Winston Lyons is spicing up the East End summer.
His magnetic, new restaurant breaks from the familiar Hamptonian melange of trend du jour, overheated spotlight, and air-kiss bye-bye. On the chalk tray of the blackboard in the entrance to Winston's Bar & Grill is a small sign that echoes Bob Marley and those catchy Jamaica tourism ads. It says "One love." Lyons has found his.
Winston's is in the former site of Nichol's and The Quiet Clam. The eyesore decor remains, including irrelevant wine-crate evocations of Opus One and Sassicaia and images of Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill. There are two tight dining rooms, one opposite the old bar, each with limited charm.
Lyons brightens the spot not simply with conch shells but with his personality and his Caribbean-influenced cooking. He has been a chef at East Hampton Point and East Hampton Grill, Turtle Crossing and Bostwick's. And, if the service is a bit chaotic, you won't mind once the appetizers arrive.
Try his refreshing octopus salad, with tiny pulpo in a zesty, sweet-hot dressing sparked by peppers, onions, cucumber and a hint of habanero. Or sample the citrus salad, with orange and grapefruit nestled in the spinach and arugula, finished with a pomegranate vinaigrette. The seafood cocktail, however, is marred by an overamped version of the familiar sauce that comes with shrimp in a steakhouse. The julienned kale salad: too much of an underdressed thing.
Lyons prepares an excellent Manhattan-style clam chowder; and puffy, crisp fried oysters, set on guacamole and crostini. From the bar menu, nibble on tender pork ribs. A halved, slightly smoky grilled artichoke benefits from a dip that hints of sauce remoulade.
Top main courses take in a terrific fried lobster, with a note of ginger and scallion, a salt-cracker crust, and sliced, fried plantains; and a delicious, balanced rendition of jerk chicken. Rotisserie chicken: tender and unadorned. Seared cod with a touch of ponzu sauce and oxtail stew are savory choices. The hefty, "crusted prime roast," juicy as a superior rib-eye, has an herbaceous, sweet accent.
Winston's is open for breakfast, when you'll be lured by a spicy shrimp omelet and pork-potato hash; and lunch, for fish-and-chips, panini, or a cheeseburger.
Bread pudding is on the pasty side. But Key lime pie has just enough tang. Winston's Bar & Grill definitely does.