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UPDATE (FROM FEED ME BLOG 3/2010)
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a clear fix on Snaps American Bistro in Wantagh. When the place opened, back in 2004, it was in a price range that straddled the line between moderate and expensive. Newsday's Peter Gianotti gave it two stars, calling Scott Bradley's repertoire "food with flair, without pretense."
After a makeover designed to reposition Snaps as even more casual and less costly, Bradley continued to change things. Just two weeks ago, he was offering a two- course prix-fixe for $25.95. Then, in a move that looked like a godsend for thrifty diners, he added a dessert course to the mix.
But the new deal wasn't quite the bonanza it appeared to be. It offered a much more limited selection of starters (soup or salad instead of something like a lobster BLT) and only three possible entrees. Dessert? A take-it-or-leave-it chef's choice. Order that meal and you can end up feeling like a second-class diner in comparison to tables getting one of Bradley's tasting menus, priced $35 to $80 a person.
A recent $25.95 prix-fixe dinner began with Caesar salad — not bad, but hardly a showcase for this chef's skills. An entree of Southern fried chicken amounted to about a quarter of a small bird. Dessert was a chocolate ice cream cone — half a scoop, at that.
From the a la carte roster, a short rib and blue cheese quesadilla was big on flavor but served lukewarm. Grilled salmon (requested rare) over coconut-curry-pineapple broth with soba noodles sounded great, but the fish that came had been cut through the middle and was seriously overcooked. Still, the Thai broth was uber-aromatic. And Bradley's dulce de leche sundae was nothing short of splendid.
Here's a news flash: if you check out the Snaps Web site (at least within the next few hours), it reads: “Prix fixe menu will usually be between $23.95-$28.95 for three courses depending on choices.” Bottom line: you won't know what your menu (or tab) will be until you show up.
I have a strong suspicion that Bradley will soon return to a wider range of prix-fixe options in a somewhat higher price range. That’s the arena this chef is comfortable in and, really, where he belongs.
Snaps is at 2010 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh, 516-221-0029, snapsrestaurant.com
END OF UPDATE
Snaps crackles and pops.
Scott and Patty Bradley turn a neighborhood restaurant into a destination at this newcomer, with sharp cooking at a place that has absolutely no edge. It's food with flair, without pretense.
The modest dining room and bar used to house Focaccia Grill. Chef Scott Bradley, whose talents once seasoned Mirepoix in Glen Head, Passionfish in Woodbury and Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, brings you his revised take on lively new American cooking.
This adventure occurs in an establishment that, from the parking lot, seems just another anonymous storefront. Inside, a Matisse cutout and stylized images of chefs highlight the sunny decorations.
Service invariably is amiable and warm, whether you're here on a date or with every kid on the block. Democracy reigns.
So do eclectic choices. Begin with a mellow, creamy risotto of vegetables, capped by chips made from them, spiked with pesto and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Or go East, with wok-crisped duck salad, threaded with soba noodles and juiced up by cilantro, mint and a zesty vinaigrette with Thai spices.
The Thai theme continues with the sensuous ginger lobster broth, enriched with coconut milk, lime and cilantro. Take a westerly turn with beef broth, floating a pair of short-rib dumplings. The soup has a diverting hint of vanilla.
A short-rib-and-Gorgonzola cheese quesadilla comes to.gether far from Mexico and you'll enjoy the ride. Steak tartare arrives seasoned with Asian spices, in a Japanese- style sauce. Very good. Likewise, the tuna tartare, accented with ginger and sesame, with a seaweed salad and wasabi-shot caviar. Salmon sashimi, with soy-mustard sauce and cucumber salad, may not be the purist's ideal, but it's tasty.
Bradley's lobster "knuckle" sandwich does get a bit overorchestrated, with a truffled bearnaise, an egg yolk and a chicken glaze. Short on har.mony. But the meat is sweet.
A drizzle of espresso sauce rings a moist slab of salmon and a crown of slivered, savory orange-braised endive, which rest on a potato puree. The coffee brings in added color contrast, but also a note of bitterness that can overwhelm the rest. The adaptation of cioppino, on linguine, boasts fennel broth, but overcooked seafood.
You're better off with the prosciutto-wrapped monkfish, a smoky-sweet union atop stewed lentils, finished with a citrusy, peppercorn sauce. The kitchen's refined riff on sole amandine in lemony brown butter sports a delicious parsnip puree.
Bradley excels with steak "brasiole," a tender and herbaceous roulade of beef, sparked with charred .tomato salsa, zesty chimichurri and garlicky French fries. But the braised lamb shank, while aromatic with Moroccan spices, curry, yogurt and grilled lemon, is on the tough side.
Porcini-dusted pork with red wine sauce, however, is .recommended. You'll also like the truffled "mac and cheese" a version definitely for adults. And try the juicy, grilled hanger steak, with blue cheese-studded mashed potatoes.
The finales include a well- made, molten-center chocolate cake and textbook vanilla crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e. But few former and present Girl Scouts will resist the make-them-yourself s'mores, with the complete kit of neatly arranged Hershey chocolate bars, graham crackers and marshmallows ready to skewer and toast, surrounding the burner.
Madeleines, the shell-shaped spongecake cookies, arrive warm in a paper cone, with a glass each of marmalade and chocolate sauce for gilding.
Of course, have them with tea. You'll remember Snaps.
Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 3/28/04.