Can you tell me why my mouth fell open when I opened the just released 2011/2012 Zagat Long Island Restaurants survey? (For those not familiar with the slim burgundy guide, it’s basically a poll of diners who rate food, decor and service at restaurants, which can accrue anywhere from 0 to 30 points.)
Here, in order, are the top-ranked restaurants for food:
1. North Fork Table & Inn, Southold (29 points)
2. Siam Lotus, Bay Shore (28 points)
3. Mosaic, St. James (28 points)
4. Kitchen A Trattoria, St. James (28 points)
5. Maroni Cuisine, Northport (28 points)
6. Nagahama, Long Beach (28 points)
7. Lake House, Bay Shore (28 points)
8. Chachama Grill, Patchogue (27 points)
9. La Piccola Liguria, Port Washington (27 points)
10. Le Soir, Bayport (27 points)
Now, I totally expected North Fork Table & Inn to emerge as No. 1. No question, husband and wife chefs Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming are way out in front for the simple and focused ways they optimize local bounty. (In the previous Zagat, the restaurant was in second place).
It’s this year’s next-highest-rated restaurant that comes as a bombshell: Siam Lotus, chef owner Danny Poom’s Bay Shore Thai spot, which catapulted from 25th place in the previous Survey to second in this. True, the place just may be the best Thai restaurant on Long Island (although some might hold differently). Yet it’s changed very little since opening in 1992.
I ate there quite recently and would give it a solid two and a half stars — about a 25 Zagat rating — noting a complex and resonant shrimp hot and sour soup, a nuanced duck salad and a lovely saute of squid, shrimp and scallops with chili sauce, vegetables and basil. Even so, I just don’t get the sharp rise in ranking. (Publisher Tim Zagat points out that the top restaurants are separated only by fractions of points. And that the results are put through a total of 30 different filters, which weed out shills.)
Third place belongs to Mosaic, the tiny St. James restaurant where co-chef-owners Tate Morris and Jonathan Contes put out a new (and inventive) New American menu on a nightly basis. The restaurant was 13th last time around.
Fourth place is Kitchen A Trattoria, chef Eric Lomando’s moderately priced Italian BYOB (a personal favorite) which this year’s surveyors prefer to Lomando’s original restaurant, Kitchen A Bistro (the previous survey’s numero uno restaurant, now in 11th place).
In fifth is Maroni Cuisine, chef owner Michael Maroni’s creative prix-fixe spot in Northport (down two positions from last survey).
So, the people have spoken and those are the results. Even Zagat says, "It's fair game to say a restaurant is overrated."
If you're curious to know what professional critics think of Long Island restaurants, go to exploreLI.com to read over a thousand reviews.
Above: Duck salad at Siam Lotus, Bay Shore