A basic feature of Hamptons dining is that it’s fashionable to show up for dinner at 8:30, but those who arrive earlier get the best tables. With three adults and a baby, 6:15 was a great time to arrive at the new Bay Kitchen Bar, which made its debut this summer on a patch of prime real estate by Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. Greeted warmly by the staff, we settled smugly into our table with a view.
The place has that airy Hamptons feel, with rows of tables set out on a covered porch with polished wood floors and a color scheme of royal blue and white. More tables are inside, still with great harbor views, and the open porch windows offer clear plastic flaps that can be rolled down on a chilly night. The place was busy on a weeknight, but the atmosphere was relaxed. We were on vacation.
Another great thing about showing up early, it turned out, was that it was happy hour, which meant $1 oysters and clams on the half-shell and $5 glasses of Loire Valley muscadet. We appreciated that our waitress notified us right away, so we could put in for a half-dozen with three glasses of wine before looking at the menus.
Things got off to a great start with the arrival of bread accompanied by an ample bowl of warm chunky tomato sauce topped with feta and herbs. Something about it went great with the ambiance, and I appreciated that they brought it out while we still had our menus, so that we could nosh whilst we considered our options. An advantage of putting in the early order of oysters.
We considered our options. The menu is divided into multiple sections: raw and chilled seafood, ceviche, crudo, fried fish and seafood, small plates, salads, and various kinds of entrees. It was tough to know how to order — I wanted it all.
We started with an order of handmade spreads with warm olives and pita. It came with a colorful variety: classic guacamole, creamy hummus with crisp chickpeas, garlicky tzatziki with julienned cucumbers, and a spicy red pepper feta dip topped with sweet roasted peppers. My son Noah (now 7 months) devoured the guacamole, and our waiter thoughtfully brought him another bowl. I really enjoyed the crisped-up chickpeas that were mixed into the hummus. He liked the creaminess of the tzatziki.
The crab and fish cakes came well-recommended, featuring fluke, scallops, and jumbo lump crab and served with a roasted corn and avocado salsa. The portion size was generous and the cakes featured very little filler, letting the fish and seafood be the star. I disagree that they are the “best ever,” but they were solidly above-average and paired nicely with the corn salsa.
It was easy to be distracted by the ambiance. The restaurant looks west over Three Mile Harbor, a sleepy body of water with a modest sprinkling of sailboats that seems to snake out into the distance. Our early arrival had earned us a prime table overlooking the water, and we watched the sun go down thinking how lucky we were to be out in the Hamptons with good food and great company.
Entrees arrived. Something about the Hamptons puts even my wife in the mood for lobster, and so we had ordered a plate of homemade lobster ravioli with a sauce of tomatoes, fennel and saffron. The flavor combination evoked a classic bouillabaisse, and the ravioli were generous on the prize ingredient, each one consisting of a large chunk of lobster wrapped in a thin sheet of pasta.
The pan-seared harbor fluke (pictured at top) was the star of the show. The fish was flaky and tender, given a nice crisp sear on the outside and perched atop creamy orso with roasted corn, spinach, and tomato. The contrast of crisp and creamy was what gave the dish its allure, and it offered the classic Hamptons combination of tomatoes, corn, and fresh fish.
We were disappointed that we had to ask for the dessert menu when we were offered the check. It was about 8:15 and we had a table with a sunset view. Were they were trying to get us to leave? It was uncharacteristic for a meal that otherwise featured competent and friendly service.
Fortunately, we were very pleased with dessert.
Our choice was a crisp filo-wrapped crème brûlée served with a vanilla-berry sauce. We were skeptical, but the dish worked beautifully. The custard had great flavor, and the crisp filo threads deftly took the place of the classic charred sugar crust. It was a visually stunning dish with the taste to match, mostly helping us ignore the mediocre $6 cappuccino that served as a reminder that we were still in the Hamptons.
Recommended dishes: handmade spreads ($14), lobster ravioli ($26), pan-seared fluke ($29), filo-crusted crème brûlée ($10).
Bay Kitchen Bar
39 Gann Road
East Hampton, NY 11937
Tel. (631) 329-3663