Review: The Riverhead Project
By Laura Donnelly
If ever there was an example of the expression "if you build it, they will come," it is the Riverhead Project. Sleek and shiny, modern yet comfortable, the space used to house a Chase bank. Floor to ceiling windows and a few vaults outside the loos may remind you of this. The food, however, will quickly make you forget.
The dining room is spacious, with a long narrow fireplace behind glass dominating the front, twinkling candles all around, and a very professional staff clad in pink shirts and black slacks.
Upon being seated you get some very good, crusty, rustic bread. For starters we began with the hamachi kama, butter poached Peconic Bay scallops, grilled romaine salad, and the Polish Town lobster pierogies.
The hamachi kama was a revelation! It is the collar of yellowfin tuna, and was merely grilled and served with a fluffy, rich spoonful of taramasalata and micro-shiso greens. The fish was tender and moist, and once we found our way around the collar, we were in heaven. The butter poached scallops were basically extravagance on top of indulgence. Imagine the sweetness of fresh local bay scallops combined with the gentle poach of butter. A creamy risotto flecked with chives was underneath, a few slivers of preserved lemon on top, and some crunchy breadcrumbs added texture. The preserved lemon bits added just the right amount of citrusy tang and salt.
The grilled romaine salad was also excellent. A charred wedge was laid atop cherry tomatoes, cucumber, awesome roasted beets and drizzled with a perfect lemon vinaigrette. The "cherry on top" was the addition of whipped feta, adding some richness to the salad. The Polish Town lobster pierogies (a clever homage to the history of Riverhead), were excellent. A nice chewy pierogie dough encased the sophisticated filling. They were savory and not a bit heavy. The shallot marmalade gave them some zing.
For entrees we went for the sauteed local fluke, forager's pot pie, and roast rack of lamb. Again, all were superb. The fluke was perfectly cooked, a generous portion, and the addition of roasted grapes was divine. The haricots vert alongside were cooked al dente and the entire dish had a subtle yet rich flavored foie gras butter glaze.
The forager's pot pie was dreamy. A square of crisp puff pastry sat on a beautiful medley of cippolini onions, carrots, many mushrooms and a meaty tasting demi glace, which was in fact, porcini gravy. The roast rack of lamb was another winner, cooked to order, tender and flavorful with Indian spices and a vegetable-laden Israeli couscous.
Service on the night of our visit was extremely professional. The proper silverware was laid out for each course, our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, and our table was crumbed. They were busy on the night of our visit, but not harried or rushed.
The prices are high at the Riverhead Project, but worth every penny. Starters are $12 to 16, entrees are $24 to 35, sides are $6, and desserts are $9 and $10. The wine list is brief but well thought out, and hallelujah, heavy on representation of Long Island wines. There are quite a few good selections by the glass as well.
For desserts, (all made in house), we tried the soaked pumpkin cake, "a chocolate mess," and the apple huckleberry crisp. The pumpkin cake was moist and full of spice, the cinnamon creme fraiche a rich addition, but best of all was the crackling wedge of bright green pepita (pumpkin seed) brittle.
The chocolate mess wasn't a mess at all, simply a delicious chocolate mousse topped with more chocolate and hazelnut "flakes." The apple huckleberry crisp was delicious, we all loved the oat topping and the blackberry ice cream brought back memories of summer.
The Riverhead Project is the newest baby from seasoned restauranteur Dennis McDermott (the of Frisky Oyster in Greenport). He built it, and they ARE coming. The Riverhead Project is a welcome addition to Riverhead, it is original, quirky, and truly delicious.
the Riverhead Project
300 East Main Street
Riverhead, NY 11901
Long Island Restaurant News Plate Rating System:
4 Plates = Outstanding
3 Plates = Excellent
2 Plates = Very Good
1 Plate = Good
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.