TODAY'S PAPER
49° Good Evening
49° Good Evening

 (THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED)

Tierra Mar should be the essential Hamptons restaurant, a dramatic juncture of land and sea. But it's often adrift. Here is a big, stylish restaurant at the ocean's edge, with an ambitious menu and a celebrated chef. Yet, it sometimes disappoints more than rain on the beach.

Todd Jacobs' closed the original Tierra Mar, in Westhampton, and opened the new one in the renamed Atlantica dining room.

You pass posters heralding Deauville and Antibes. You think of the Lido.

And smile at the extravagance and whimsy of the joint, with its high ceiling, billowing blue-and-white striped fabric, windows on the water.

But that's not always what you may get. It's possible to be in a windowless dining area, too, if the main one is occupied.

Call for reservations and you'll be informed about the status of the room and other events on site.

One constant no matter where and when you eat is an overwhelmed staff. Each member merits a taste of Jacobs' refreshing, chilled leek and potato soup: East End vichyssoise with creme fraiche and chives.

His organic carrot broth fragrant of ginger and lemongrass also is commendable, floating mushroom dumplings and braised savoy cabbage.

Pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras, with pear chutney and grilled fennel, is rich stuff, well-prepared. Likewise, the yellowfin tuna tartare with lemongrass oil and chives.

But the barbecued shrimp-and-avocado salad has post-charred shellfish. The smoked breast of duck is leathery, the tempura-battered crab cake overcooked.

Grilled striped bass, in the ginger-lemongrass carrot broth, is easily recommended, along with the cedar plank-roasted monkfish finished with tomatoey beurre blanc, and the grilled salmon accented with a ginger vinaigrette and curried green lentils. The pan-fried soft-shell crabs, with brown butter and capers, also are very good.

But the Tierra Mar "bouillabaisse" could spur rebellions from Manhattan to Marseilles. The steamed finfish fall apart and the aroma of the shellfish goes beyond pungent. The toast rising from the dish seems a life raft.

Instead, try the straightforward steamed lobster, with asparagus and corn.

You'll enjoy it more than the grilled lobster masked with a "Tuscan basil puree" and almost blackened polenta.

But the top dish at Tierra Mar is ostrich: an excellent tenderloin, lean and juicy, pan-seared and shiny with balsamic and organic carrot syrups. The grilled sirloin steak, with caramelized onions, similarly is a superior entree.

But the roast sliced breast of duck materializes chewy, pan-roasted free-range chicken collapses from overheating, and the tired, lukewarm vegetarian platter makes you want to hone your canines.

Sweets, however, show flair. The poached pear in a beehive pastry dome, chocolate-hazelnut marquis and banana cream napoleon are winners. The unripe fruit plate and dried out cookie assortment aren't. There's satisfactory creme brulee.

Satisfactory and respectable, fair and acceptable, OK and good. Yes, overall, Tierra Mar merits its solo star.

But at these prices, at this location, with this crew, it doesn't shine brightly. Just being good isn't good enough.

-- Peter M. Gianotti

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