Stone Creek Inn
405 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue
SERVICE: Gracious, attentive
AMBIENCE: Refined country house
ESSENTIALS: Open Thursday to Sunday from 5:30 p.m.; reservations recommended; major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible via elevator; steps at main entrance
Spring is here — exactly at this address.
Whatever the weather elsewhere, the charming dining room of the Stone Creek Inn ensures you’ll know it’s late April. And chef Christian Mir’s French-inspired American kitchen welcomes it with standout seasonal cuisine.
Stone Creek Inn opened in 1996 after a major renovation of what had been the Ambassador Inn by Mir and his wife, Elaine DiGiacomo, also a veteran chef.
Elegant, refined, awash in white, theirs is easily one of Long Island’s top country restaurants.
Earlier, Mir’s cooking could be enjoyed at Le Chapon Fin in France; The Grand Tier, the restaurant at the Metropolitan Opera; and Tavern on the Green, where he and DiGiacomo met.
They, and general manager Gabrielle Walsh, deftly fashion the handsome place, where the history begins in 1910 as a two-story home, segues during Prohibition to become a speak-easy, and turns restaurant in 1938.
Today, you’ll find consistently excellent fare at fair prices, taking in both springtime specials and inn classics.
Velvety and verdant asparagus and pea soup distills the season into a spoonful, finished with a drizzle of basil oil and a scattering of brioche croutons.
Try the roasted red and yellow beet salad with blood oranges, nubbins of goat cheese and toasted pecans tangled in a hillock of baby arugula. Roasted carrot salad glistens from a citrus vinaigrette, with mache and avocado for company.
A fricassee of spring vegetables is the bed for crisp and lush soft-shell crabs, an instant star boosted by capers, almonds and lemon-butter sauce. Asparagus-spinach puree addresses the calendar and accents a light, mild fillet of roasted red snapper.
Mir’s airy gnocchi entice whether they’re complemented by mushrooms, peas, Parmesan cheese and black truffle oil, or turned slightly Roman with cherry tomato sauce and prosciutto. Spaghetti, tinted with cuttlefish ink and enriched by lobster, jumbo lump crabmeat and bottarga, finds a foil in grape tomato sauce and red pepper flakes. There’s competition from farro ragu with the vegetables of the moment, pine nut and pesto.
Mandatory with these, or as an appetizer, or shared as a side: outstanding Long Island duck meatballs in an apple-cider reduction.
The chef’s rouille-free Provençal-style fish stew has been succeeded by a zuppa di pesce, with similar ingredients, including monkfish and cod, but minus the aioli. Tuna tartare, a mainstay, unfolds as a savory block, capped with gilded roe, ready to be scooped onto lavash crackers. Smoky grilled octopus is sparked by fruity, nutty Taggiasca olives, roasted tomatoes and fingerling potatoes.
A tender cut of grilled pork loin rests on polenta, capped by fig-and-cherry mostarda, and accompanied by broccoli rabe. Filet mignon: perfectly grilled, tender, ideal with grilled asparagus, roasted fingerlings and black pepper sauce.
Mir’s side dishes could be combined for a delicious main course. His barbecue duck wings, meaty and vividly sauced, pair neatly with either roasted romanesco cauliflower or fried artichokes with roasted garlic.
All-seasons snacks such as crunchy-creamy rice balls made with Fontina cheese, and zesty fried Castelvetrano olives, deserve your attention, whether with drinks or with entrees.
The inn’s wine list is a carefully calibrated sampler, with fine choices by the glass as well as in bottles. The mood of the restaurant suggests dolcetto and rose, pinot noir and malbec. Sip along through a modest cheese course.
For dessert, ride with the banana cartwheel, akin to a sundae in a glass, with mascarpone mousse, meringue and caramel sauce; and a playful raspberry napoleon with crisp phyllo. Both are fun, along with the whimsical “campfire delight” of warm chocolate cake, caramel ice cream and marshmallow.
Or consider house-made sorbets, maybe an affogato with Tahitian vanilla ice cream.
After all, summer is coming.