Richard Desmond is a big man trafficking in big flavors. You may remember him as the operatic tenor who, for years, sang at Bliss in East Setauket, where he was chef. Here, every carefully turned-out plate bespeaks his brio for gastronomy.
Desmond's basil-infused hummus, served with crusty bread, augurs well for what's to follow. That might be a trio of flaky turnovers filled, respectively, with roast pork and preserved fig, butternut squash and short rib fonduta. His mac and cheese (studded with Virginia ham and topped with herbed crumbs) may spoil you for other renditions. So, too, might a lime-vinaigrette-dressed salad of field greens crowned with succulent skewered marinated pork loin. Leave it to Desmond to turn salad into a guilty debauch.
In line with the "pork fat rules" credo of Food Network's Emeril Lagasse is a delectable roast pork belly with Bing cherry sauce (the addition of pan-seared scallops is needless). A hypertender ginger-soy-marinated grilled skirt steak makes for another treat.
House-made al dente pappardelle is tossed with wild mushrooms, bacon and fresh herbs, perfumed with truffle oil, topped with Parmesan, to delicious effect. And I love the Kobe beef hot dog, even if its baroque presentation (on flatbread with several sauces) is a bit over the top.
For dessert, it's hard to beat a moist chocolate praline cake or an airy Napoleon-like cherry pistachio torte.
In the realm of the very good is a tender breaded pork chop with caramelized apple glaze and red cabbage. Chicken potpie with puff pastry topping works, too. A layer of hard, overly sweet white chocolate undermines an otherwise fine lemon-coconut tiramisu.
I'm sad that Desmond rarely sings at this venue. "Only on request," I'm told. Instead, the sound system pumps out music so loud my seat vibrates. The volume should be saved for late at night, when the place goes from gastro pub to nightclub.
Wear earplugs, if you must, and make a dining room reservation; Desmond cooks at dinner only.