A former dead space, across the street from the Long Island Railroad station, may act as an overflow to Montauk’s hidden jewel, Duryea’s Lobster Deck on Fort Pond, a five minute walk. I’m talking about Arbor.
Thanks to owner Marc Rowan, a co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, who is dipping his toes into high-end real estate in seasonal towns like Telluride, Miami and Montauk, and Steven Jauffrineau, formerly of Shelter Island’s Sunset Beach, who is overseeing both operations, the newly renovated spaces have a built-in clientele.
The yachting crowd could potentially have a place to anchor, shop for local provisions, grab a lobster roll for lunch, and later head over to Arbor for dinner. So far, the crowd is much more mellow than say, that of the Old Shebeen, a previous tenant known for a hard-drinking crowd.
Swoon-worthy managers pour sparkling rosé to VIPs. Flights of wine and craft beer rule, with nary a shot of Jagermeister in sight. Rowen spared no expense on the gut renovations, with the help of Alden Fenwick Design, actual yacht designers.
“Everything was ripped out except the kitchen,” said Arnaud Lecamus, a dapper Frenchman and one of the managers on duty on a recent weeknight.
“There are 40 outdoor seats with possibly more to come,” he added. As it is, a breeze flushes through the expansive dining area. Floor tiles mimic driftwood. Large communal tables and the patio is to the right and to the left, the space’s piece de resistance, a glass-encased wine “cellar.” Wine and beer are listed on a large chalkboard looming over the center bar in the back, while intricate lighting details add a soft glow no matter where you happen to be.
Diners are seated at muted gray banquettes or off-white canvas director chairs. Servers sport summer whites with denim aprons. Linen napkins and a basket of my favorite farmhouse bread from Tom Cat Bakery adorn the tables.
After sipping on the house sparkling rosé, perfectly cooked sea scallops arrived, with yuzu mango salsa. Diced hot peppers added just the right amount of bite. Trufata, a truffle and mushroom patty with fig glaze, basil oil and borage cress, added an unexpected twist to a classic, creamy burrata.
Lecamus suggested a glass of Argentinian pinot noir, a Barda 2013 by Bodega Chacra, one of five wines from the “Treat Yourself” flight category. “It will go well with your chicken,” he said.
If a restaurant does a great roasted chicken, color me impressed. I’m happiest when I see a half roasted chicken on the plate, but I’m not running around a yacht in a string bikini either. I tend to dump salt and pepper on it like there’s no tomorrow, but everything, the deliciously lumpy mashed potatoes included, needed nothing at all. I was happy to squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and was surprised to find fresh figs lurking within the mild arugula salad.
If a restaurant does a great roasted chicken, color me impressed.
Our busboy, Lecamus’s nephew from France, nodded toward a nearby table snacking on rustic pizzas. “Our relatives surprised us,” he said, refilling our chilled water. The crowd’s joie de vivre made the place seem that much cozier aside from the comfort food.
My husband dug into the seafood “Gigli” pasta, with clams, shrimp, mussels and crab meat dressed in a garlicky arugula pesto and battarga, a mediterranean fish roe, so fast I didn’t get a lick of it, nor his chocolate creme brulée with raspberries and sweet potato ice cream.
For me, the highlight was a plate of berries and bananas cooked in ginger and topped with a pistachio paste, a mix of roasted pistachio, almond and walnuts, served warm with buttermilk and brown sugar gelato, a huge portion probably meant to be shared. Nope, definitely not fitting into that string bikini.
On our way out, we stopped to chat with the chef de cuisine Philippe Corbet, another charming Frenchman. “I own a restaurant in Islip,” he said, “Roots Bistro Gourmand. I’m here to help [chef Pierre Sudre].”
As we left, Michael Jackson crooned, “Got to be there.”