Harbor Bistro, on Three Mile Harbor Road in Springs, might win my prize for best sunset in the Hamptons. On a recent, busy Thursday night, my wife and I enjoyed the view from Harbor Bistro’s patio seating. Waiters were bustling around, other diners were chatting and laughing, but there prevailed a sense of ease and calm, directly attributable to the peaceful location.
People seem to know about this place, and large parties of colorfully dressed people appeared frequently, some to get a table and others just to gather around the substantial bar for a sunset libation. Either way, Harbor Bistro allows them to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the view.
But wait, you say. What about the food? What about the service? If the atmosphere and view are so great, the food must suffer, and the service must be slow! It’s sad, but such are the lingering anxieties, born of hard experience, when people think about “location” restaurants. These anxieties can interfere with our efforts to just enjoy ourselves.
Well, at Harbor Bistro, you can relax about these things, too. Our meal, chosen from a menu of many tempting options, was excellent. Our service, provided by Patrick, was friendly and swift.
We started with two selections from the list of specialty cocktails. The wife had the Saketini, which is Grey Goose pear vodka, sake, and lemongrass and ginger infused syrup, poured from a shaker to a martini glass at the table and garnished with candied ginger. “Oooh, yummy,” to quote the wife. I chose the Cucumber Fizz, a generous tumbler of Crop Organic cucumber vodka, lemon-tarragon syrup and soda water with lots of cucumber chunks. Very refreshing, and fun to sip through a straw, as tinier bits of cucumber lend an interesting texture to the drink.
Next we tried some appetizers. It should come as no surprise that Harbor Bistro’s menu is dominated by fish and seafood, and so that’s primarily what we ate. The menu has many tasty-sounding appetizer and salad options, including an Asian-inspired plate of Kataifi Crisped Montauk Lobster Bundles and a Yellowfin Tuna Poke, as well as a raw bar.
But when our waiter Patrick brought to our attention two specials, these provoked a powerful curiosity. We had to try the Lobster Empanadas, crispy-tender pastry containing a seasoned filling of lobster, potatoes and roasted poblano peppers, topped with a tangy guacamole crema.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist the salad special of mixed greens accompanied by three succulent, perfectly grilled sea scallops. I’m not a fruit-in-my-salad kind of guy, but the fresh blueberries in my salad were an unexpected pleasure. Do look for these specials when you go. From the standard menu, we also had the Beef Tenderloin Tataki, an Asian-inflected serving of tender beef with pancetta, edamame, and shiitake with a yuzu-soy emulsion. Highly recommended.
I believe it’s customary for a bistro to offer steak and fries, and Patrick was able to offer us several cuts from the specials board in addition to the 13oz Rib Eye on the menu. We opted to stick with fish, but we prevailed upon him to bring us some of the House Fries, which are shoestring potatoes that come topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and black truffle oil. They arrived crispy and hot in a chowder crock and were soon gone.
From the standard menu, we chose the Sautéed Montauk Fluke and the Lime Grilled Local Catch. The flaky fluke was served atop a plateau of wide-gauge couscous in a rich shrimp broth with rock shrimp shiitake, and slivers of green squash to soak it all up. The local catch was a portion of striped bass, a fish whose mild flavor was enhanced by a strong, but not overly spicy chipotle sauce and a black bean hash that reminded me of a corn salsa. Both entrees were superbly conceived and rendered.
Of the many enticements on the dessert menu, we opted for sharing the Warm Almond Cake, an amaretto-soaked sponge cake topped with tangy strawberry-rhubarb compote and ice cream. As my wife had mostly taken charge of the House Fries, I was basically on my own with this almondy treat. There were no leftovers.
Harbor Bistro, 313 Three Mile Harbor/Hog Creek Road, East Hampton. 631-324-7300. Open for dinner daily from 5–10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday ‘till 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended.