Back in April, The Phoenix in Seaford earned a three-star rating in Newsday. A recent chef change, however, motivated a return visit. And a sense of loss. For the food here was certainly not what it once was.
True, I returned on a night when — I later learned — chef Scott Zachman was not in the house. But that shouldn't have made a difference.
Spicy peanut soup ($6) remained a favorite, although it was no longer as nuanced, nor as rife with grapes and pumpkin seeds as before. Chicken noodle soup ($6), though, went from a ginger- and lemon-infused inspiration with shredded poultry and fresh lo mein noodles to a bland, thick potage with dry nuggets of white meat. Only the noodles seemed close to what they were.
From the small-plates menu came butter-poached octopus with roasted garlic edamame and charred lemon ($8); it was a harshly garlicky plate of food. Clam cakes ($6) in a soupy velouté were hard as armor on the outside, mushy within. Best were crunchy, compelling chick pea fries ($6) with lemon garlic aioli.
A main course of “crusted tuna” ($17) with lime risotto featured a few slices of cold fish lined up on top of a big bowl filled with what was actually very good risotto. Mac-and-cheese-stuffed meat loaf ($18) couldn’t be cut with a fork. The meat was dry, the stuffing lukewarm, pasty. Truffled mashed potatoes: cool and mealy.
Co-owner Peter Mangouranes said a new menu is being launched shortly. Whether The Phoenix, like the bird for which it was named, can rise again remains to be seen.
The Phoenix is at 3915 Merrick Rd., Seaford, 516-809-9693.
Above: Crusted tuna with lime risotto at The Phoenix in Seaford