221 Old Country Rd.
CUISINE: Sunny Southern
CHECK: Appetizers and soups, $4 to $7; entrees, $9.95 to $11.95; desserts,
$4; Sunday brunch buffet, $17.50.
HOURS: Lunch, Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner Tuesday to
Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m., Sunday brunch, 11
a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Tables a bit tight; otherwise accessible.
It was late one evening when Lillian Dent, co-owner and manager of LL Dent
in Carle Place, stopped at our table to chat. In a short while, she had us so
engaged that we invited her to pull up a chair. Minutes later, Dent's daughter
and business partner, Leisa, emerged from the kitchen, resplendent in chef's
whites and toque, and filled us in on the origins of some of the Southern
family recipes that comprise her menu. Years ago, Leisa Dent had cooked for
actor-comedian Eddie Murphy. His loss turned out to be Long Island's gain.
Which is not to say the 3-month-old enterprise is all it could be just yet.
As is common at new restaurants, food and service can vary from one visit to
another. Still, I've always left feeling glad I'd come. Even on a night when
the brisket - thinly sliced and succulent on a previous occasion - amounted to
bland pot roast with thick gravy, the pulled pork with candied yams was
At both lunch and dinner, little loaves of piping hot corn bread
materialized almost immediately. Our waiter confessed, under interrogation,
that a mix had been used in the making, but it was, at least, an excellent mix.
I ate entirely too much of the end result.
Soups are a forte. My favorite was Toby's Georgia hash, a spicy ground
pork-laced gumbo Leisa Dent's late father used to prepare by the bucketful and
freeze for the winter. The LL spicy chicken soup, studded with bits of okra,
tomatoes and rice, came in a close second. Vegetable soup, while lively, was
overwhelmed by salt, at least on one day.
I liked the crisp, deep-fried chicken livers served on Texas toast; so,
too, did a confessed liver-phobe in our party. The generic Buffalo chicken
wings, however, said nothing about the chef who had prepared them.
What spoke volumes about Leisa Dent's culinary talent were barbecued spare
ribs, a special that should be a menu staple. They were smoky, meaty and
extremely tender. Another non-menu item, salmon with sausage, peppers and
onions over creamy cheese grits, was so compelling I couldn't keep my fork out
of a friend's plate. While the Southern fried chicken was crisp and juicy, I
wish I'd known beforehand that the portion was just a quarter of a bird, since
I would have requested dark meat.
The heady pulled pork, whether served on a sandwich or as platter, proved
irresistible every time, as did the crunchy cornmeal-crusted fried catfish, a
sandwich at lunch. Turkey meat loaf, on one occasion, was a dry affair with
congealed gravy; it was lots better the next time, although the gravy still
could have been thinner and hotter.
I'm partial to creamy macaroni and cheese, so I thought the eggy Georgia
style souffl� a bit dry, but that's a matter of personal preference. Collard
greens were tangy, candied yams sweet and cinnamony.
After one forkful of Leisa Dent's classic chocolate layer cake - moist,
tall and spread with an opulent bittersweet icing - I was willing to foresake
all the flourless slabs of fudge served at every trendy restaurant these days.
Dent's warm, lush banana pudding had been made the old-fashioned way, with
vanilla custard, vanilla wafers and a topping of meringue.
Once, at the outset of our dinner, Leisa Dent offered everybody in the
restaurant a piece of lemon cake, fresh from the oven. "It's a little
overbaked, so I couldn't serve it for dessert," she said.
Actually, the cake was perfect.
With a little fine-tuning, hopefully, all else at LL Dent will be,