June 21, 2006
A Sublime Spot In Speonk
Speonk, that humble little hamlet between Westhampton Beach and Eastport, is an oft-overlooked destination when it comes to Hamptons dining options.
The Olde Speonk Inn on Montauk Highway is a little gem where the new American menu features a lot of surprises. A recent visit to the quaint eatery — which is rumored to have been a notorious speakeasy in the 1920s — revealed a cozy dining room with a super-friendly staff. By the way, got kids? Even better. The Inn welcomes the little ones with crayons and a coloring book. Also, there are nice children's choices like homemade pasta sauce over penne. The kids can even feed the oversized fish that swim in the garden patio's koi pool.
Speaking of pool, adults are known to play billiards in the restaurant's spacious bar while waiting for a table. It's a local gathering spot even during the chilly winter months.
Okay, now to the food. Possibly the best clam chowder on the East End is made here. Dubbed "Quahog Chowder," based on the type of shellfish that's used, chef Steven Brower is to be commended on this creamy concoction. Preparing the chowder is a day-long affair and it shows. Potatoes are slow-roasted to bring out their flavor, and wood-smoked bacon is first used in the chowder for its smoky quality and then sprinkled on the top for extra crunchiness. Heavy cream finishes out the dish. Sound fantastic? It is.
Other standout starters: roasted calamari with herbs and seared Hudson Valley foie gras on pancetta crisps smeared with pistachio puree. Yum! My dinner companions and I also sampled a dish of grilled Prince Edward Island Mussels that were bathed in a tasty Pernod and herb butter sauce.
Salads abound on the menu. Try chef Brower's version of the classic Caesar salad, a crunchy, flavorful mix of romaine hearts, anchovies and croutons tossed with his signature dressing. The restaurant's arugula salad is also good with its topping of shaved Grana Padano cheese.
The bartender at the Olde Speonk Inn is tops. We asked for Grey Goose on the rocks and got two generous pours. The wine list is currently being updated, but we found a good sauvignon blanc and merlot by the glass.
Main dishes offer much variety. Brower's grilled flatiron steak, a cut that is increasingly being seen on steakhouse menus, was juicy and savory. Whipped potatoes completed the dish. A lemongrass-skewered pork chop is also recommended. The thick cut is brushed with a mango-ginger barbecue sauce and served over a fragrant helping of jasmine rice.
Of course, there are a variety of seafood choices at the Olde Speonk Inn. We scarfed down a pan-roasted wild halibut dish that was expertly glazed with an orange chili concoction and sided with homemade slaw. Pasta lovers can enjoy shrimp spagatinni, an entree that's tossed with grape tomatoes, spinach and veal sausage. Also good are the sea scallops that are marinated in truffle oil and then pan-seared.
Desserts are done right: we sampled a rich slice of Westhampton-made Holy Moses cheesecake as well as a silky crème bruleè. The coffee here is also tops.
The Olde Speonk Inn offers a prix fixe Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at a cost of $28. Live music is also a draw for patrons Thursday through Saturday. Shoot pool, have a drink at the bar and enjoy chef Brower's creations in the restaurant's lovely dining room.
The Olde Speonk Inn, 190 Montauk Highway, Speonk. Closed Mondays 325-8400.
(For a full sample menu of the Olde Speonk Inn, see our dining guide in this week's Indy.)