In a year of standout restaurants, none may be more important than The Riverhead Project.
This sharp, sleek addition to Main Street is a revival in itself, a high-risk, high-return bet on the continuing renewal of downtown Riverhead. Dennis McDermott, who once owned The Frisky Oyster and Frisky Oyster Bar in Greenport, doubles-down here. He has converted a hard-edge, low-slung "Mad Men"-era bank building into the East End's newest destination.
Here's an excellent restaurant, from the bold design that incorporates industrial-chic I-beams, terrazzo floors and a QR-code-as-artwork, to the ambitious, locavore-oriented kitchen of chef Greg Ling, a Frisky veteran. The stylized name suggests something planned in detail, a concept become real. It applies. And it works.
For a clever union of new and old: lobster-and-pierogies, in brown butter, with shallot marmalade, flavorful and fine. Vietnamese herbs, hoisin sauce and lime juice boost the refreshing shrimp-filled summer roll. Tender, smoky octopus benefits from a Greek-influenced dill sauce. Pipes Cove oysters are recommended, either mignonette or barbecued. Crunchy, spicy Korean-fried chicken, with garlic sauce and watermelon pickle, highlights lunch. So does a playful, tofu-laden version of bánh mì, the herbaceous, toasted Vietnamese sandwich. Grilled Montauk tuna, fresh and rosy, arrives in a cherry-tomato ragoût cut with a sweet-tart sherry gastrique, or reduction. The juicy, thick, miso-glazed Berkshire pork chop is accompanied by sweet-and-sour peaches and potato salad. Vegetarians will veer toward the "foragers pie" with wild mushrooms, asparagus and more. First-class fries and roasted beets cap side dishes. Top desserts include an upside-down peach cake with blueberry-ricotta ice cream; the apricot-cherry crisp; updated devil's food cake; "soaked" lemon cake with berries; and chocolate-violet custard with candied flowers and an undercurrent of blood orange.
Too-charred, grilled sardines; velvety "shaking beef" with watercress doesn't quite rattle and roll; satisfactory pulled pork, soba noodles, salads.
THE BOTTOM LINE