In a tale with all of the twists of a great drama, longtime landmark The Lobster Grille Inn in Southampton has been reborn as Manna at Lobster Inn — and while lobster rolls still abound, the kingly orange crustacean is gradually yielding the floor to lesser-known fish whose stars are on the rise.
Three years ago, Manna, a multifaceted aquaculture-focused group founded by former attorney Donna Lanzetta, purchased the inn and about five acres of land across the street as part of ambitious plans that involve the restaurant, a nearby fish hatchery and, eventually, an open-water finfish farm in the Atlantic, 8.6 miles off of Hampton Bays.
The menu at Manna was developed by partner Ryunosuke Jesse Matsuoka, also the chef-partner at Sen and K Pasa in Sag Harbor, who in recent years has been focused on presenting abundant, lesser-known fish that doesn’t make it on to diner’s plates as often as, say, salmon or tuna.
"One of the focuses [of the restaurant] is to use underutilized fish, and work with local fisherman and the products they don’t sell as much of to express a beautiful array of seafood," said Matsuoka. Among those: trout, porgy, sea robin, bluefish and skate. "We are proud to highlight that seafood in multiple cooking styles."
While Matsuoka helped shape Manna’s menu, he did so with executive chef Thomas Bogia, who helms Manna's kitchen. A meal might begin with something from the raw bar (starting at $12, with towers topping out at $195) such as local oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp or a daily changing ceviche ($14) that will one day riff on sea robin, Matsuoka said.
For apps, bluefish, bountiful in Long Island waters, is blended into a smoky dip served with rice crackers and crudités ($14). There’s also New England-style clam chowder ($12), fritto misto with tomato and chili jam ($15), ricotta meatballs ($13) and several salads, such as endive, avocado and oranges with lemon aioli ($14).
Lobster rolls, a $26 lobster grilled cheese and a lobster bisque ramen ($24) rep the restaurant mascot, while larger plates also include fluke Milanese ($27); fish and chips with cod fished off Block Island ($19); grilled fish and chops ($25 to $32); and a clever, creamy steelhead trout carbonara with dollops of trout roe ($28).
The homey dining rooms, which stretch across two levels, are cast in nautical hues and overlook the water. There is also a handsome bar on the ground floor with a lengthy beer, wine and cocktail list, with sake to come (Matsuoka is also a sake sommelier). The restaurant is partly managed by Lanzetta's son, Tyler Blair.
Manna at Lobster Inn, 5 Inlet Rd., Southampton. 631-728-5555. mannarestaurant.com