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The Riverhead Project

Razor clams are served with green garlic gremolata,

Razor clams are served with green garlic gremolata, grapefruit and wild arugula as an appetizer at The Riverhead Project. The Riverhead Project located on E. Main Street in Riverhead is former home to Chase Bank. Owner Dennis McDermott took on this project to create an upscale restaurant using fine local ingredients. (June 15, 2011) Credit: Randee Daddona

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.


Go downtown.

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