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The Harvest on Fort Pond

Harvest time in Montauk starts whenever you get here.

Reaping a prime reservation at The Harvest on Fort Pond becomes more than a repeat-dial regimen. In peak summer, of course, calling the restaurant can be like trying to land a double date with Ruby Tuesday and her chaperone.

The restaurant remains understandably popular.

For the last few years, sharp appetites have made a point of hitting the Harvest shortly after visiting the lighthouse. It's still the most serious restaurant in a town where dining out has improved well beyond cracking a steamed lobster.

The Harvest sits serenely on the waterfront of its name. The sunsets are classic. The adjoining garden invites lingering. Ducks, swans and other residents provide their own show.

This is a family-style restaurant, with portions that easily serve two or more. But the fare isn't bulk-rate, industrial-strength stuff. The cooking can be both robust and refined. Invariably, it's very good.

Lobster cakes finished with saffron sauce and accompanied by black Thai rice are generous, deftly seasoned and very satisfying, an opener that plays and updates a local theme.

Steamed mussels with white wine and garlic bring in an aromatic continental accent. The appetizers turn Italian with an ample, tasty bruschetta, with rustic bread capped by ripe, chopped tomatoes and nuggets of mozzarella. You can try the bruschetta with a coverlet of assorted seafood, too. Pan-seared tuna materializes with green tomatoes and grilled corn tapas.

Salads are recommended, especially the combination of grilled portobello mushroom caps, lightly crusted goat cheese and mixed greens; and the tender calamari production, drizzled with a red- pepper vinaigrette. Braised octopus may show up with chickpea salad and grilled tomatoes.

Slightly smoky, crisp-crusted pizzas sport lively toppings: Gorgonzola, sausage, broccoli and tomato; bacon, onion, jalapeos, tomatoes and mozzarella; spinach, mushroom, artichoke and mozzarella. The basic pie with mozzarella and oven-roasted tomatoes is fine.

Pastas are an eclectic group. You could sample cavatelli tossed with peppers, herbs and tomatoes, or a surf-turf riff of fusilli with scallops and bacon, as well as mushrooms.

The zestiest main course is a whole red snapper, prepared with sweet-sour sauce and a peppery undercurrent: crisp outside, moist and snowy within.

Grilled salmon tries to compete with a union of cucumbers, dates and walnuts. Pan-seared swordfish arrives, marinated in wine, and given some crunch with hazelnuts.

A hazelnut crust and Grand Marnier sauce complement roast pork. The husky porterhouse steak is a bit overcooked, but boosted by plump shallots and garlic. Grilled chicken is on the dry side, perched on garlicky mashed potatoes. An old favorite, lamb T-bones, makes its savory entrance once more with polenta and escarole.

For dessert, an apple-blueberry pie bridges the seasons, but you'll pay extra to make it a la mode. The tart, frozen cousin of Key lime pie will remind you of warm-weather days. The profiteroles with ice cream are fun.

Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti 

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