June 14, 2006

Main Course By Land Or Sea: The Lighthouse Grill

It takes a confident chef to let the ingredients speak for themselves without overdressing them in seasoning and sauces, especially if he's trained with some of the finest culinary talents in France, yet chef Ron Duprat does just that, allowing the freshest produce, fish, and meat to be the star of the show at the Lighthouse Grill at the Montauk Yacht Club.

The only thing competing with the essential flavors is the view over the blue stone patio where you can dine outside, with the marina and bay in view.

Departing from its former Italian-based menu, the Lighthouse Grill has chosen this season to embrace its

local roots and setting, with staff starting the day at the docks to see what's coming in fresh off the fishing boats (although they admit to importing the lobsters from Maine).

The menu features yellowfin tuna, North American striped bass and Atlantic salmon which can be adorned with the diner's choice of butters: gorgonzola, fresh herb-caper, mango-cilantro, shallot-herb, or citrus-chive.

Seafood also shines in the pasta dishes — such as the linguine with jumbo shrimp and bay scallops in a spicy pomodoro fondu. The shrimp was cooked just right, not over or underdone. The Lighthouse Grill's signature crab cakes boast large chunks of crab, lightly spiced, with a drizzle of spicy remoulade — no need to hide these under a heavy mayonnaise sauce. If a taste of tuna is what you're looking for, try the ahi appetizer served rare with wasabi, soy, and pickled ginger.

The Lighthouse Grill does not play favorites; its meat entrees are equally as appealing as the seafood. A large steak selection includes a roast prime rib (Friday and Saturday only), a New York strip, and a 24 oz. porterhouse. The 8 oz. filet mignon is a three inch tower tour de force which can be served with a béarnaise, cabernet, signature steak sauce, or straight up. The Long Island duck breast with raspberry sauce and braised apples is roasted to perfection with a crisp exterior and tender pink interior that barely needs the serrated knife served with it.

Chef Ron's Caribbean roots also influence dishes such as the lobster mango salad, presented as a cylindrical terrine with chunks of lobster, avocado, mango, and Napa cabbage slaw. Also good is the south-of-the-border key lime tart for dessert. The chef veers into a bit of Italian with the wild mushroom ravioli in an earthy, fertile broth which had us ordering more bread for dipping.

Another refreshing characteristic of the Lighthouse Grill is its prices – with appetizers in the $10 – $12 range and entrees in the $26 – 2$8 range, fine dining won't break the bank. The Grill also offers a prix fixe menu at $29.95 from Tuesday to Thursday, which included on the night we were there a lightly fried calamari in lemon aioli, a prime top sirloin of beef with mushroom ragout and gorgonzola butter, and cheesecake for dessert.

The wine list is also new this year, carefully selected by food and beverage director Tom Leonard and his staff with an eye to quality at a reasonable price point. You can order a Hess Select Chardonnay for $36 or a Rodney Strong Pinot Noir for $34; a notch up is the Mer Soleil Chardonnay for $64 or Jordan Cabernet at $99. The Lighthouse Grill also offerslocal wines: Pindar Chardonnay and Merlot. See if you can talk Tom Leonard into parting with one of his bottles of Sonoma Cutrer 2003 Pinot Noir. Due to limited numbers it's not on the wine list but worth a little begging as it provides a great smooth yet spicy complement to the meal.

Leonard attributes the restaurant's smooth sailing to repeat staff, some of whom are going on their 11th season. Due to its waterside setting, if you don't feel like braving the traffic out to Montauk you can also arrive by boat. The Marina's dockmaster tries to find a place for everyone even in the midst of the busy season.

The Lighthouse Grill at the Montauk Yacht Club is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on weekends. Reservations are recommended.

Montauk Yacht Club, 32 Star Island Road, 668-3100.

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