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North Fork: An early pre-preview

The Riverhead Project opened at the former site

The Riverhead Project opened at the former site of a Chase Bank in downtown Riverhead. (April 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

I'm just back from a few days on the North Fork. Trees were just about to burst into bloom, and so is the restaurant scene. Summer 2011 promises to be exciting.

First and foremost is The Riverhead Project (300 E. Main St., 631-284-9300), the newest venture from Dennis McDermott (formerly of Greenport's Frisky Oyster). McDermott is putting his swanky, modern-Asian themed restaurant into the low-slung, ‘60s-era structure that, up until two years ago, housed a Chase Bank. “I always liked that building,” McDermott said, “and I thought it would make a great restaurant.”

McDermott was one of the North Fork’s culinary pioneers, opening Frisky in 2002 (he sold it last year to executive chef Robbie Beaver), and much of The Project’s crew is ex-Frisky, including chef Greg Ling, general manager Keith Kraus and beverage director Corwin Kilvert.

Downtown Riverhead hasn’t traditionally been a hotbed of culinary ambition (Tweeds and the new Dark Horse being notable exceptions) but McDermott is undeterred. “Riverhead is both underserved and undiscovered,” he said. “With all the people working at Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Suffolk Courts, there’s no reason why good restaurants can’t do well here.” Another possible source for customers: a new 100-room Hyatt hotel due to open later this year next to the aquarium.

Also coming to Riverhead in the near future: Turkuaz takes over the riverfront location that used to be Hizir Baba (40 McDermott Ave.), and Casa Rica (which used to be Michael’s at the Boardwalk) will be replaced by Cody’s BBQ and Grill (65 E. Main St.).

Earlier this year, Bistro 72, named in honor of Exit 72 on the LIE, opened in Hotel Indigo (1830 W. Main St.,  631-369-2200). Read Peter Gianotti's review here.

Moving farther east, Legends (835 First St., 631-734-5123) in New Suffolk is undergoing a major renovation. The restaurant’s outgoing message gives no completion date.

Touch of Venice has moved from its waterside location in Mattituck to Cutchogue, in what used to be Fisherman’s Rest. The new restaurant (28350 Main Rd., 631-298-5851) looks poised to open soon.

In Southold, JD Steakhouse (62375 Main Rd., 631-876-5101) replaces Cimino’s. Owner Chiara Bonvino characterized her restaurant as family-oriented, with steaks ranging from $19.50 to $28.50.

Greenport’s Farmhouse has closed. (Chef Richard Lanza landed at the just-opened North Fork Oyster Company, around the corner.) The Rhumb Line is poised to reopen as Blue Islands (34-36 Front St., 631-477-2310), under the same ownership. Owner George Raptopoulos said that the new restaurant would be more upscale and unequivocally Greek, with grilled seafood, steaks and Greek appetizers.

Pictured: This 1962-built former Chase Bank will be the new home of The Riverhead Project restaurant.

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