The big year-round catch for many Long Island restaurants starts with shellfish — from shrimp, lobster, scallops and crabs to clams, mussels, oysters and cockles. Peconic Bay scallops and Blue Point oysters, are local stars. Others, such as stone crabs, come for a visit.
Here are 10 favorites and where to find them, recommended by Newsday’s food critics, Peter M. Gianotti, Corin Hirsch and Erica Marcus.
Lobster with ginger-scallion sauce at Merrick Sea
Lobster with ginger-scallion sauce at Merrick Sea (151 Merrick Ave., Merrick): Merrick Sea’s kitchen offers authentic Sichuan and Hunan dishes along with Chinese-American favorites, but lobster dominates the Merrick menu. A relative of owner Sara Fang is a Maine wholesaler who supplies many of the Chinese restaurants in Flushing, and just inside the restaurant’s threshold is a lobster tank whose live denizens are dispatched for lobster fried rice, salt-and-pepper-fried lobster and more. The most glorious preparation is Cantonese-style lobster, stir-fried with ginger and scallions, the rare preparation that actually improves upon a plain, steamed lobster (which you also can get here). The meat is still inside the shell, but the lobster is cut up so that it is easily accessible. More info: 516-705-6021, merricksea.com
Grilled langoustines at Kyma
Grilled langoustines at Kyma (1446 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn): The langoustine has several names, from scampi to Dublin Bay prawn and Norway lobster. Consider it a slender cousin of lobster or a big brother to crawfish, with a light orange hue, only sweeter. And langoustines are comparatively rare. They’re caught in the North Atlantic, notably off the Scottish coast. Kyma in Roslyn expertly grills langoustines, keeping them moist and flavorful, with a hint of smokiness and minimal char. More info: 516-621-3700, kyma-roslyn.com
Crispy kataifi shrimp at Cardoon Mediterranean Grill
Crispy kataifi shrimp a Cardoon Mediterranean Grill (2479 Adler Ct., Seaford): Shrimp may be the chicken breasts of seafood — versatile and seemingly everywhere at once. (Well, maybe tilapia shares that mantle). Rarely, though, do shrimp dishes linger in your memory. Not so at Cardoon Mediterranean Grill, a tucked-away spot in Seaford, where chef de cuisine Jason DeLeo grills the crustaceans until they’re lightly charred, then nestles them into a creamy fondue sauce studded with fava beans, roasted corn and merguez sausage. On top goes a shower of shredded phyllo dough called kataifi; the final result is a tumble of texture, flavor and temperature that’s probably one of those things Cardoon can never take off the menu. Order one while lounging on Cardoon’s quaint canal-side patio, palms swaying overhead. More info: 516-785-2390
Crawfish boil at Mara’s Homemade
Crawfish boil at Mara’s Homemade (236 W. Jericho Tpke., Syosset): This spicy, rich, traditional dish, or bucket, carries a fired-up taste of Louisiana. A vivid choice stands out at Mara’s Homemade in Syosset, where southern and Cajun fare share the table with Arkansas smoked barbecue. The crawfish are boiled with seasoning that suggests cayenne and a lot more. The sweet crustacean absorbs all the spices and delivers a rush of Cajun heat that doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the shellfish. Mara’s gets its crawfish from Louisiana. When they run out, the next source is California. Get messy. And order some crawfish-stuffed bread and crawfish étouffée, too. More info: 516-682-9200, marashomemade.com
Lobster roll at DJ’s Clam Shack
Lobster roll at DJ’s Clam Shack (3225 Sunrise Hwy., Wantagh): Mayo? Celery? We prefer lobster rolls constructed the Connecticut way, served warm and barely adorned with butter and maybe a hint of spice. DJ’s Clam Shack, a seafood shack marooned on busy Sunrise Highway, delivers with hunks of sweetish claw and knuckle meat on top-split hot dog buns that have been griddled in butter. For $17, you get a quarter pound of meat, as well as a side of fries. DJ’s also serves a chilled, Maine-style version. More info: 516-900-1400, djsclamshackwantagh.com
Steamers at Buoy One
Steamers at Buoy One (Multiple locations): Oysters may be Long Island’s most glamorous mollusk, but clams are the most ubiquitous and, unlike their finicky cousins, they are always in season. Buoy One, which got its start as a fish market in Riverhead, does a great job with steamed soft-shell clams — familiarly, steamers — serving buckets full of plump, briny bivalves with clam broth for swishing and melted butter for dipping (and running down your chin). The Westhampton location (62 Montauk Hwy.) is more comfortable, but the original Riverhead location (1175 W. Main St.) has the advantage of having Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe right across the street.
Ipswich clams at Bigelow’s
Ipswich clams at Bigelow’s (79 N. Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre): Soft-shell clams — the ones with thin shells and the “necks” that hang out of them — are variously called long-neck clams, steamers, belly clams, pissers and Ipswich clams, named for the town in Massachusetts where, it is said, someone first got the idea to deep-fry them. For decades, Long Islanders in search of Ipswich have made their way to Bigelow’s. The Rockville Centre clam shack — basically a counter surrounding a fryolator — seems not to have changed since it opened in 1939. The Ipswich clams are sweet, salty, crisp and nutty and you won’t stop eating them until you see the bottom of the cardboard boat they are served in. More info: 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com
Steamed lobster at Duryea’s Lobster Deck
Steamed lobster at Duryea’s Lobster Deck (65 Tuthill Rd., Montauk): Except for the lighthouse, the essential landmark to visit in Montauk is Duryea’s Lobster Deck. The Duryea name has been synonymous with Montauk lobster for three generations. The casual restaurant and seafood market were sold four years ago and they’ve been upscaled, but remain informal. And the lobsters served there meet their destiny with style. They’re available steamed or broiled. Go for the steamed 2 pounder. While on the subject of Homarus americanus, consider the lobster salad roll, too. More info: 631-688-2410, duryealobster.com
Raw Oysters at The Village Raw Bar
Raw Oysters at The Village Raw Bar (88 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre): Yes, they’re delicious fried, in a po’boy; chargrilled in the shell; singular in a stew or a pan-roast, or a casserole; turned Rockefeller or in stuffing. But they’re at their peak on the half-shell, briny or sweet, mild or not, creamy or herbaceous, offering a hint of the waters from which they come. The Village Raw Bar in Rockville Centre is among the Long Island restaurants with plenty of variety each day. Try the coppery Malpeques from Prince Edward Island, Beausoleils from New Brunswick, Mookie Blues from Maine, and locals such as Lucky 13s from Great South Bay and Pine Islands from Oyster Bay. Slurp, compare, enjoy. And skip the cocktail sauce. More info: 516-678-9888, villagerawbar.com
Mollusks on the half shell at Little Creek
Mollusks on the half shell at Little Creek (37 Front St., Greenport): Local mollusks are the draw at Little Creek, Greenport’s hidden U-shuck shack. The lineup changes daily, but will always feature oysters from the Peconic Bay (such as Oysterponds, Peconic Gold, Hog Neck) and farther afield (from the Great South Bay to Washington State) as well as local littleneck clams and about two dozen craft brews. Unlike most raw bars, Little Creek gives you the chance to shuck your own mollusks, supplying knives, gloves and instruction. To find it, follow Bootleg Alley south from Front Street toward the water; Little Creek is on the waterfront between Mitchell Park and Claudio’s. More info: 631-477-6992, littlecreekoysters.com