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The Wobbly Olive

A chocolate cappuccino cake is served at The

A chocolate cappuccino cake is served at The Wobbly Olive in Hauppauge. (July 16, 2011) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Richard Desmond is gifted, both as a chef and operatic tenor. At the new Wobbly Olive in Hauppauge, he gets creative with pub classics, occasionally poking his head out of the kitchen to sing a few bars.

Here's a guy who really cares about feeding you well. He declares this early on with a basket of house-baked focaccia, accompanied by an irresistible green olive relish. If Desmond has a problem, it's that he can sometimes go a bit overboard.

BIG HITS

Crab cornbread cakes, light and crab-intense, are a hybrid that works. A simple pizzotte is crisp-crusted, topped with a savory meld of mozzarella, marinara and fresh basil.

Love the pappardelle with pork ragout, sturdy satisfying fare. And I keep sneaking back for yet another taste of a friend's chicken-phyllo pie, a flaky, delicate take on chicken potpie.

The ornate Cenzilla burger -- juicy and delectable -- is topped with white Cheddar "fondue," bright green relish that's an emulsion of romaine lettuce and spinach plus tomato jam. The burger is so big, I have to remove most of the bun and need a knife and fork to eat it. But I do.

Dessert is a triumph. Desmond's tiramisu transforms a cliche into an airy, creamy cloud. His dreamy chocolate cappuccino pie (showered with crumbs) is both wicked and light. So, too, his ingenious blackberry Napoleon with mango sauce.

A sweet gesture: a plate of petits fours that star handmade chocolate truffles and marshmallows.

NEAR MISSES

A grilled asparagus and pancetta salad with shaved Parmesan tastes fine, but the asparagus spears are surprisingly big and clunky. And while I like a mango salad special, I just don't get the heavy avocado fritters on top. A trio of short rib sliders features over-toasted buns; some of the meat is fatty. Roasted marinated chicken with hen of the woods mushrooms is good, but too many sauces clog the overall composition, and the broccoli gnocchi don't work. A fussed-up plate also undermines otherwise delicious roasted branzino (skin-on but filleted).

BOTTOM LINE

A talented chef who needs to simplify.

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