As usual, a crop of new restaurants emerge each summer in the Hamptons. We were invited to experience ‘Fresh’ for a friends and family tasting, a week before the soft opening. Tradition and fairness would dictate that we wait till all the kinks are ironed out before reviewing, but we couldn’t wait. We wanted to spread the word ASAP, at the risk we won’t be able to score a table come summer.
A usually with-it population, Hamptonites are perennial latecomers to food trends, their restaurants erring on the side of conservative. Perhaps it’s because so many of its trendsetters hire private chefs and don’t venture out to public dining establishments regularly. Whatever the case, the time has surely arrived for summer colonists and locals alike to embrace the inventive organic and vegetable-centric fare perfected at Fresh. Vegans and raw foodists rejoice: there’s finally a restaurant where you can get a collard leaf-wrapped summer roll while taking care of your significant other’s yearning for Merlot-braised short ribs or pan seared white sea bass.
The look of the interior hasn’t changed in the deconstructed old house that housed South Fork Kitchen for the past two years. The warm recycled wood interior and intimate horseshoe bar (that now doubles as a juice bar) remain. While they wait for their liquor license (which they hope to receive by early June), they are offering creatively concocted “mocktails” including one featuring fresh lychee with a flash of ginger. For those who’d prefer a kick to your libation, bring your own spirits, or, of course, beer or wine.
With veteran chef Todd Jacobs (formerly of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor and Tierra Mar in Westhampton Beach) at the helm, nutritionally dense ingredients get a sophisticated twist. The earthy flavors of that summer roll, invented by Todd’s yoga and Pilates teacher wife, is heightened by its robust vegan chipotle aioli. Fried calamari is spiked with a frothy duo of accompaniments: one herbal, one alive with raw red pepper.
The first page of the menu is devoted solely to salads, with Californians’s favorite “chopped” salad taking center stage. The pizza-style offering allows you a choice of lettuce and five vegetable toppings. “Add-ons” such as local raw cheddar and raspberries are $2 extra.
In a stroke of genius that reflects today’s eating habits, entrees can be ordered with the option of three size portions: quarter pound, half or one pound. So, for example, a large table can order a smattering of salads and appetizers and share a one-pound portion of hemp flour-crusted flounder. The pan-roasted Raleigh Farms chicken arrives tableside as either a quarter chicken ($14), half ($24) or whole ($44).
Though the restaurant hasn’t officially opened its doors, clear audience favorites are emerging. The barbecued duck spring roll with its tender strands of duck leg, ethereal phyllo encasement and bright plum sauce is a standout. So is the spinach salad featuring grilled Portobello mushrooms bound with a smoked onion sauce reminiscent of bacon vinaigrette.
Who’d a thought that a gluten-free dessert could reach the heights of any pastry chef’s confection? The oozing and buttery-seeming gluten-free brownie made with organic soybean oil, corn and rice flours would be a favorite at any topnotch restaurant. Joined by a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream and a spoonful of Greek yogurt blended with white chocolate (Valhona, naturally), it’s a dessert that echoes what seems to be the motto of the place: guilt-free decadence.
By Debra Scott
Fresh (203 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Tpke, Bridgehampton, NY 11932 631-537-4700. No reservations.
Lunch – Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m,
Weekend Brunch -10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner – Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m.;
Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.