The Mill Pond House in Centerport has a busy lunch...

The Mill Pond House in Centerport has a busy lunch crowd and a bright dining room with harbor views. (Jan. 7, 2011) Credit: Photo by Doug Young

There was still some daylight left when I was shown to a table on the deck of the Mill Pond House, perched over a tranquil pond connected to Centerport Harbor. The air was hot, thick and moist, the sky a slate gray. For a while, we found it hard to converse over the din of the crowd, which blended with music from the sound system. Then, someone rolled back the awning to reveal the darkness above. Suddenly, the noise dispersed, a breeze picked up and the full beauty of the candle-illuminated and torch-lit patio revealed itself. In the distance, lights from a causeway reflected in the pond, an Impressionistic tableau.

The food mostly matched the idyllic scene. From the sushi roster that augments the restaurant's New American menu, four of us selected two maki rolls to share. A spicy salmon roll was bright and piquant, as was a "tiger" roll of tuna, avocado and shrimp with a sweet barbecue sauce. Another cool appetizer, black mission figs with prosciutto di Parma, was drizzled with a lemon, thyme and olive oil vinaigrette, an appealing contrast of sweet and salty.

A long stretch of time yawned between appetizers and main course, not a terrible problem on a lazy summer night.

A special of roasted duck in raspberry sauce was crisp-skinned, the meat moist, the fruity sauce a balance of tart and sweet; saffron rice and tender-crisp string beans accompanied. My husband's grilled pork chop was thick and juicy, paired with an inventive version of hash browns made with hot cherry peppers and wild mushrooms. I was happy with my jumbo diver scallops crusted with ground black Thai rice and served with a mound of chilled soba noodles in peanut sauce. And while a friend's sesame-seared tuna wasn't quite as rare as requested, it was still very good.

We concluded with a home-style apple cobbler topped with vanilla gelato and an unnecessary blob of aerosol whipped cream. Banana cream pie -- actually an individual tart with a graham cracker crust -- made for creamy comfort fare.

We lingered by the tiki bar, situated on one side of the deck. I glanced back at the restaurant and observed, one floor above, a cozy little balcony with three empty tables for two. How private and romantic those tables looked.

"Everything outdoors is first come, first serve," a manager later told me.

There are advantages to dining early.

Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 8/17/07.


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