Octopus is ushering in spring at many East End tables. Race Lane Restaurant’s version is particularly tender. It’s a familiar dish given a slightly new twist by executive chef Dana Lamel in his second year at the East Hampton eatery. He oven-braises an octopus in its own juices for more than six hours, then tosses it with potatoes and bravas ailoi, spiked with several paprikas. One side-dish is a delicious contradiction–rectangles of steaming hot polenta, crunchy on the outside, creamily custard-like within.
Once Rowaida and Jay Plumeri found the Norman Jaffe-designed East Hampton space at 31 Race Lane with its seating well around the fire and always busy bar, they left Manhattan with a four-year-old in tow. Plumeri arrived with Manhattan restaurant creds in his pocket (manager of River Cafe, Water Club and Bice) and in June 2010, they opened Race Lane Restaurant. Last year Lamel, who had just opened restaurants in Florida, Chelsea, and two in Nantucket for Todd English’s empire of several dozen restaurants and counting, took over the kitchen.
Among new spring dishes are a refreshing shaved asparagus and heart of palm salad, home-made burrata and mussels with roasted tomatoes and caper-anchovy paste and a creamy spring pea risotto with fresh ricotta and mint. Seared sea scallops arrive on an almost billowy parsnip puree. A pan-seared Norwegian salmon crusted with cherry gastric and orange zest is served with quinoa. A carry-over is a very good lobster mac and cheese. A popular dessert is chocolate bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream.
The bar is still packed and there’s a $30 three-course prix fixe until 6:30 p.m. nightly. For information call 631-324-5022 or visit racelanerestaurant.com