Blu Aubergine Blog

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Red Bar Brasserie, Southampton, NY

Sometimes I review restaurants that have recently opened or that offer something new to the dining public. But just as often, I like to write about a restaurant simply because it gets it right, and often it has been getting it right for many years now. Red Bar Brasserie in Southampton is one of those places that falls into the latter category. There's nothing earth-shattering here, no molecular gastronomy or $100-a-pound lobster salad to set tongues a-wagging. Simply put, this is and continues to be a restaurant where I want to eat. Where pretty much everything on the menu appeals, and it's almost certainly well-executed. And it's been open for almost 18 years -- which, in the seasonal setting of The Hamptons, means it must be doing something right, both with summer tourists and with locals. That alone is a feat worth celebrating.

Restaurateurs Kirk Basnight and David Loewenberg have created a dining room that works equally well for a group of friends having a social evening or for a couple enjoying a romantic candelit dinner together (again, not an easy line to straddle). Chef Erik Nodeland has created a menu featuring local produce, seafood, and meat whenever possible -- and the East End provides an ample bounty for those chefs looking for delicious primary ingredients. His dishes pair French and Mediterranean technique with an American sensibility, and the results are generally excellent.
Appetizers to try (though they do change seasonally) include a fluke crudo with avocado, cucumber, citrus, and chiles, as well as a similar-but-spicier Hawaiian poke (pronounced POE-kay) with avocados, cashews, a spicy sesame vinaigrette and plantain chips. For those interested in rich meats, the braised pork belly with pickled rhubarb, baby arugula, and ricotta salata is a nice option. Or go for broke and indulge in the foie gras terrine with candied kumquats, pistachios, and crostini. The signature main is a truffled chicken breast with mushroom risotto and french beans, though I rarely order chicken in a restaurant (I reserve that for home cooking), so I'm more likely to go for the duroc pork chop or a savory steak, of which there are several to choose from on the brasserie menu.

But since I'm out in eastern Long Island, I'm much more inclined to get a fish dish. Recent temptations include the miso-glazed local tilefish (I'm seeing a lot more tilefish on menus lately, and it's great eating) with spinach, leeks, shitake mushrooms and meyer lemon. Also of note is the striped bass (also local) with littleneck clams, chorizo, potatoes, tomatoes, fennel, and white wine. Of course, Long Island duck breast is always a good choice in these parts, and Red Bar always has it on the menu. Right now it's the seared breast with lentils du Puy, butternut squash, braised kale, and bing cherries. 
I liked the Asian-inflected version I had last year even better, with bok choy and a tamarind broth that made me want to lick the plate. As for desserts, interesting options are a fresh fig and frangipane tart with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce, or the toasted coconut and almond bread pudding with a mango-pineapple sauce. Or, you could go for the ever-so-retro Baked Alaska. There's something about the showmanship of that dessert that makes it a perfect restaurant dessert choice. It requires some great service in the dining room to pull it off properly, setting the whole orb alight with rum and fire. Red Bar Brasserie is more than capable of this, since their dining room service is generally welcoming and top-notch. This, along with interesting and well-executed dishes from the kitchen, makes Red Bar Brasserie what can now be considered a perennial Hamptons favorite, and one of my go-to spots "out east."

Red Bar Brasserie
210 Hampton Road
Southampton, NY  
(631) 283.0704