31 Race Lane East Hampton, NY 631-324-5022
Tucked away on the street that inspires its name, this spot close to the train station features a garden courtyard and a lodge-like dining area – in addition to a lounge with a working fireplace. Open most of the year (there have been occasional long closures during the dead of winter), the menu is a hodgepodge of modern-styled plates, with such entrees as Montauk sea scallops (with parsnip purée, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts), pork chop Milanese (arugula, Grana Padano cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes) and a 9 oz. filet mignon (truffle whipped potatoes, mushroom, roasted pearl onions, Montepulciano grape sauce).Hours: Daily: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Credit cards: Accepted
The modernist Norman Jaffe building dates to 1981. It has been altered but not entirely disguised. Exit exposed brick and darker accents, enter light fabric and paint. The sitting area around the centerpiece fireplace has been expanded. Likewise, the garden.
The scene is populated with regulars, dressed from beach-casual to club-Hampton. There's plenty of amiable conversation. Service: very friendly.
Maybe the food will improve over time. The mainly American cuisine can be erratic. A fine artichoke salad with arugula and Parmesan cheese is balanced by a tomato-basil soup that suggests weak pasta sauce; the bland fish taco, made with wahoo instead of a local catch, is forgotten after a taste of the juicy Cornish hen. The crock of eggplant Parmigiana, a dull grilled-and-baked affair, is put aside in favor of a good cheeseburger.
You nibble on respectable shrimp tempura, which is better without a bath in the salty dipping sauce; and the moist, grilled swordfish, which gains by subtracting an overpowering rosemary beurre blanc. The soggy apple tart trails a rich, time-capsule chocolate mousse.
Part of Race Lane's appeal is playing with the calendar, going back and looking ahead. A cocktail near the fireplace definitely will have its appeal sometime between Labor Day and New Year's. Toast Jaffe.