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Sag Harbor meets the French Riviera at La

Sag Harbor meets the French Riviera at La Maison, where patrons can order a plateaux de fruits de mer and dine outside. (June 15, 2010) Credit: Photo by Doug Young

Years ago, this building on Main Street housed a gas station. Some of the restaurants that succeeded it did, too.

That all changes with the opening of La Maison, a very good spot for New American food that occasionally carries a French accent and definitely heightens the competition downtown.

Partners in this season's entry include the owners of Trata Estiatorio, the excellent Greek seafood restaurants in Roslyn, Water Mill and Manhattan.

The dining room builds on the Gallic look of its immediate predecessor, JLX Bistro. La Maison, however, arrives fresher and sunnier, in style, mood and cuisine. Early on, service is more earnest and energetic than polished and proficient. But the spirit comes from the kitchen. Dine inside or on the terrace, under yellow Veuve Clicquot umbrellas.

THE BEST

The "mini" lobster roll delivers maxi flavor, on a toasted brioche bun, with mâche, radish salad and a very mild hint of harissa, the Tunisian hot sauce. Two would make a fine main course. But put a spoon in the mellow, puree of asparagus soup, finished with a swirl of lemony crème fraîche and sweet crabmeat. The raw bar stars Fishers Island oysters. Red curry, fava beans and cilantro boost mussels. Lentils and bacon make the comfortable bed for moist, snowy seared halibut; sweet peppers, onions, and parsley puree juice-up slow-roasted cod. Flat iron steak, which eventually may succeed hanger as the cut of the moment, also is known as top blade steak. It's tender, juicy and paired with good French fries. Chicken Milanese, with a salad topper of arugula, tomato and a swoosh of burrata cheese, has low-risk appeal. Chocolate terrine, crème brûlée and sorbets are dependable desserts.

THE REST

Satisfactory linguine with white clam sauce. Overcooked shellfish in the house's bouillabaisse; the saffron rouille looks pretty, but it's pale and bland compared with the genuine, rust-hued sauce. The strawberry crisp is a mushy affair.

THE BOTTOM LINE

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