58775 Rte. 48, Greenport
AMBIENCE: Beachfront, modern and traditional
ESSENTIALS: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Sunday to Thursday 5:30 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10 p.m.; dinner reservations recommended; major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible
A halyard is the rope that’s used to raise, or to lower, a ship’s sail or flag. In Greenport, the namesake restaurant definitely heads up.
The Halyard is the bright, new dining room of the Sound View hotel, which has occupied this gentle curve of seductive beachfront for more than six decades.
And chef Galen Zamarra makes a very big splash, which he has done before.
Zamarra, who also stars at the French-accented Mas in Greenwich Village, won a James Beard Foundation award as a “rising star” chef in 2001. Here, he has transformed the cuisine and style of the old North Fork address.
The handsome spot, in beachy hues, lures you with a warm-weather deck and a glass-enclosed dining room, each with ideal seats to take in the sunset. Of course, rope weaves through deep-blue table dividers.
What threads Zamarra’s fare is a retro theme, tying together American classics and local ingredients.
Enjoy his excellent New England-style clam chowder and ample peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail. Down a riff of oysters Rockefeller, with spinach and bacon, Parmesan cheese and a crumble of Ritz crackers. Turn nostalgic with deviled eggs, updated with pickled vegetables.
Lobster beignets, battered knuckles studded with corn: pasty one time, smooth another. Fried clams arrive looking like puffy little square pillows, overwhelmed by the batter. The velvety tuna poke, with avocado, spicy slaw and potato chips, rights the course and delivers a playful spin on an increasingly in-demand dish.
Perpetually popular are three of Zamarra’s main courses.
The whole steamed lobster, while not of Jules Verne proportions, is generous in flavor, sweet enough so you may forgo the drawn butter and stick with a squirt of lemon. His satisfying, refreshing lobster-salad roll emphasizes the shellfish instead of the seasonings.
And the crisp, juicy bucket of fried chicken, is sure to vanish fast, with its accompaniments of macaroni and cheese, corn and biscuit. It’s like a picnic.
Equally recommended is the expertly cross-hatched, grilled swordfish, a tasty triangle finished with either gremolata, here a condiment of chopped herbs; or sauce gribiche, the tangy, mayo-like number usually sparked by herbs, capers and nubbins of cornichon.
While the house’s bouillabaisse does feature fiery rouille slathered on bread, an expected garnish with the real thing, the rest of the fish stew needs more than poached bass to evoke Marseille, or even Greenport.
At lunch, two of Zamarra’s fried winners are available. He makes the lightest, airiest fish and chips with local fluke, the batter crunchy and fragile. That’s rivaled by a terrific fried oyster po’boy on a baguette.
You can continue with a respectable funnel cake, a reminder of carnivals and leisurely days that suits the place more than yogurt panna cotta or chocolate icebox cake.
But, even in November, ice cream is a halyard.