Making a trip out to Montauk for dinner at Navy Beach is something of a pilgrimage. Somewhere along the Napeague stretch, one forgets the world behind and becomes immersed in the rugged and wild beauty of The End. On one such occasion, this past Saturday, multiple stops were made along the way to take in the salty ocean air and breathtaking views from Hither Woods State Park. Each of these stops better prepares for what lies ahead. Turning onto the narrowest part of Navy Road, with Fort Pond to the South and Fort Pond Bay to the North, with the sun low in the Northwest sky, insert angel chorus sound effect, we pulled into the gravel parking area of Navy Beach.
The unpresuming beach shack-like structure gave way to a beautiful interior. With broad exposed beams on the ceiling, a more polished hardwood floor, old boat lanterns and overhead lamps made out of netting, white brick walls, and bistro-like tables and chairs, Navy Beach hits the mark between Montauk casual and French Riviera chic. A long bar, with views of the larger dining room, leads to a back outdoor area that steps out onto sand. Clusters of the well heeled, yet fashionably bohemian, graced the sexy lounge areas near the water, Mojitos in hand, while they took snapshots of the setting sun. Following suit, I insisted on a few minutes on the outdoor deck with my Saintgria Rosé, a splendidly refreshing and light concoction of St. Germain, rosé, peaches and grapes, served in a white wine glass complete with a St. Germain stirrer. Other temptations off the drinks list included classics like Dark & Stormy and G&T’s, as well as new-fangled libations like the Acai Caipirinha and the Aperol, Cava and fresh orange “Spritz.” The beer list too had a nice range—Budweiser to Chimay Rouge.
Reading the menu from our table, a nice one right in front of the window where we could still watch the sunset, I was suddenly aware of the fact that this restaurant is confident and comfortable in its shoes. It knows it’s good and keeps the choices to the perfect minimum. Waitstaff are dressed comfortably in Navy Beach hoodies, but are serving up elegantly prepared dishes. I digress. The menu, just like a good resumé, is all on one page and tucked into a plastic sleeve, in keeping with the casual beachfront vibe. From said menu, we commenced with the Beet & Arugula Salad, Dungeness Crab Cake and Montauk Clam & Corn Chowder. The beets were perfectly ripe, the arugula fresh and the tangy yogurt dressing and bits of goat cheese balanced the hot radish slivers. My hesitancy to order something that I could make myself was undone; it was the best damn beet and arugula salad I’ve ever had. The crab cake was equally exciting, with an extraordinarily high crab-to-breadcrumb ratio. The chowder disappeared before I was able to try it, with the one remark of my fellow-taster being “it’s for clam-fans.”
The piéce de rèsistance for me was my entrée of Miso-Marinated Hake, with charred scallion, shitake and mache. A white fish similar in consistency to Cod, the Hake absorbed the savory miso and scallion. A thin, crispy crust on the outside of the fish added a contrasting texture to the shitake. Paired with this was a nice cool glass of Provençal rosé. Aside from international wines, there were also North Fork offerings from Lieb Cellars—rosé, Pinot Blanc and the Bordeaux blend. We also tried the Spaghetti alle Vongole, which was served with chorizo, coriander and “casino breadcrumbs,” paired with a Brooklyn Summer Ale, which tasted, aptly, “summery.” Slightly salty and strongly flavored by the chorizo, the dish would be heartily enjoyed by anyone with a love for Cuban. I will certainly be making this excursion again in a couple months when Navy Beach will undoubtedly be sizzling. After all, we’ll need an excuse to try the Lobster & Clam bake.
Navy Beach,16 Navy Road, Montauk, 631-668-6868, navybeach.com