By Heather Bryce
Tall blazing torches illuminated the night while a cool offshore breeze swept through the nearly scorching night as we dined at East By Northeast. A modern structure hugging the flower-rimmed coast of Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay has been a Montauk mainstay for some 15 years and is the more mature sibling to the adjacent Surf Lodge – the happening younger sister.
For drinks, it was a toss up between the effervescent Gin Beach Fizz (with Hendrick’s gin, muddled lemon, mint, and club soda) or the tasty Blood Orange Margarita (with Thai chili-infused Sauza tequila, lime and a blood orange puree). We opted for the latter, a palate-tingling concoction with a sweet edge.
Our darling and super competent waitress (a rarity during the hectic Hamptons season), Kristen, guided us through the surprisingly sophisticated menu. The organic lollipop kale chips – the essence of crunchy goodness – were given a lively twist with citrus zest, parmesan and Torgorashi (a Japanese chili powder – are you getting the theme? It seems both the bartender and chef are partial to heat and happily so are we.)
The lightly spiced Long Island Duck Tacos with a Chinese black vinegar caramel sauce, were “out of control and a fun finger food,” according to one of our party – the richness of the duck nicely offset by the brightness of the accompanying pickled watermelon radish. The sushi menu contained some amusing creations including the “Mango Tango,” a pleasing combo of king crab, avocado, and cucumber, topped with a velvety ceiling of mango slivers and a bracing yuzu sauce – a table favorite. And a “ deliciously different California roll.”
Of course, we had to have Montauk lobster, straight out of the nearby traps. We chose ours in the Somen Noodle Bowl, which was doused with a delicate broth fragranced by garlic chives from Amagansett’s Balsam Farm, North Fork King Oyster Mushrooms and celeriac. The generous slab of pan-roasted tile fish, harvested from local waters, was served with Treviso (a kind of radicchio), pea beans, and a 20-year Jerez sherry – a subtle dish whose nuances were drawn out by a complement of “soft herbs.”
It’s was curious that the star of our entrees was not any of the very good fish dishes, but actually the falling-off-the-bone Colorado lamb ribs, whose flavor was intensified by Meyer lemon and fennel gremolata – beyond tender, intensely flavorful and world class.
We weren’t going to have dessert. Famous last words. Kristen led us astray, but we are eternally thankful for her persuading us to try the pastry chef’s many delights. The olive oil cake was delectable yet light, while the dark chocolate bon bon, “a popular choice,” was divine – each bite of the marbled chocolate and hazelnut crumble like a puff of decadence. Okay, we admit it, we “sampled” even more. The heavenly peanut butter bar with its layers of chocolate shortbread and creamy caramel was lightened by airy clouds of Chantilly cream. The obscenely yummy lemon bar, a sinful sandwich of lemon curd with a buttery crust and a sprinkling of lavender sugar was, as one admirer put it, “unbelievable.” Our sentiments exactly!