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July 12, 2006

Main Course


A Spicy Newcomer To Sag Harbor

Sixty-two Main Street in Sag Harbor has been through various incarnations over the years.

In 2000, Phao, a Thai restaurant, drew crowds looking for fresh Asian cuisine. Before that, Citron served up continental fare. After Phao, the space became the seafood joint Jeff and Eddie's where Calvin Klein was said to dine frequently. Okay, now here comes Mumbo Gumbo, a new "raw bar and Cajun BBQ" that is looking to hang in for the long haul. Holding the reins of the eatery is Ed "Jean Luc" Kleefield, the owner of JL East in East Hampton, Madame Tong's in Southampton and JLX in Sag Harbor.

We visited Mumbo Gumbo over the weekend to check it out. Service was efficient and friendly. Our group of four was seated at a cute square-shaped booth adjacent to a window that overlooked the hustle and bustle of Main Street. The space is deliberately kitschy with a New Orleans feel and the youngish female servers were outfitted with logo t-shirts, denim mini skirts and cowboy hats.

We ordered a round of drinks to start off the meal. Forget about pomegranate martinis here. Our group enjoyed sea breezes and a frosty cosmo.

Appetizers were fantastic — if a little offbeat — at least when considering a tray of hard boiled deviled eggs that were described as the "French Quarter" variety. A plate of six iced, delicious oysters were quickly gobbled up. We also sampled chef Noah Jacques' basic but good hot, spicy wings. The crawfish cakes were also a standout and came sided with a Cajun-style peppery coleslaw. The New Orleans theme continued with a bowl of fragrant jambalaya with rice. It was packed with andouille sausage, celery, onion, Creole tomatoes, bell peppers and lots of cayenne.

A basket of cornbread arrived and was judged to be somewhat addictive, as the slightly sweet, baked squares were still steaming from the oven's warmth. We also vowed to try one of the most talked about items on Mumbo Gumbo's menu, the fried oyster po' boy. The roll was pretty standard, but the oysters were tender and great just pulled out of the sandwich and eaten on their own.

The pièces de résistance, however, were the restaurant's exceptionally low-priced "trimmings," such as the basket of simply fabulous sweet potato fries ($3.25) and a dish of slow baked black-eyed peas ($3.25) that were wonderfully smoky and rich with Creole flavor. An extra helping of slaw can be had for $2.75 or try a bowl of southern-style collard greens for $3.25.

There's a kid's menu stocked with the usual offerings: Mac and cheese, chicken fingers, hot dogs and mini "Bayou" burgers.

Barbecue is a mainstay at Mumbo Gumbo. We tried the baby back ribs combination that was served with half a roasted chicken that we chose to have doused with "Mamma's" original sauce, based on the recommendation of our server. There's also a choice of "honey-rub" sweet sauce and "four alarm" hot-as-hell Cajun sauce. We happily devoured the ribs that were tender and flavorful.

A round of very good coffee accompanied our dessert choices of pecan pie and the restaurant's notable red velvet cupcakes that are smothered with a cream cheese frosting.

Call it low-country comfort food. Or Cajun/Creole home cooking. However you decide to characterize Jacques and Kleefield's direction in the kitchen at Mumbo Gumbo, it's safe to say that the restaurant is a welcome addition to Sag Harbor's Main Street.

Mumbo Gumbo, 62 Main Street Sag Harbor Breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.

No reservations, 725-7427.

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