By Heather Bryce
Ever since the restaurant at Topping Rose House – an upscale Bridgehampton inn — opened last September, it has been one of our favorite Hamptons eateries. Overseen by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, Bravo TV’s lead judge on the Emmy Award-winning show “Top Chef,” it is, surprisingly, the first truly world-class restaurant to hit the South Fork. It is also, probably the most expensive, but well worth the few extra dollars. (For those who don’t want to shell out the additional shekels, weekend brunch is the way to experience the kitchen’s sophisticated fare for less.)
A few Mondays ago we were looking forward to a dinner prepared by chef de cuisine Ty Kotz, formerly at the helm of the memorable city boite, Tabla, but it was Mr. Kotz’s night off. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with – which was not hard in this case as the chef on duty was Kyle Koenig, a former sous chef at Colicchio & Sons, and husband of the wonderful Jessica Koenig, the establishment’s uber friendly beverage manager.
The edifice itself is superb, an imposing Greek Revival manse dating from the 1840s and re-imagined for today’s aesthetic by architect Roger Ferris and interior designer Champalimaud. We were given a table outside, the scent of early fall blooms wafting our way.
Though there had been a party for the Clintons a couple of night’s prior, the kitchen staff had recovered nicely and as always, was sending out superlative eats.
As an aperitif we imbibed a Montauk Mule, an evolved version of a Moscow Mule (our grandmother’s favorite), given a lingering bite from the two-punch of muddled ginger and Canton ginger liqueur, as we settled in to people watch. At the table next to ours was Academy Award winning screen writing legend, William Goldman of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid fame and beyond him actor-comic John Leguizamo. We refrained from ogling. Sort of.
The menu is unusual, in that it gives vegetables top billing over proteins (meat and fish), which are written in smaller typeface and appear under (as opposed to above) the veggie descriptions. Actually, most of the vegetables hail from the establishment’s half-acre garden, so they are literally “picked two hours ago.”
Every detail here is well thought out right down to the potato rolls – sweet puffs of heaven, generously beaded with nuggets of local salt. We loved the descriptive names of items from “fairy tale eggplant” to “toasted grits.” The heirloom kale salad was given a light touch by a chiffonade of the leaves, which were sliced into delicate easy-to-eat ribbons. (Kale, though we love it, can be tough if not handled expertly.) The currants and Pecorino-Romano cheese offset the seriousness of the kale.
An imaginative presentation of burrata cheese was served with thin discs of summer squash and a healthy saltiness imparted by ground Kalamata olives. Next the seared tuna belly exploded with an orange reduction sauce that, when we tried to get the recipe, reminded us as to why it’s convenient to have a staff of kitchen workers. Let’s just say that the outstanding sauce was the result of cooking the rinds of 20 oranges three times to remove bitterness, simmering them in simple syrup for an hour, then blending them with lemon juice and olive oil. Divine.
The natural sugariness of the “sweet corn” agnolotti, moist pillows of corn, was brought down to earth by a generous slicing of truffles that smothered the dish. Our waiter, David, was a delight and consummate marketer, touting the corn as “just landed from Mars” — we couldn’t have put it better – then guiding us to all the right choices. But, really, were there any wrong ones?
The roasted chicken and sausage – oops, the baby carrots, king oyster mushrooms, and wheat berries that play host to the above mentioned meats – combine to make Mr. Koenig’s signature dish. The sausage, a flavorful concoction of chicken thigh redolent of roasted garlic, was anchored by the wheat berries.
Our scallops were seared beautifully, and accompanied by light and fluffy grits that were brightened with a citrusy wash, haunting smoked tomato, and a smattering of corn kernels sliced fresh off the cob. The crispy medallions of wild striped bass were enlivened by the roasted red pepper of the Romesco sauce, a sensory perfect storm.
Desserts, prepared by pastry chef Cassandra Shupp, who honed her skills working with Gramercy Tavern’s acclaimed pastry chef, Nancy Olson, were as elevated as the rest of the food. If you try nothing else at the restaurant, do not miss the donuts, ethereal confections of molten brioche dough embellished with a creamy lemon curd and cardamom sugar that will spoil you for any other donuts ever again.
The cheesecake, made with goat cheese and a shortbread crust and finished with basil crème anglaise, was lighter than a dirigible and possibly the best we have ever experienced. The peach tarte tatin, yes we said peach, erupted with an irresistible intermingling of juices and caramel.
As if all that didn’t offer enough in the way of sugar euphoria, then the chocolate peanut butter tart was there to add a blast of giddy delirium to the decadent parade. In a sophisticated tribute to America’s favorite flavor combo – think Reese’s – the confection assaulted us with an arsenal of textures, most notable the cremeux, an oozy cross between a ganache and a pudding. Need we say more?
One Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton, NY 11932
For more information please go to: www.toppingrosehouse.com