New American, College
$$$$ (Very expensive)
After a stellar chef passes, his successor keeps The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold at a very high level.
Open for dinner from 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday to Sunday. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
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The late Gerry Hayden, whose exceptional farm-to-table cooking reshaped East End dining and turned The North Fork Table & Inn into a regional landmark, left many legacies.
His successor, executive chef Stephan Bogardus, is one.
Bogardus, a Southold native, was chef de cuisine under Hayden from 2011 to 2013. Two months after Hayden’s passing, in September 2015, Bogardus was named executive chef. There are differences, of course, but the young chef keeps The North Fork Table among Long Island’s top restaurants.
Welcome changes include the addition of an a la carte menu, and a more casual “family menu” on some weekdays. Three- and five-course tasting menus, with or without wine pairings, remain. The desserts of Claudia Fleming, one of the Northeast’s great pastry chefs and Hayden’s wife, are dependably terrific.
Service has stayed gracious, attentive, unpretentious; the look, handsome, countrified, restrained. Pale hues prevail. The west dining room now sports whitewashed wood tables for diners seeking a less formal design. The main room keeps to tablecloths. And the restaurant, which used to be primarily a reservations-only spot, encourages walk-ins.
Go for the outstanding combination of raw tuna and seared Hudson Valley foie gras, with glazed daikon and radish syrup — an update on Hayden’s union that featured hamachi. Savor the lustrous crudo of black sea bass, finished with crisp ginger, grapefruit, cilantro and fruity olive oil. Definitely sample the day’s just-harvested local oysters. Enjoy the crisp, generous cod-and-Yukon Gold potato cakes, accented with black truffle tartar sauce.
Satisfying roasted salsify soup, with crème fraîche, sumac and chervil, is the seasonal heir to a vibrant soup of laratte potatoes and celery root. A salad of young lettuces, fennel and radish is a refreshing starter. But you can skip the minimalist selection of cheeses and cured meats. The house’s bread is more suitable for breakfast or brunch, anyway.
House-made ricotta cavatelli with butternut squash arrives molto al dente and on the dry side, as if competing with the brown-butter hazelnuts that accompany it. The striploin of Australian beef shows up closer to medium-well than medium-rare. But order the delicious whipped potatoes as a side dish.
Tender, rosy and excellent: the roasted rack of lamb, with fava beans, English peas, pea tendrils and black garlic; and the prosciutto-wrapped Berkshire pork tenderloin, with polenta, fennel and greens. Black truffle-crusted wild Atlantic cod is the big catch, paired with creamy risotto and heightened by a walnut-truffle emulsion.
Long Island wineries are respectably represented on the wine list, which, overall, can be pricey. The corkage fee if you bring your own is $35 a bottle.
Fleming’s desserts are mandatory. These days, they take in addictive, warm sugar-and-spice doughnuts; and a grand chocolate parfait layered with milk chocolate pudding, dark chocolate mousse, spicy chocolate ganache, caramel whipped cream and chocolate crumble.
A cookie plate with oatmeal-raisin, chocolate chip and still richer all-chocolate must be shared. Sorbets, whether pomegranate-blood orange, passion fruit or coconut, also stand out. Consider the soothing coconut tapioca, with passion fruit sorbet and crisp coconut; or haute-homey ginger shortcake with rose-poached rhubarb, vanilla crème fraîche and candied pistachios. Chocolate soufflé with espresso custard sauce is only on tasting menus, and on a busy Saturday night, exceptions aren’t made.
If The North Fork Table isn’t exactly as it was under Gerry Hayden, it’s very close. That alone is a remarkable legacy.