Fine dining is an elusive term. There are countless ways to describe it. But you know immediately when you’ve had a taste. Among Newsday’s top 100 restaurants, the 10 that lead the way are mostly chef-driven, imaginative, devoted to the market and to high-quality ingredients.
Here are our leading fine-dining restaurants for 2018.
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.
2 Spring (2 Spring St., Oyster Bay): One of the more eagerly awaited openings of the last year, 2 Spring has lived up to most of the hype. The credit belongs to executive chef Jesse Schenker and chef de cuisine Audrey Villegas. The striking spot, which seats 45 or so, takes up a corner of downtown Oyster Bay and instantly makes you feel that you've been transported to a chef's fairyland of sorts. The showmanship extends from the appointments to the food, in meticulously fashioned designs, lapidary precision, and Food Network style. Try the salmon tartare, with dill and crème fraîche and the cod fritter with lamb ragu and curry aioli. The wedding of lobster and pork terrine celebrates itself with a crown of Champagne foam. Contemplate the fregola spin on risotto, enriched with duck confit. Reconsider your definition of paella with a black rice variation starring chorizo and chicken. The terrific Brandt strip steak keeps any over-orchestration in check and announces itself with a superior onion ring. The chocolate parfait and the rhubarb crumble with fennel keep the festivities going. So do the house cocktails. More info: 516-624-2411, 2springstreet.com
Champagne foam garnishes an appetizer of roasted langoustine with crispy pork, red cabbage and passion fruit at 2 Spring in Oyster Bay.
18 Bay (23 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island): Seasonal and local are buzzwords of the moment whose assertions are not always easy to prove. At 18 Bay, the husband and wife team of Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels ratify their claims by living them, making this 7-year-old Shelter Island restaurant a perennial candidate for Long Island's best, and a recent semifinalist for a prestigious James Beard Award. The accolades are the result of a dedicated routine. The duo starts each day by zigzagging across the North Fork securing the best ingredients they can find locally. Fish from local waters is often purchased when it is still in rigor mortis. Seasonal vegetables are plucked fresh from the field. Meat, dairy and fruit from sellers who have come to be trusted friends. From there, it's off to the ferry and their charming restaurant situated in a late-1800s house where summers mean lazily dining on a long veranda and putting yourself in the hands of the impeccable staff. The "Italian-inspired" tasting menu changes weekly, and at $75, is one of the best meals on Long Island with four antipasti, handmade pasta and a choice of main dish and dessert. Each week is a new adventure, and your daily menu may feature grilled lamb spiedini with mint, hand cut conchiglie pasta with Peconic Bay scallops, garlic and pepperoncini or a seafood one-two of Kopels' fresh fish crudo and a fried oyster with Ronzetti's chili mint-sauce that's so secret even she hasn't shared the recipe with her husband. More info: 631-749-0053, 18bayrestaurant.com
Grilled local striped bass with flat beans, heirloom tomato, fresh corn vinaigrette and basil, served at 18 Bay in Shelter Island.
Copperhill (234 Hillside Ave., Williston Park): Copperhill moved into the vintage building that continental star La Marmite occupied for 40 years. Chef Gregory Kearns and company immediately transformed the place, turning the design countrified and distinctly American. His seasonal, primarily New American, cuisine combines the contemporary and the traditional with imaginative, richly satisfying results. Ramen noodles turn alla carbonara with bacon, pepper, and pecorino Romano cheese. Skirt steak takes a Spanish turn with nutty and peppery romesco sauce, manchego cheese, kale, and Yukon Gold potatoes. Bratwurst and potato salad find a foil with pickled ramps. Chimichurri sparks grilled hanger steak. Blistered shishito peppers are on the same menu with poutine and short-rib gravy. At lunch, ripe avocado finds its way into a BLT, pork buns vie with fried oyster nachos. There's a refreshing shrimp taco and a spirited salmon poke. And the burger, made with dry-aged beef, gets your attention with bacon, onion jam, and Cheddar as readily as the loin of lamb does with merguez sausage, flageolet beans, and mint labne. More info: 516-746-1243, copperhillny.com
Cauliflower is served at Copperhill Restaurant in Williston Park.
Doma Land + Sea
Doma Land + Sea (490 Chestnut St., Cedarhurst): Doma Land + Sea in Cedarhurst will change your mind about kosher restaurants and the myths that often attach to them. Basically, this is an excellent restaurant that just happens to be kosher. It's owned by Boris and Edward Safaniev, who also run the nearby Italian spot, Cork & Slice. They've created a handsomely designed establishment that mixes the rustic and the industrial, from the Edison-style lightbulbs to the countrified wood. And, under executive chef Oscar Martinez, Doma puts on quite a show, with eclectic fare and superior service. Southern-fried chicken drumettes are finished with a sweet-sour sauce and highlight the appetizers. So do the smoky, barbacoa brisket tacos; and the ridiculously good opener, "The Big Dog," a foot-long frank capped with chili, hot peppers, and onions. The "painter's plate" delivers yellowfin tuna tartare with mango relish and taro chips; fried mahi-mahi with spicy tahini aioli. Steaks are excellent, notably the 42-ounce tomahawk-style chop, a thick, tender, on-the-bone rib-eye; and the chile-rubbed Delmonico. The house burger is a grand affair, with caramelized onions, chipotle ketchup, and garlicky aioli. For dessert: a cotton candy tower that must rise three feet, and an apple tortada, under a cloche-like caramel dome of sugar threads. More info: 516-881-7712, domalandsea.com
Mr. Greg's Apple Tortada, featuring vanilla ice cream on top of a lemon crumb cake under a golden caramel dome, is served at Doma Land + Sea in Cedarhurst.
The LakeHouse (135 Maple Ave., Bay Shore): The LakeHouse relocated to grander quarters that offer a knockout view of the Great South Bay. Co-owners Matthew and Eileen Connors brought their stellar cooking and service along to the dockside location. Airy and evocative, it's a fitting setting for Matthew Connors' cuisine, which has been refined over the years since the original restaurant opened in 2006. These days, you'll be drawn to the littleneck clam chowder, with applewood-smoked bacon and chive oil; a grilled octopus salad with chorizo sausage, chickpea puree, and clementines; and a vegetable salad featuring chanterelles, asparagus, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and a poached organic egg. His wild mushroom risotto is gently earthy; his fresh cavatelli with pork shank ragu, porcini, and ricotta, both hearty and lush. Mustard-crusted Scottish salmon, Parmesan-crusted cod, and porcini-crusted local blackfish are a very satisfying seaside trio. The roasted Berkshire pork chop with maple-bacon vinaigrette and cranberry mostarda ensures sharing, as do red-wine braised short ribs with garlic-chive mashed potato and glazed root vegetables, and the dry-aged strip steak with white Cheddar-bacon macaroni and cheese and chimichurri. Homey and appealing: herb-roasted chicken with honey-glazed Cipollini onions. Warm cinnamon doughnuts, warm peach butter cake, and the vanilla bean crème brûlée could make you a regular. More info: 631-666-0995, thelakehouserest.com
The Lake House lobster roll served at The Lakehouse in Bayshore.
Mirabelle (150 Main St., Stony Brook): Guy Reuge's Mirabelle started as a French restaurant, gradually moved to New American, and arrived at farm-to-table. It's still a plum, earning four stars in each incarnation. Mirabelle and the more casual Mirabelle Tavern are in the historic Three Village Inn. Their menus reflect Reuge's extraordinary range and consistent quality. You may consider his nine-course tasting menu. Or start with charcuterie, including a savory country pate, garlic sausage, and rillettes. Maybe fried artichokes or asparagus-cream soup. And segue to duck liver and foie gras mousse. Steak tartare, too. Fluke taco with hoisin sauce and jalapeño may be balanced by chickpea fries with harissa mayonnaise; Kobe beef sliders, by a fricassee of snails. Seared black sea bass with caponata competes with pan-roasted haddock with a springtime morels-and-Cipollini-onion ragout and saffron-vanilla sauce. In season, be sure to pick the fricassee of Peconic Bay scallops. T-bone lamb chops with braised fennel, fried chickpeas, and minted yogurt define tender. Duck Mirabelle comes with celery root, a pearl onion ragout, and olive sauce. The Tavern burger shouldn't be overlooked: a Pat LaFrieda selected blend with bacon-onion marmalade, Cheddar, and fries. Reuge's irresistible desserts include the ginger-almond tart and a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. More info: 631-751-0555, lessings.com
Pennsylvania pheasant breast, wild mushroom beggar'rs purse, carrot puree and chestnuts is served at Mirabelle, situated in the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook.
North Fork Table & Inn
North Fork Table & Inn (57225 Main Rd., Southold): Chef Stephan Bogardus succeeded the late Gerry Hayden at this lovely restaurant, and he has kept it the essential dining room between Riverhead and Orient. Subtle, seasonal, and superb, it offers a balance of refinement and reverie, in summery dining rooms. His six-course tasting menu is a memorable affair. Bogardus' hits go from white asparagus soup with rhubarb and crème fraîche to fish stew with lobster, cod, and a saffron emulsion. Brussels sprout kimchi vies with chickpea hummus with ricotta salata. Risotto fritters are juiced up by lemon, Parmesan cheese, and roasted garlic-black pepper aioli. Razor clams cooked in hazelnut oil add accents of coconut, blood orange, and vanilla-black cardamom. Ricotta cavatelli with duck confit and watercress, Crescent Farm duck with white asparagus, and roasted rack of lamb with polenta, ramps, and black garlic-fennel mostarda are all seductive selections, as is the combination of seared foie gras and raw tuna with glazed daikon and radish syrup. Claudia Fleming's desserts, from her chocolate caramel tart to warm sugar-and-spice doughnuts, coconut tapioca with passion fruit sorbet to a coffee-toffee ice cream sandwich, are delectable. More info: 631-765-0177, northforktableandinn.com
A combo of raw tuna and seared Hudson Valley foie gras is served at North Fork Table & Inn in Southold.
Sandbar (55 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor): Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor is a charming, elegant, unfussy, openhanded restaurant that fits perfectly in this waterside hamlet. The New American menu is designed by Guy Reuge of Mirabelle and stylishly delivered by chef de cuisine David Ladner. It's at the address best remembered for Wyland's Country Kitchen. And things have definitely changed. Fluke crudo with grapefruit granite, spring radish, sorrel, and crème fraîche is a delightful indicator, as are the duck tacos with daikon, jalapeño, and hoisin sauce. Peekytoe crab is partnered with marinated and grilled tomatillo, fennel, onion, and saffron. Even the shrimp cocktail deserves your attention. So does the generous seafood tower starring seasonal oysters. Ricotta gnocchi with pistachio-basil pesto and fried shallots: outstanding. Pan-seared swordfish with asparagus and sauce gribiche, seared sea scallops sparked by lemon zabaglione, and grilled lobster with favas and escarole head the marine dishes. Seared Long Island duck breast and confit of leg, the dry-aged strip steak with morels, and the house cheeseburger, with bacon-onion marmalade and Cheddar all stand out. For dessert, the chocolate pot de crème and cinnamon sugar ricotta doughnuts compete with the classic Mirabelle ginger-almond tart. More info: 631-498-6188, lessings.com
Chickpea fries served with Siracha aioli at Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor.
Stone Creek Inn
Stone Creek Inn (405 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue): Since 1996, Christian Mir and Elaine DiGiacomo have presided over the country restaurant you always look for and rarely find. Mir is the chef, DiGiacomo covers the front of the house. Refined and remarkable, it's revels in French, Mediterranean, and New American cuisines. Consider the amount of flavor packed into Long Island duck meatballs finished with an apple cider reduction; barbecue duck wings; fried artichokes with roasted garlic aioli; or the tuna tartare, vivid with fresh ginger, chives, soy sauce, and wasabi "caviar." Enjoy a cocktail along with Fontina cheese arancini and fried Castelvetrano olives. Focus on potato gnocchi, with black summer truffles; and spaghetti, tinted with cuttlefish ink, sauced with grape tomatoes and orange-infused olive oil, entangling lobster, jumbo lump crab meat, and tiger shrimp. Remember when soft-shell crabs are in season, and give in to them in lemon butter sauce, accompanied by a spring vegetable fricassee, with farro, crisp capers, and almonds. Slice into the grilled Black Angus sirloin, slightly au poivre; and the grilled pork loin on polenta, with fig-and-cherry mostarda. Save room for the modernist raspberry napoleon. More info: 631-653-6770, stonecreekinn.com
Barbecue duck wings served at Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue.
Toku (2014-C Northern Blvd., Manhasset): Toku is the real jewel in The Americana shopping center, and the most distinctive of the Poll brothers' three-star restaurants. Décor mixes the contemporary and the antique, from the lit onyx bar to 19th century wooden bells. Spacious and sleek, it's a stage for compelling, imaginative riffs on Asian cuisines. Carpaccio of chutoro, or medium-fatty tuna, with wasabi salsa, is grand. Pork buns with pickled cucumber and hoisin sauce turn addictive. Kurobuta pork gyoza enrich a mainstay. Yellowfin jalapeño, fluke tiradito, and lobster tacos should carry exclamation points. Ramen, with pork or chicken; and hot-and-sour soup are bracing bowls. Refresh yourself with salads, from Beijing duck with candied oranges to filet mignon with green papaya and nuoc cham vinaigrette. Lobster with ginger-scallion sauce, roasted lobster with udon noodles and lobster butter, and sesame-crusted tuna almost rival the superb sushi and sashimi. Beijing duck and kung pao chicken are the big birds; wagyu steak frites, and kaffir-lime scented Berkshire pork, rule the land. Go noodling with japchae, or glass noodles with shiitakes and snow peas; or chilled udon noodles with peanut sauce. The Fuji spin on tarte Tatin, the warm brownie with green tea Chantilly cream, and litchi sorbet are apropos finales. More info: 516-627-8658, pollrestaurants.com
Half Peking duck with hoisin sauce is served at Toku in Manhasset.