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The Frisky Oyster

The heirloom tomato fondue is served with warm

The heirloom tomato fondue is served with warm goat cheese and grilled ciabatta at the Frisky Oyster Bar in Greenport. (Sept. 28, 2009) Credit: John Griffin

Playful as a carousel and inviting as fall's palette, The Frisky Oyster is the newest reason to visit Greenport with an appetite.

It's far removed from all those kitsch-ridden, rope-wrapped fish houses that spread quicker than red tide, claiming taste buds and ruining shellfish along the way.

This handsome restaurant is one more spark in revitalizing the time-capsule downtown on the North Fork: an autumn angle of light on refined, seasonal cuisine.

A candle on each table contributes, too. The dining room has a soft glow. Brown banquettes, a polished floor and walls covered in a design suggesting a single-tone floral, or perhaps a grapevine, show comparative restraint. But there are politely framed sea life and botanical prints illustrating the entryway. A bar-and-waiting area fills up fast on Saturday night, and the rising voices do change the mood of the place, putting the frisky before the oyster.

The namesake bivalve must be very frisky, so much so that it gamboled away. None was on a recent menu. But slightly smoky and very plump grilled sea scallops happily refocus your attention, as they surround a cucumber, mango and jicama salad.

A Latin touch is applied via the snappy goat-cheese-and-portobello-mushroom quesadilla and a tiny bucket of peppery, chunky son-of-salsa. The house's crab cakes are meaty, very good and accented with a chile-lime aioli. Striplets of smoked duck bring a diverting flavor to butternut squash and sweet potato bisque.

Tender, neatly gilded fried calamari tangles tastefully with a thatch of frisee, finished with a citrus vinaigrette. The frisee salad with nuggets of pancetta and Gorgonzola cheese is a satisfying, uncomplicated opener.

The kitchen prepares a mild, pleasing porcini-crusted halibut, offered with chive-spiked mashed potatoes. Grilled striped bass materializes on braised leeks perfumed with ginger. A parsnip puree complements grilled tuna.

Savory chicken and beef fajitas effortlessly change the theme, accompanied by guacamole, refried beans, sour cream and peppers. The velvety grilled tenderloin of beef, with red wine-shallot butter, benefits from a delectable root vegetable gratin.

Grilled loin lamb chops, with a cap of singed rosemary, are juicy, surrounded by creamy polenta and al dente chard.

In a seasonal mood, the risotto of the moment is flecked with pumpkin, and ringed by grilled, chipotle-seasoned shrimp.

The chocolate pot de crème amounts to a dense, deluxe pudding under a cloudlet of whipped cream -- sure to vanish. Chocolate souffle cake is distinguished by a mint crème anglaise.

Pumpkin crème brûlée comfortably bridges Halloween and Thanksgiving. The rendition of tarte Tatin has sweet fruit, but cardboard pastry. An individual vanilla bean cheesecake, however, is lush, mellow.

A glass of Sauternes, grappa or Port is the logical conclusion to the festivities. You can toast the new Greenport and its latest star. Or just walk around and enjoy the waterside scene.

And, if you dine early enough, you may be inclined to join those smiling riders on the nearby merry-go-round. These days, almost everybody in town is feeling pretty frisky.


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