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Restaurant X opens in Port Washington

Chef Cesar Aguilar plates shrimp a la plancha

Chef Cesar Aguilar plates shrimp a la plancha at Restaurant X in Port Washington. Credit: Raychel Brightman

The letter X can stand for many things. For Port Washington's Restaurant X, which opened quietly in late October, it symbolizes an entire philosophy that aims to bend the rules of what it means to both eat in and run a restaurant.

"We have a small menu that is always changing, and there is not much rigidity, hence the 'X'," said Gabriel Moroianu, a partner. "It is nondescript — anything goes. "

For the first few weeks of Restaurant X's existence, there was not even a sign over the door — just a bank of misted-over windows on Main Street, behind which diners would find a plush, gray-on-gray dining room. At each banquette is a sealed gray envelope, and inside that, a multicourse tasting menu that changes every two weeks. Charged with that constant reinvention is executive chef Tomo Kabayashi, chef de cuisine Cesar Aguilar and a rotating roster of visiting chefs (chef Xs) due to start in January.

"We thought of chef Tomo as our culinary anchor going into this project," said Moroianu. "Chefs Tomo and Cesar have carte blanche with creativity, to put their best foot forward and use their minds to create something unique."

Kobayashi, originally from Japan's Yamaguchi prefecture, is a well-known face on the local fine dining circuit, including a stint as executive chef of Toku Modern Asian in Manhasset.

Kobayashi and Aguilar have known each other for years, and it was at Toku where most of the partners met; besides Moroianu, they include Buck Canon, Calvin Lau and Juan De La Cruz. (Robert S. Heicklen, a real estate broker, is also a partner). Together, they used their collective experience to reverse engineer restaurant life, resolving to create an adventurous, always-changing place where stress and toxicity are minimized.

"We worked for so many years in chaos, and so we wanted to create serenity," said Canon, a former chef who doubles as bartender, serving bespoke mixed drinks behind the dramatic, backlit marble bar.

Each two-week epoch is themed, and diners are encouraged to leave their menus sealed so they are surprised by each twist in the nine-course tasting, which costs $160 per person, or $215 with wine pairing. There is a parallel vegetarian menu for $120 per person, $175 with wine pairing.

Restaurant X's opening menu was themed French-Asian. The small plates included Berkshire pork "char siu porchetta" in a plum-mustard-ginger glaze; a filet of madai (Japanese sea bream) served dramatically in clear parchment (en papillote) snipped open by a server and doused with shiso-tomato fondue; and a charred Wagyu beef cheek with a bright yuzu-koshou jus. The vegetarian menu featured dishes such as roasted maitake mushrooms with potato galette, shiso butter and truffle purée.

Pastry chef Joemi Reyes, once the pastry chef at Jericho's One North, creates layered, quietly showstopping desserts such as a coconut panna cotta with an azuki-bean gelée and spiced mango candy, accented with dianthus blooms.

Moroianu, a sommelier, creates the wine pairings for each menu. "Pairing wine with each course brings nuance to light," he said.

A shorter, four-course tasting menu is available at the bar, for $80, and has seemed to already draw a following; many of the dishes from the chef's tasting are available as a la carte small plates, from $10 to $24.

In December, Restaurant X will debut a wild-game themed menu; in January, they will welcome their first guest chef: Christian Delouvrier, the once Michelin-starred chef of New York City's late, great Lespinasse.

Restaurant X is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday, and brunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday at 170 Main St., Port Washington, 516-918-9446. restaurantxli.com

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