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Seared scallops with shrimp and chorizo paella is

Seared scallops with shrimp and chorizo paella is one of the seafood entrees offered at Vitae restaurant and wine bar in Huntington. (April 18, 2011) Photo Credit: Doug Young

Vitae gives new life to an old place.

Earlier this year, Vitae took over the site occupied for decades by Abel Conklin's, in a building that dates to 1841. The overhaul dramatically improved the look of the vintage address and definitely transformed the kitchen.

Now, metallic hues, bronze to gold, polish the interior. The big bar glistens with onyx. Burgundy leather banquettes, mahogany-topped tables, brass-and-fabric sconces -- in short, bye, bye, Conklin's. The personality of the newcomer manages to be both lively and relaxed. General manager John Estevez's experience includes the departed Gatsby in Islip and Iberian in Huntington.

Chef Lawrence Palladino is a Northport native whose resumé stretches from the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook to the El Tovar hotel at the Grand Canyon. You'll want a taste of his refined, Continental-New American combo.

THE BEST

Plump, pan-seared scallops arrive with parsnip puree, and a lemon, butter and truffle sauce. Mussels open up to an invitation of saffron, in fennel-and-herb broth. Tuna tartare veers east with ginger and ponzu, segues west with potato gaufrettes, heads south with a tuna-and-avocado tostada. All very good. So are the shrimp cocktail, the Caesar salad and the ample chopped salad. Tender baby back ribs, surprisingly, lead the main courses. They're excellent, casually accompanied with fries and coleslaw. An exceptional pan-roasted Berkshire pork chop, with hot-and-sweet peppers, onions and Yukon Gold potatoes, competes alongside. Peppers also contribute to chicken Lawrence, a savory number with sauteed onions and roasted potatoes. Seaside, try the seared, rosy Montauk tuna and the almond-crusted grouper. There are plenty of satisfying wines by the glass to go with any meal. A crème-brûlée trio highlights desserts.

THE REST

Respectable wild king salmon with broccoli rabe, and crab-crusted sole finished with lemon beurre blanc; routine pasta primavera, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe; standard cheesecake.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The (very) good life.

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