“Fine dining” is a broad category not easily described. But, to paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, writing on a very different topic, you know it when you see it. And when you eat there.
Most are chef-driven, ambitious, imaginative. They can get pricey. Each meal, however, becomes a special occasion.
Here are our choices for the 10 best restaurants for fine dining in 2017.
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.
18 Bay (23 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island): The "Italian-inspired" cuisine of chefs Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels soars via a fixed-price menu that changes weekly, with four antipasti, handmade pasta and a choice of main dish and dessert. Recommended: Striped bass crudo, lobster-and-potato salad, purslane with local peaches and crushed almond, grilled lamb spiedini with mint, sauteed Atlantic halibut with pistou, roasted Rohan duck breast with cherries and gingered turnips, local peach and cherry cobbler. More info: 631-749-0053, 18bayrestaurant.com
The antipasti platter is served at 18 Bay on Shelter Island.
Copperhill (234 Hillside Ave., Williston Park): Copperhill is in the former site of La Marmite, the continental standard for 40 years. Gregory Kearns has transformed it, in design and food, into a New American winner. Recommended: Pork buns, devils on horseback, seared foie gras with rhubarb and pickled ramps, roasted Joyce Farm chicken, grilled hanger steak with kimchi fries and fried egg, house-made bratwurst, salt-and-pepper rubbed barbecue brisket, the house burger, grass-fed steak with chimichurri. More info: 516-746-1243, copperhillny.com
Marinated fluke with yuzu kosho, radish and coconut is served at Copperhill in Williston Park.
Jema (7 Gerard St., Huntington): Inventor and TV personality Joy Mangano brought in chef Franco Sampogna and transformed what used to be Porto Vivo. Whether for tasting menus or a la carte courses, Jema is a gem. Recommended: Foie gras torchon, local oysters, grilled octopus with smoked potato and chorizo, Shinnecock scallops with cauliflower and spigarello, braised short ribs, Wagyu rump cap Béarnaise, seared duck breast with polenta, all desserts. More info: 631-385-8486, jemarestaurant.com
Crescent Farm duck breast with polenta, olives and capers is served at Jema in Huntington.
The LakeHouse (135 Maple Ave., Bay Shore): Matthew and Eileen Connors relocated from Main Street to this perch overlooking Great South Bay. The global cuisine matches the view. Recommended: Yellowfin tuna tartare, grilled octopus salad, wild mushroom risotto, braised duck pappardelle, crisp suckling pig, caramelized local sea scallops, herb-roasted chicken, roasted Berkshire pork chop, crisp Long Island duck breast and confit of leg with pomengranate-pistachio glaze, pistachio baked Alaska, cinnamon doughnuts. More info: 631-666-0995, thelakehouserest.com
Grilled octopus with Spanish chorizo, chick pea purée, clementines and sherry vinegar is served at The LakeHouse in Bayshore.
Lola (113A Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): Middle Eastern and North African flavors define the savory remake of Lola by chef-owner Michael Ginor and executive chef Lenny Messina. Recommended: Charred octopus with hazelnut romesco lamb malawach, fattoush salad, grilled eggplant salad, chicken schnitzel, grilled Hudson Valley chicken, seared Hudson Valley duck breast with white bean ragout and duck bacon, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, chicken and biscuits, duck Benedict, white chocolate blondie, halvah parfait. More info: 516-466-5666, restaurantlola.com
Grilled octopus is served at Lola in Great Neck.
Mirabelle (150 Main St., Stony Brook): Chef Guy Reuge's showcase at the Three Village Inn combines casual and formal with tavern and restaurant with a farm-to-table emphasis and tasting menus, plus a la carte dishes. Recommended: Flammkuchen, an Alsatian thin-crust pizza with bacon and onion; Kobe beef sliders; herb-crusted swordfish with sun-dried tomato polenta cake; osso buco with risotto Milanese; charcuterie; potted salmon rillettes; mussels mariniere; pan-roasted steak Bordelaise; all desserts. More info: 631-751-0555, lessings.com
Pheasant breast served with a wild mushroom beggar's purse, carrot puree and chestnuts at Mirabelle in Stony Brook.
Mosaic (418 N. Country Rd., St. James): Chefs Jonathan Contes and Tate Morris offer a five-course, fixed-price dinner that changes daily in their cozy dining room. Recommended; Bloody Mary gazpacho, cedar-planked grilled ocean trout with feta-pecan baklava, smoked beef filet with Fontina-potato tart, caramelized sea scallops with bourbon-braised pumpkin, Asiago-Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, wild mushroom carbonara, two-day roast pork shoulder, brownie with pine nut brittle and espresso gelato. More info: 631-584-2058, eatmosaic.com
Mustard-roasted mahi mahi with black and white sesame seeds is served at Mosaic in St. James.
The North Fork Table & Inn
The North Fork Table & Inn (57225 Main Rd., Southold): Stephan Bogardus succeeded the late, celebrated chef Gerry Hayden here, and made it his own. The serene, charming restaurant is focused and grand, from tasting menus onward. Recommended: Crisp cod-and-Yukon Gold potato cake, 8 Hands Farm pork pate, summer truffle-and-ricotta cavatelli, local wild striped bass with fava beans, poached Montauk fluke, roast Crescent Farm duck breast with wild rice, pistachio-lavender crusted rack of lamb, all desserts from pastry chef Claudia Fleming. More info: 631-765-0177, northforktableandinn.com
Crudo of black sea bass is served with crisp ginger, ruby grapefruit, cilantro, and Tuscan olive oil at The North Fork Table & Inn in Southold.
Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar
Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar (117 New York Ave., Huntington): One of the North Shore's best-looking restaurants, Prime matches that with its harborside location and inviting food. Dine alfresco. Arrive by boat. Enjoy dinner, brunch, the works. Recommended: caramelized figs, gnocchi with Parmesan-white truffle sauce, lobster-and-corn chowder, crabcake with Sriracha aioli, sushi rolls, shellfish cocktails, raw oysters, Tellers signature rib-eye steak, porterhouse steak for two, sundaes, sorbets. More info: 631-385-1515, restaurantprime.com
Lump crab meat with cocktail sauce is served at Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar in Huntington.
Stone Creek Inn
Stone Creek Inn (405 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue): Christian Mir and Elaine Digiacomo oversee the elegant restaurant in a 1910 building that once housed the Ambassador Inn. The French-Mediterranean fare is just as stylish. Recommended: Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with fig and cranberry mostarda, charcuterie tasting, oven-roasted Crystal Valley Farm chicken, herb-and-mustard crusted rack of lamb, butter-poached lobster with coconut-ginger-lime broth, localized Provençal bouillabaisse with monkfish, all desserts. More info: 631-653-6770, stonecreekinn.com
Roasted Cresent Farm duck breast with maple-glazed baby carrots and potato gnocchi is served at Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue.