North Fork Oyster Co. is the latest, freshest, briniest reason to eat in Greenport. It's a terrific appetizer for summer 2011.
Actually, the new restaurant should be a year-round, downtown destination, situated in a landmarked area off Main Street. Fittingly shaded in hues of oyster, the casual, handsome eatery delivers a sense of location minus the usual, nautical kitsch. The building, which recently housed Bay and Main, used to be a horse barn. The grand front doors are still part of the design.
But what defines North Fork Oyster Company is the excellent food sent out by chef Richard Lanza, who cooked at PassionFish in Westhampton Beach.
Of course, oysters. The seafood tier sports fine Hog Necks and coppery Malpeques; plus Jonah crab claws, cocktail shrimp and Maine lobster. The multilevel affair feeds two, three, four. Steamed Pipes Cove mussels arrive plump and flavor-packed, in sherry-herb butter with a kick of grilled chorizo. Shaved fennel, preserved lemon, crisp capers and watercress make the bed for very good lump crabcakes. There's the by now inevitable beet-and-goat cheese salad, this one feistier thanks to Catapano Dairy Farm chèvre, hazelnuts and pickled red onion. The North Fork salad with Satur Farm greens, dried fruit, pistachios, blue cheese and blood-orange vinaigrette rivals it.
Creamy Long Island chowder-n-chili successfully adds white beans, pancetta and potatoes. The poached local hen egg, on a brioche crouton, with grilled asparagus vinaigrette, has all-day appeal. Monkfish "osso buco" turns Italianate with a roasted-tomato riff on puttanesca sauce. An herbaceous beurre blanc accents splashy, almond-crusted fluke. Sweet, nutty grilled diver sea scallops are finished with a ragout starring crisp pancetta, white beans and leeks.
The landlocked can savor grilled chicken with Lyonnaise potatoes, balanced with a watercress, fennel and apple salad. Sample the house fries with aioli with any main course. Dessert: crème fraîche cheesecake.
Routine agnolotti, here stuffed with goat cheese; limp pappardelle with lobster; sleepy tempura-battered shrimp; obligatory fried calamari; respectable gelati and chocolate-espresso mousse.
THE BOTTOM LINE