Embedded in a mundane Nesconset strip mall alongside a laundromat, dog groomer and nail salon is a 2-month-old restaurant that's anything but mundane: Tate's.
Here, in minimalist surroundings, chef and co-owner Jack Mutell has been unleashing his creativity on a daily changing roster of New American and Italian dishes. He's the kind of chef who makes everything he serves, from bread to pasta to desserts.
Dinner begins on an up note with porchetta (slow-roasted pork) in a piquant apple-cranberry mustard sauce. A hyper-flavorsome roasted tomato soup is mellowed with a bit of cream, topped with toasty croutons.
Mutell makes a moist,crab-intense crab cake. His salads break from the cliche. How about some warm grilled asparagus with chopped egg, onion, arugula, Parmigiano- Reggiano and bresaola?
Prosciutto catapults an already good Asian pear salad to a whole other level.
Pork tenderloin is tender enough to cut with a fork, glazed with barbecue sauce and served with comforting Colby Jack risotto.
One night, al dente ravioli with crab are drizzled with a sprightly lemon-garlic sauce. Another version features a filling of shredded short ribs in a red wine demiglaze crowned with a rich caciocavallo (sheep's milk cheese) sauce.
Dinner ends with three lush, moist cakes - carrot, chocolate layer and cheesecake.
Mutell's bread is crusty and warm one night, dry and overheated another. I'm not a fan of the olive oil and whole roasted garlic cloves that accompany, preferring butter, instead.
A quesadilla holding sirloin, Gorgonzola and mozzarella is lukewarm, and its ingredients just don't come together. Then, there's chicken Sorrentina: dry boneless breasts with way too much prosciutto, eggplant,mozzarella and sherry sauce.
MONEY SAVING TIPS
Come before 7 p.m. for the three-course, $22 prix-fixe (a few dishes are extra) or drop by for lunch, when salads go for $7, entrees, $10.