a Heath bar-and-banana bread pudding, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, brunoise of kiwi and cantaloupe, and warm chocolate "gravy." The white-chocolate pizza, with strawberries, has welcome whimsy, too.

Keep it up.

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