“Fine dining” is perhaps the broadest and most subjective category on Newsday’s list of Long Island’s top 100 restaurants. We all have our own ideas about what it means. What defines it these days underscores the importance of the chef-driven restaurant, one that’s creative, market-driven and devoted to high-quality ingredients. And, of course, you know it’s fine dining the moment you get that first taste.
Here are Newsday’s choices for the 10 best fine-dining restaurants of 2019.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
The 1770 House
The 1770 House (143 Main St., East Hampton): A local landmark for centuries, The 1770 House joins the best Long Island restaurants under executive chef Michael Rozzi. It's an elegant, delightful spot, full of history and flavor, with, of course, rooms if you'd like to stay until breakfast, and then hang out at the tavern. Spicy Montauk fluke tartare vies sauteed squid with Calabrian chiles. A chilled sweet pea soup competes with cauliflower bisque enriched with smoked salmon and caviar. Seared Hudson Valley foie gras with pineapple chutney could lead you right into the Mecox Bay Dairy cheese selection. But look for the Berkshire pork rib chop and the braised beef shirt rib, the Australian lamb chops with asparagus risotto and the New York strip steak with marrow sauce. Scottish salmon with green curry rivals Atlantic cod with marcona almond emulsion and Jerusalem artichokes. At the tavern: meatloaf with potato puree, spinach and roasted garlic sauce; St. Louis-style pork ribs with scallion cornbread; hoisin-roasted duck fried rice; and lamb and chickpea curry. The sweets include a terrific sticky date cake, warm cinnamon doughnuts and a dark chocolate torte. More info: 631-324-1770, 1770house.com
Striped bass with lobster tarragon sauce, as served at The 1770 House in East Hampton.
18 Bay (23 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island): Adam Kopels and Elizabeth Ronzetti are the husband-and-wife team behind this exceptional country-style restaurant, where the Italian-inspired food is a testament to what's in season. The tasting menu changes weekly in this late-18th century house. Pick your week -- or month. The stellar dishes have included baked Peconic Bay scallops in any preparation, including enriching hand-cut conchiglie pasta; seared soft-shell crab with sumac yogurt; handmade rotolo pasta with ricotta and morels; fazzoletti pasta primavera; cod fritter with curry aioli and lamb ragu; fluke crudo with either green nectarine or rhubarb and wild mustard; bluefish crudo with celery lettuce; a lobster-and-pork terrine capped with Champagne foam; roasted striped bass with artichoke ragout; roasted Atlantic halibut with saffron, tomato and baby turnips; braised short rib with cucumber kimchee; and a Painted Hills New York strip steak with grilled heirloom chicories and shallot rings. Memorable desserts: blood-orange semifreddo, with nutty, oniony but mild nigella-seed shortbread; the strawberry-and-rhubarb cobbler, and a peach-and-cherry cobbler, each with vanilla gelato. More info: 631-749-0053, 18bayrestaurant.com
Hand-cut tagliatelle with lobster, peas and white butter at 18 Bay on Shelter Island.
The LakeHouse (135 Maple Ave., Bay Shore): Perched on Great South Bay, The LakeHouse is superior food with a view to match. Matthew and Eileen Connors carried over their elegant cuisine from smaller quarters at Lawrence Lake. Service sometimes seems pressured and the room can get noisy. But the food is first-class. That begins with briny, rich Lucky 13 oysters on the half shell, a terrific New England-inspired littleneck clam chowder, cavatelli with duck, wild mushroom risotto and a sinful rectangle of crisp suckling pig backed by Parmesan polenta, honey-glazed pearl onions and a maple vinaigrette. Then, pick the juicy, roasted Berkshire pork chop flanked by near-candied Brussels sprouts and apple-chestnut hash; crisp-skinned breast of Long Island duck and leg confit with a pomegranate-pistachio glaze; mustard-crusted Scottish salmon; and herb-marinated halibut accompanied by a saffron-orzo play on paella. Pepper-crusted New Zealand venison is spurred by crisp mustard spaetzle, raspberry-beer braised cabbage, parsnip puree, and green peppercorn-Cognac sauce. Ideal lemon tart and cinnamon-sugar doughnuts are top finales. More info: 631-666-0995, thelakehouserest.com
Caramelized local sea scallops with favas, ramps, fingerling potato, spring pea-mint sauce, prosciutto and pea shoots at The LakeHouse in Bayshore.
Mirabelle (150 Main St., Stony Brook): Guy Reuge's Mirabelle turned the historic Three Village Inn into a four-star dining destination. He has fashioned a repertoire that includes a nine-course tasting menu and a la carte fare, with accents French and New American, Asian and European. Pick at random and enjoy the traveling. Reuge's vibrant cuisine has taken in a farm-to-table menu, with courses such as chilled asparagus, parsnip and pea soup with chives; and roasted Berkshire pork loin with baby artichokes and red-onion marmalade. He prepares superb charcuterie, from housemade country pate to rillettes, garlic sausage to salumi. Roasted octopus glistens with an orange vinaigrette. Kobe beef sliders: burgers, elevated. Pan-roasted steelhead trout swims in with orzo caponata. Sage-scented gnocchi announce themselves with roasted trumpet mushrooms and parsley pesto. A Berkshire pork chop turns Alsatian with sauerkraut, pork sausage and creamer potatoes. And the duck Mirabelle with seared breast and confit is a classic. Sample artisanal cheeses. But leave room for that almond ginger tart. More info: 631-751-0555, lessings.com
Duck Mirabelle with cherry-onion marmalade, potato croquettes and summer squash is served at Mirabelle in Stony Brook.
NoCo Kitchen Wine and Cocktails
NoCo Kitchen Wine and Cocktails (429 N. Country Rd., St. James): Polished and charming, NoCo, which stands for North Country, makes you want to eat every dish on its menu. That means specials, too. The lively establishment is owned by Joseph DeNicola, whose restaurant group includes Ruvo in Greenlawn, Ruvo East in Port Jefferson and La Tavola in Sayville. DeNicola and the group's executive chef, Anthony D'Amico, offer an eclectic cuisine that takes its inspiration from Italy, France and Asia. Lobster bisque with an ample amount of lobster meat is deeply flavorful, as is the pressure-fried duck leg confit paired with a masa corn waffle and stone-fruit jam. Wine-braised beets with whipped ricotta, toasted pine nuts, grapefruit, mache and more sounds over-orchestrated, but it's addictive. Sample the harmonious lobster-and-corn cake with tomato-avocado salad; and semolina gnocchi with acorn squash, English peas, chanterelles and pickled shallots. Select the baked clams with chorizo, fennel, tomato and rye breadcrumbs. Creekstone Farms strip steak, seared duck breast and leg confit with chanterelle risotto, and pan-roasted hake with chorizo, clams, corn, and beet greens stand out. All the desserts do, too. More info: 631-250-9600, nocostjames.com
Watermelon salad with mizuna, feta, honey roasted pistachios and white balsamic is served at NoCo Kitchen Wine and Cocktails in St. James.
North Fork Table & Inn
North Fork Table & Inn (57225 Main Rd. (Route 25), Southold): Under new chef Brian Wilson, North Fork Table & Inn remains a stellar farm-to-table spot, with gracious style and unfussy, richly satisfying seasonal fare. It's all served in dining rooms that elegantly combine subtle hues and meticulous presentations. Wilson's winners include gnocchi with crabmeat hazelnuts finished with lemon-brown butter and pea soup accented with mint, dill, and black-pepper yogurt. He deftly pairs seared foie gras with raw tuna, bringing the duo closer with glazed daikon and radish syrup. Yellowfin tuna tartare is balanced with ponzu sauce. Seared octopus finds savory company with chorizo sausage, chickpeas, Kalamata olives and harissa aioli. A Painted Hills striploin of beef arrives complemented with a Port reduction, wild garlic and a crisp potato cake. Halibut benefits from saffron-infused toasted barley and charred ramp pesto. The house's lobster roll elevates the summery treat. Strawberry-rhubarb sauce boosts the Catapano Dairy Farm goat cheese soufflé. Claudia Fleming's desserts continue to star as they did when she and her husband and founding chef, the late Gerry Hayden, unveiled North Fork Table. Obligatory: the chocolate-caramel tart. More info: 631-765-0177, northforktableandinn.com
Beef striploin with garlic potato gratin, Swiss chard, Nebrodini mushrooms and port reduction is served at North Fork Table & Inn in Southold.
Preston House & Hotel
Preston House & Hotel (428 E. Main St., Riverhead): When The Preston House opened in Riverhead in 2018, it signaled a new era for fine dining in the sometimes overlooked county seat. The four-story boutique hotel made a splash. And the bright, beachy restaurant on its ground floor, housed inside a 1905 home, quickly rose to the top tier of East End dining. This is the domain of chef Matty Boudreau, who uses bounty from local fishermen, growers and food producers for inventive, seafood-centric dishes: Montauk Pearl oysters served with a punchy daikon mignonette; shimmering tuna tartare on a cloud of whipped avocado; a "Down East-style" chowder studded with local clams. Boudreau is deft with meat, too: He cures, braises and smokes pork belly for the excellent house slab bacon, which is served with tomato jam; and the tender duck confit, two legs' worth of local bird, is shepherded by kumquat chutney for pops of sweet and sour. More info: 631-775-1500, theprestonhouseandhotel.com
Pit master's bacon, tomato mustard seed jam and local microgreens is served at Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead.
Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar
Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar (117 N. New York Ave., Huntington): From its setting to its cuisine, its service to its style, Prime is an 18-karat entry in Gold Coast dining. The waterfront site delivers a delightful harbor view. On a sunny Sunday, the a la carte alfresco brunch is all you'd want. And the well-appointed dining and oyster bar represent the high-end of Long Island eating with great skill and just enough flair. Executive chef James Orlandi's hits range from caramelized figs with prosciutto, almonds and goat cheese to plump crabcakes with Sriracha aioli; shellfish cocktails and the oyster selection to refreshing sushi rolls and salads. But Prime really gets going with main courses: perfectly steamed or broiled lobster, pan-seared tuna, roasted chicken with morel-cream sauce, pan-roasted duck with a honey-mustard glaze and exceptional steaks and chops. Try the 40-ounce porterhouse for two or the 40-ounce Tellers rib-eye. That rib steak makes reference to Tellers in Islip, a member of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, as is Prime. The bone-in filet mignon and the dry-aged New York strip steak are terrific, as are the generous veal chop parmigiana and the rosy rack of lamb. The "enhancements" include melted blue cheese, a Parmesan crust and especially butter-poached lobster. Excellent sauces and sides, plus vanilla bean cheesecake and a s'mores sundae for two. You'll want to linger with an after-dinner drink. More info: 631-385-1515, restaurantprime.com
Caramelized figs with shaved prosciutto, almonds, goat cheese, EVOO and balsamic served at Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar in Huntington.
Sandbar (55 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor): The charms of Sandbar are many, from effortless style to handsome design, seasonal New American cuisine to attentive service. It manages to be both refined and homey on the plate. Executive chef Guy Reuge creates the menu, as he does at Mirabelle in Stony Brook. Chickpea fries, stacked like Lincoln Logs, will hook you fast: fragile and crisp outside, creamy within. Charred octopus with salsa verde, potatoes, olives, radicchio, arugula and frisee curls tastefully. Duck tacos turn multinational with daikon, rounds of jalapeno and hoisin sauce. Swordfish with vegetable ratatouille and olive tapenade is a deftly cross-hatched catch. Steelhead trout announces a seasonal presence with grilled ramps and lemon marmalade. Chicken potpie becomes the standard. The tender Berkshire pork chop gets a boost from a fava bean-oyster mushroom ragout, crisp potatoes and pickled mustard seeds; the Long Island duck duo, from Moroccan couscous and a kumquat gastrique. And, yes, consider the Sandbar cheeseburger. And there are those outstanding ricotta doughnuts with creme Anglaise and caramel. Superior sorbets, too. More info: 631-498-6188, lessings.com
Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor serves pan roasted scallops with mango coulis, basmati rice and roasted japanese eggplant.
Stone Creek Inn
Stone Creek Inn (405 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue): Christian Mir and Elaine DiGiacomo opened this lovely country restaurant in 1996. It has only gotten better, with itineraries Mediterranean, French and New American, and a mood that balances the vibrant and the serene. Consider Mir's cauliflower vichyssoise; and potato gnocchi with cherry tomato sauce, basil, and prosciutto. Savor barbecue duck wings and Long Island duck meatballs with an apple cider reduction. Likewise, a duck foie gras terrine, rice balls filled with Fontina cheese. Choose poached oysters with leeks, sevruga caviar, and beurre blanc. Venture vegetarian with a Tuscan farro ragu sparked with pine nuts and basil pesto. Veer Italianate with osso buco and saffron-potato gnocchi. In spring, consider soft shell crabs with lemon-butter sauce, crisp capers and olives. Desserts: opera cake, coconut ice cream lollipops, an affogato with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, orange-almond biscotti, warm doughnuts with caramel-bourbon sauce and the "campfire delight" of warm chocolate cake, caramel ice cream and marshmallow. More info: 631-653-6770, stonecreekinn.com
Soft-shell crabs with spring vegetable fricassee at Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue.