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Fatfish Wine Bar & Bistro

28 Cottage Ave. Bay Shore, NY 631-666-2899

Chef/owner Brian Valdini holding oven roasted grouper with

(Credit: Newsday / Michael E. Ach)

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Type: American, Seafood, Tapas (small plates), Dessert Special features: Outdoor Seating, Water views, Lunch, Live music Price range: $$ (Moderate) Description:

Tucked away down a canal that leads to the Great South Bay, Fatfish has become a Long Island summer standard. From May thru September live music plays nightly, which only enhances the warm-season value of the tremendous water view. Sadly, the bands fade away when the colder months arrive, but the menu of tapas, small dishes, cheeses and seafood remain regardless of the thermometer’s read. There’s a dessert menu as well, and with choices like “Chocolate Indulgence” (Grand Marnier-injected chocolate strawberries, chocolate flourless torte, and hazelnut and chocolate ice cream) and vanilla toasted-almond crepe (vanilla ice cream, caramel rum sauce, toasted almonds), there’s obvious reason to consider braving the bay’s frigid fall and winter winds.

Hours: Open seasonally, from late March-early October; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday.

On a sweltering afternoon, two friends and I escaped the office to chill out over lunch at fatfish in Bay Shore. Elsewhere, the day sizzled, but out on the canopied deck, it was cool and breezy, the Great South Bay lapping below. "It feels like we're on a cruise ship," someone remarked. Actually, I found chef Brian Valdini's fare better than what I remember from a recent cruise. Our lunch began with a lobster salad, lots of freshly steamed out-of-the-shell meat on a bed of greens with roasted plum tomatoes, mushrooms and crisp pancetta. True, the greens were coated with a bit too much garlic-and-herb dressing, but that was a minor quibble. An appetizer called piri piri chicken translated into skewered spice-marinated strips, some juicy, others a bit overcooked, plated with a lively vegetable salad that included chick peas, white raisins and fresh mint. Briny clams on the half shell were accompanied by a conventional red cocktail sauce and a piquant red-onion salsa laced with cilantro and chile. A friend ordered the $26 lobster "fest," available only on Mondays. It began with a more than respectable house salad enlivened by grilled zucchini and roasted red peppers. Then came a 11/2-pound lobster, steamed to an ideal state of sweetness and surrounded by plump steamers in a broth of butter, garlic and white wine. Not a drop of that spoon-worthy broth remained. Corn on the cob was slightly firm to the bite, releasing spurts of summer flavor. A surprise hit was shrimp-and-scallop fettucine, the shellfish cooked to optimal sweetness, al dente strips of pasta bathed in a rich, buttery and herbal sauce. A tuna steak, lightly char-grilled, arrived rare on a crusty roll, one side spread with a garlicky green-olive tapenade, the other topped with aioli, lettuce and tomato. It won over even a tuna-phobe at our table. We concluded with a warm crepe stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with almonds and caramel-rum sauce, a lovely contrast of textures and temperatures. Fresh strawberries, marinated in balsamic vinegar, wore a toque of freshly whipped cream, the trademark of a chef who cares.