La Marmite turned 40 this week. And it has become younger.
The classic continental, one of the last "le" and "la" landmarks, which for decades defined haute dining on Long Island, is under new ownership and has a new chef. The familiar northern Italian-French menu has been refreshed and updated.
If you're a longtime fan of La Marmite, there's no cause for concern. The refined style of the restaurant continues, with gracious, very professional service in the handsome dining rooms, overseen by Manuel Gomes, who arrived when the place did.
Renzo Pedrazzi, who established La Marmite, sold the sprawling, early 1900s Victorian to the Kearns family last year and retired. Running the kitchen now is executive chef Greg Kearns.
Exit seafood crepes, enter kale salad.
But Kearns also prepares first-class baked, local top neck clams. The soy-yuzu vinaigrette, accenting underseasoned tuna tartare, is très 2014. The lush sauce for pappardelle Bolognese would work in any year.
Easily recommended: seared diver scallops, with endive marmalade, blood orange and bay greens. Likewise, the slightly smoky, meaty chargrilled octopus with chickpea salad, tapenade and crumbled feta cheese. Steamed mussels in coconut-lime broth deliver a lively taste from another continent and the current calendar.
That baby kale salad is good, with apple, walnuts, celery and dried cherries. So's the obligatory beet salad with goat cheese.
Kearns stars with an outstanding roast lobster special, finished in a cream sauce with delicious morels, snap peas and English pea puree. Pan-seared red snapper finds a foil in orange beurre blanc that has a hint of anise. Roasted fennel and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes support a buttery, snowy slab of wild striped bass.
But the juicy veal chop is almost undone by a dull, thick porcini mushroom sauce. Rounds of nearly candied kumquat boost the rosy duck breast, set on a puree of sweet potatoes. Lyonnaise potatoes accompany the generous filet mignon; mashed Yukon Golds, the herb-crusted rack of lamb.
La Marmite has offered its spin on gâteau Saint-Honoré for many years. It won't convert purists, but the cream puffs, vanilla pastry cream and chocolate mousse are sufficiently rich. The chocolate mousse cake is held together with a flavorful ganache. New York cheesecake is a bit dry; roasted apple tart with cinnamon streusel, surprisingly bland. The sweet-tart Key lime pie perks things up again.
And it could hold a few candles, too.