August 16, 2006
By Amy Patton
It's a world-class spot that has something a lot of Hamptons restaurants lack: a distinctly neighborhood feel.
Harbor Bistro, the new waterfront eatery that in April took over Riccardo's spot on Three Mile Harbor Road in Springs, is that and more.
The restaurant is a best-kept secret that shouldn't be. Our party of four visited recently and agreed that it is a place with much to recommend it. The food isn't overly complicated, but straightforward in a way that still lets a little luxury in. Consider the humble baby back ribs. Chef Damien O'Donnell's version was simply sublime, a fall-off-the-bone tender rendition that was glazed with a sweet honey sauce and grilled to caramelized perfection. The ribs ($12), ordered as an appetizer, had us talking about them days later.
A bowl of creamy lobster bisque ($7) also won raves as well as a plate of grilled shrimp skewers that sat atop a cool cucumber salad. We also loved the fragrant lemongrass and curry steamed mussels ($11) that came to the table still steaming in their sweet-and-sour scented broth.
Service at Harbor Bistro is quick and efficient and, more important, friendly and without pretension. O'Donnell's wife Nicole, an East Hampton native, was quick to make us feel at home. Locals chatted at the spacious bar while diners gazed out at the pretty scene of yachts and sailboats bobbing softly in the marina.
But, okay, back to the food.
After the winning first course, we moved on to the entrées. One guest in our party could not resist that night's offering of crab-stuffed lobster (market price). The sizeable two-pounder was firm and full of butter and lemon flavor, and O'Donnell doesn't mess around with a lot of bread crumbs as filler.
The snow-white crab stuffing stood on its own and paired well with our chilled bottle of California Viognier. Later we moved on to a lobster and shellfish bouillabaisse that was generously packed with chunks of lobster, scallops, shrimp and mussels in a saffron sauce. Blackened striped bass also arrived tender and flaky sided with pesto couscous and sweet shrimp citrus scampi. Also good was a dish of grilled grouper, a special that night.
There were a few pasta selections on the menu such as seafood penne in a creamy Champagne lobster sauce and chicken fettuccine with a fresh concoction of spinach, tomatoes, artichokes and white wine. A "Bistro" classic of pork tenderloin and mushrooms in a Calvados cream sauce was also gobbled down.
For those who enjoy a bargain, consider Harbor Bistro's "Before the Sunset" menu, a three-course dinner that's served from 5 to 6 p.m. Just 30 bucks gets you an appetizer (like those luscious ribs) and an entrée such as pistachio-crusted tilapia with risotto or a broiled 10-ounce ribeye steak.
Desserts followed the theme of the restaurant: simple but with a dash of pampering thrown in. We tried the molten chocolate cake that's flavored with raspberry sauce and served atop vanilla bean ice cream. We also swooned over the crispy banana spring rolls that were spiced with cinnamon and doused with a caramel rum sauce. On the lighter side was a refreshing bowl of sorbet-of-the-day.
Thus, our meal at its close, we began making plans to go back.
313 Three Mile Harbor Road
East Hampton; 324-7300