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The Gourmet Whaler review: Cold Spring Harbor restaurant is refreshing, dependable

With a varied cuisine, The Gourmet Whaler in Cold Spring Harbor is best known for its fresh fish tacos.  (Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon)

The Gourmet Whaler

111 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor

631-659-2977,  gourmetwhalerny.com

COST: $-$$

SERVICE: Warm, attentive

AMBIENCE: Casual, homey restaurant, food shop

ESSENTIALS: Open Sunday to Wednesday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible.

The Gourmet Whaler reels you in.

Refreshing, dependable, fairly priced, Denise and Kevin Chin's restaurant/food shop in Cold Spring Harbor has established a welcome niche on Main Street.

They've cheerfully updated and upgraded the place, eliminated the bric-a-brac and lightheartedly decorated the spot with marine images, from ship's wheel to mermaid, which oversees the ice cream "parlour" section. There's plenty of blue to go around.

Most of the space is devoted to dining in, for breakfast, lunch and, three days a week, for dinner. You'll also find specialty foods to take out, chocolates to soft drinks, plus some ceramics and glass at a gift counter.

But it's the restaurant that's a diverting surprise, whenever you choose to dine. At breakfast, consider the fine cappuccino, omelets, French toast and oatmeal. The breakfast BLT, with two eggs and company; and the avocado toast with 12-grain bread and feta, also will get your morning attention.

Midday, you'll be satisfied with the house's tacos. The excellent fish taco, with a generous cut of panko-breaded and fried flounder and peach-mango salsa, leads the category, which also stands out with the Baja-style fish taco that's boosted by pico de gallo, avocado, shredded cabbage and cilantro-lime cream.

Pulled pork and Reuben sandwiches vie with the turkey club and the flavorful Cubano with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mayo and mustard. And you'll enjoy the classic, meaty lobster roll. If you're inclined, the specialties here also take in a quinoa bowl, the star sauteed with garlic, onion and mushrooms and topped with avocado, roasted fresh corn, tomato, cucumber and iceberg lettuce

But it's a dinner, via the "after dark" menu that the Chins began serving a couple of months ago where you'll find most of chef Luis Grenados'  top fare.

The generous crabcake arrives with fresh corn salsa and is finished with a drizzle of chipotle mayonnaise. Baked clams oreganata: tender and savory. And the house's ample, artfully arranged beet salad, layered as if it were a napoleon, brings together roasted red and golden beets, the tang of goat cheese, candied walnuts, and baby arugula with a red wine vinaigrette. The panzanella salad, the hefty iceberg wedge and poached-pear production with baby spinach, dried figs and cherries, chives and Pecorino Romano cheese compete favorably.

Pan-seared swordfish, with pesto-accented aioli and ratatouille, is a sizable slab, fresh and moist. So is the pan-seared salmon with sauteed vegetables. Shrimp scampi-style is better than most versions, and benefits from caper berries and artichoke hearts.

Skirt steak, boosted by chimichurri sauce, is a winning main course. Recently, the menu was updated, adding meatball Parmigiana to the mainstay chicken and eggplant varieties. They're good and generous, and the cheese is fresh, but the tomato sauce may remind you of your local pizzeria's version.

The "ultimate burger" translates into an 8-ounce one capped with Cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onions, avocado, bacon and a fried egg, all tottering on a brioche bun. You'll dig in contentedly with that plastic knife and fork.

Soft drinks are the beverages here. The highlight is the tangy, traditional house-made lemonade; and a carbonated rendition, or lemonatha, energized with seltzer. More fizz would help the house's egg cream. The unsweetened ice tea and cold brew iced coffee fit right in. Smoothies abound.

Denise Chin does the baking here. Her carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and her chocolate cream pie are ideal finales. She's a chocolatier and expects to prepare and sell house-made chocolates soon. Currently, the chocolates are made elsewhere.

No concerns. You'll be back.

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