By Heather Bryce
Decadence By The Beach
Delmonico’s. It’s a name that seems to have followed the course of New York City’s history. Just hearing it conjures up Old World images from a distant past when women wore hoop skirts and bonnets, men were attired in top hats and cravats, and the primary places to eat were in boarding houses or oyster bars.
The Delmonico brothers opened the first fine dining establishment in the country at the intersection of Beaver, William and South William Streets in 1837. Shortly thereafter chef Alessandro Fellippini introduced the Delmonico Steak, followed in 1862 by chef Charles Ranhofer who invented dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, and Lobster Newburg – all still on the menu. The iconic eatery boasts many “firsts.” They were the first restaurant in this country to offer a printed menu – with 200 items, no less – a separate wine list, and tablecloths.
A press release states that the new restaurant “merges Delmonico’s rich history with the relaxed luxury of New York’s iconic coastal hotspot,” giving the satellite restaurant a “chic seaside spin.”
Located in the former Savanna’s, the new, more formal space has been imbued with a sexy steak house feel – bordello-worthy tufted leather banquets; bentwood, café-style chairs, and overhead fans reminiscent of New Orleans. Despite the fact that the original eatery boasted tablecloths, there are none here allowing the hand-hewn, dark butcher-block tables to dominate. You never forget you’re experiencing an ancient brand—even the water goblets are etched with the Delmonico’s logo.
The tables around us were filled with well-heeled men, who we suspect come here for a night out on the town with the boys, looking for that perfect combo of meat and potatoes. The smattering of ladies present may, I dare say, not only be on the prowl for fine dining but other fare as well.
Delmonico’s of Southampton, which has its own menu (apart from the flagship’s), offers steak house fare that is female-friendly. In fact general manager Nicolas Geeaerts told us that their primary challenge was to figure out “how to open an old school steak house in Southampton, and not scare women away.” One of the ways was to offer healthful items such as multiple seafood choices and such fresh vegetables as heirloom tomatoes, bathed in a fragrant olive oil, of course, and herbs sourced from the onsite garden.
The secret to the food here is its focus on the highest quality yet simple ingredients that deceptively achieve lofty heights. The gorgeously presented lobster cocktail, an entire pound and a half creature — ideally shared among four – comes with a tomato-based cocktail sauce with a whisper of clove. The silky burratta is made at Maple Brook Farms in Vermont and flown in the next day. It is served with grilled peaches and arugula, called here “wild rocket.”
Yes, everything here is rich – but not filling. How, you might ask, can “crab cake eggs Benedict” made with a quail egg and pork belly, be light? You’ll just have to try it. The blue fin tuna crudo was served with a yuzu ponzu and innovative whipped wasabi “caviar.” The main ingredient in the Peeky Toe crab toast pops lusciously in your mouth, making us ponder how an original native of Chesapeake Bay felt when he first cracked the sweet crustacean open.
The “Aquerello” risotto was moist, buttery, and chewy, and loaded with chunks of morel and truffles from Perigord. (This is not the sort of place that palms off truffle oil instead of the real thing.) Aquerello risotto, it was explained, is the king of carnaroli rice, each grain hand polished.
The sides were both fresh and decadent from the “skillet hash browns” to the haricot verts, lobster, and almonds, and the outstanding triumvirate of beautifully balanced corn, shitake, and basil.
The New York Strip Steak, “a man’s cut” according to Mr. Geeaerts, was as charred and tasty as expected. The expertly seared filet mignon was a triumph. Think: The Palm, only raised up a notch. As someone at our table said, “The Palm throws a slab of meat on your plate with a piece of parsley, and that’s it.” And charges a pretty penny.
The finicky ladies who live behind the hedges may not deign to try dessert, but we sure did. Having never tasted Baked Alaska, though we vaguely recall its being on the menus of fancy restaurants in our youth, we were wowed by the version prepared by Rigoberto Avendano, the restaurant’s pastry chef stolen from the Waverly Inn. A hive of crisped meringue (baked quickly at a high temperature) oozed with a center of lemon-basil ice cream surrounded by a mote of raspberry coulis. A rhapsodic delight. We will return, again and again, for the divine chocolate tart with its salted caramel crust, chocolate ganache interior, and foil of luscious peanut butter ice cream. Double yum.
In keeping with its masculine image, a selection of Davidoff cigars is offered on the dessert menu.
Delmonico’s marries traditional fare with updated chic. With an executive chef of the caliber of Billy Oliva, recipient of the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand award, it’s no wonder.
How apropos that at age 12, he took his first restaurant job at Fraunces Tavern, just blocks away from Delmonico’s.
Service is as Old World as the Lobster Newburg. A posse of servers hovers nearby to see to your every need, yet are invisible and unimposing. No “My name is” here. No small talk about how your waiter is really a thespian wannabe. From busboy to maître d’, these are all pros.
There’s a reason Delmonico’s has been going for 176 years.
Open year round.
The new owners of the brand, who purchased it in 2012, are expanding beyond the East End. Having recently opened a Midtown New York location, they also plan to create offshoots in Rhode Island, Chicago, Miami, and Upstate. And they are currently filming a reality show with the creator of Hell’s Kitchen.
Delmonico’s of Southampton Est. 1837
268 Elm Street, Southampton, New York
Monday – Thursday
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Brunch: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Brunch: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Dinner: 4:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.