Toast and Co.
62 Stewart Ave. Huntington, NY 631-812-0056
Trendy themed breakfast and lunch spot that focuses on contemporary American dishes and comfort foods. After 5 p.m., the venue morphs into the serious chef-driven 2-star restaurant, Toast After Hours.Hours: Toast & Co. serves breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.; Toast After Hours serves dinner, Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. Ambience: Good Service: Good Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: wheelchair accessible.
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Toast and Co. became the toast of the town within the course of its first week. No doubt, Huntington was in need of a snappy new venue for breakfast and lunch. But while the place exhibits plenty of pizzazz, both in its cheery green-and-orange decor and its hip comfort food menu, it's not quite ready for its own success.
Go at lunch or on a weekend, and you'll inevitably face a long wait. Once seated, you may not be served for a while, since servers and kitchen crew are strained by the crowd, as well as by their disparate levels of experience.
I found the restaurant in its top form on weekday mornings. Chef Anthony Torre's huevos rancheros gave the hearty Mexican classic a good tweak: two fried corn tortillas with over-easy eggs, fresh salsa and a piquant tomato- cheese sauce. I liked the herbal and original roasted root vegetable omelet enfolding julienne carrots, parsnips, caramelized shallots and roast tomatoes. Both the cheese grits and steel-cut oatmeal were comforting at breakfast. A refined -- and winning -- take on biscuits with gravy was two lightly toasted halves of a large, light scallion-flecked biscuit topped with eggs and bits of kielbasa-like sausage, a delicate cream sauce drizzled on top. But I thought both the buttermilk pancakes and super-sweet lemon ricotta cakes too thick and somewhat dry.
It was at lunch that I found myself transported to a sitcom dimension when a fledgling waiter brought my husband the wrong dish. "But I ordered shepherd's pie," he said, faced with what was clearly a sandwich. "That's what that is," the young man replied. A manager happened by and sized up the situation. "No way is that shepherd's pie," she said. It was whisked away.
What ultimately arrived was cubed lamb in gravy atop mashed potatoes -- a deconstructed interpretation of shepherd's pie -- and quite good, at that. Another hearty entree was meat loaf, a trifle salty but still appealing. Saltiness was also a drawback for the homestyle short ribs with cranberry merlot glaze, plated not with its promised Parmesan polenta but with mashed potatoes.
A buffalo burger worked well as a lower-fat stand-in for beef, and even better yet was a salmon "burger," a loosely bound disc of fresh fish and herbs served on a toasted brioche bun with slivered cucumbers. I had to request the promised basil mayonnaise, which made an apt topping. Poached salmon, lightly dressed with a caper dill mayonnaise, worked beautifully in a sprightly mesclun salad.
I felt the chef fudged a bit on a dessert called chocolate cream pie, which was actually chocolate mousse plopped upon a puff pastry square, but at least it featured fresh whipped cream. And an apple raisin crumb cobbler turned out to be a glass filled with warm apples and raisins sprinkled with granola. Hardly a cobbler, in my view. But a special of chocolate torte turned out to be a pleasant surprise, a moist, old- fashioned individual chocolate cake with a pudding-like center.
I have observed Chef Torre emerge from the kitchen, survey the dining room with a puzzled expression on his face, and then return. He is clearly a man of talent faced with feeding too many people too early in the restaurant's life. And, make no mistake, this is a place that should earn its success. The ingredients are all there. Like a good stew, though, it just needs time for the flavors to meld.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 11/7/07.