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September 4, 2012
Review: Almond Restaurant & Bar
By Laura Donnelly
Almond, located at One Ocean Road, is an authentic bistro. It is beautiful and noisy, with a staff that greets you with genuine warmth and gusty, savory fare. With a sister restaurant in New York City, partners Eric Lemonides and Jason Weiner have forged the kind of restaurant business that should be a model for many others. Eric is the handsome charmer who will most likely be the first face you see. He bounces with enthusiasm and remembers your name.
The newest outpost is big, with high tin ceilings, some nice dark brown banquettes, wooden chairs and floors, and a gorgeous hand carved bar. There is also plenty of seating outside offering the ultimate Bridgehampton people watching. The feature that will no doubt strike you first is the back wall covered with the iconic Scalamandre zebra wallpaper. It was designed for Gino Circiello's restaurant in 1945, simply called Gino. Apparently Mr. Circiello was quite the hunting enthusiast and commissioned the wallpaper to display zebras being struck by arrows. The folks at Scalamandre gently suggested that diners might not want to be surrounded by such savage imagery while eating. Thus, the wallpaper is a goofily charming illustration of zebras frolicking with arrows flying about willy nilly.
We began our meal with escargot, eggplant three ways, the summer salad, and mussels. The escargot were divine, as garlicky and buttery as they should be. They were topped with neatly fitting rounds of croutons, lemon wedges, and lots of chopped parsley. The eggplant three ways was a savory caponata, two warm and crunchy croquettes on a bed of frisee, and best of all, a perfectly balanced baba ghanoush. The summer salad was billed as having North Fork greens, charred corn, pecorino toscano, "bac-o-bits," and yellow beans. It had that delicious combination and more. There were also potatoes and delicate pea shoots in a light creamy dressing. The mussels are always excellent at Almond, classically prepared with shallots, white wine, and parsley.
For entrees we tried the shrimp scampi (Wednesday special), roast chicken, goat cheese ravioli, and Le Grand macaroni and cheese. The shrimp scampi was excellent, the pasta cooked al dente and the shrimp cooked just enough. Welcome additions were sun dried tomatoes and spinach. The roast chicken is another justifiably well known standby at Almond. The chicken tastes "chickeny" as Julia Child used to describe the ideal roast bird. It was served on a bed of garlicky smashed potatoes and topped with a pile of bright green and fresh-off-the-farm tasting haricots vert. The goat cheese ravioli was beautifully silky pockets of pasta filled with herbed goat cheese and topped with barely wilted zucchini blossoms. A serving of piquant ratatouille married nicely with the rich raviolis. The Le Grand macaroni and cheese was just one big well seasoned Le Creuset gratin dish filled with naughtiness. The creamy cheesy bechamel was full of bits of prosciutto and a hint of black truffles. So delicious.
The service on the night of our visit was excellent. Our waiter Fabian was knowledgeable about everything, efficient, and attentive without being intrusive.
The prices at Almond are moderate. Appetizers and raw bar offerings are $11 to $72, (this for the seafood plateau royale.) Entrees are $18 to $38, sides $5 to $8, desserts $8 and $9.
For desserts we tried the cookie plate, chocolate pots de creme, an assortment of ice creams and sorbet made locally by Joe and Liza Tremblay of Sag Harbor, and peach crostada. The cookie plate was excellent and very original in that it included lemon bars, Quentin's Grandma's rugelach, along with crisp chocolate chip cookies and shortbread like vanilla cookies. The chocolate pots de creme was fine on its own but the accompaniment of tangy creme fraiche and chopped toasted salted almonds was a revelation. The ice creams and sorbet flavors we tried were all good, vanilla, coffee, and an excellent blood orange. Best of all however, was the perfect peach crostada. The rustic, flaky dough was filled with peach slices and baked to a sugary, golden brown. Topped with vanilla ice cream, this dessert was the stand out.
I have always loved Almond restaurant from Eric's professionalism and enthusiasm to Jason Weiner's bold and flavorful food. Now that they have moved to the bigger, better digs at One Ocean Road, there is even more to love.
Almond Restaurant & Bar
Laura Donnelly is the pastry chef for The Living Room Restaurant in East Hampton and the Food Editor of the East Hampton Star. She has developed recipes for Equal sweetener, Sheila Lukins's cookbooks, and has appeared numerous times on The Barefoot Contessa TV show. She has written for Town and Country, Hamptons, and Texas Monthly magazines. She does not have time for a website or Twitter.
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