It’s always exciting when a new restaurant opens up on the East End, and doubly so when it’s open year-round. On a fall weeknight evening, this cozy restaurant and bar was full. Backbar Grille is just what Hampton Bays needed, I thought to myself, a laid-back, comfortable place near the water where you can meet your friends for a drink and a (really good) bite to eat after work. Sure, we have a few good spots, but none quite like this.
My mother and I sat down in the dining area near a window overlooking the marina behind Tully’s. The sun setting, we enjoyed the last few minutes of sunlight flooding through the glass before it disappeared completely and old-fashioned lanterns took its place. Settling in with a glass of pinot noir for me and sauvignon blanc for mom, we began to divulge the week’s events as I took note of the pleasing décor—black, grey and white checkered tablecloths and dark wood chairs seemed to say country with a nautical twist and a sprinkling of sophistication. We could see into the other room, where the Jets game was shown on a nice, high-def flat screen, and people mingled around the large 360-degree bar, some eating dinner, others just having a beer.
Putting conversation to a necessary halt in order to focus on the menu, we opted for the first dishes to catch our eyes and promised to share a little of each. The dinner menu options were plentiful and allowed for going a simple route, like burgers and sandwiches, or for a selection of raw bar appetizers (which are probably as fresh as it gets, considering its proximity to Tully’s Seafood Market and the ocean), or for entrées. There was even the delightful option of choosing from a list of salads and then selecting a meat or fish addition—which is what mom did. I followed an instinctive desire for salmon and was glad I did so. When our plates arrived mine was elegantly arranged and piping hot—the horseradish crusted North Atlantic salmon neatly placed beside a nice-sized scoop of jasmine rice and drizzled with a soy-mirin ginger sauce. I swirled a bite of the salmon around in the sauce and was overcome with sheer delight. The ginger and miso complemented the horseradish-crusted salmon amazingly well and the jasmine rice was the perfect side—with just the subtlest hint of sweet and fragrant jasmine—along with some nourishing carrots and cauliflower. Mom’s salad was bursting with an exciting array of shapes and colors—bright green baby arugula, red halved cherry tomatoes, darker red roasted peppers, cubes of goat cheese, artichoke fritters, a few little broccoli flowerets, and off to the side, the crab cake. The crab was “light, tasty, delicate” yet “stood on its own” flavor-wise, not relying on heaps of sauce.
Our wines paired well with each dish—my pinot noir, on the lighter side of reds, was a great choice for the salmon and Mom seemed to be enjoying the crisp fresh sauvignon blanc with the salad and crab cake.
As ladies often do, we began with no desire for dessert but somehow succumbed to “just a bite” of two of the house favorites: a slice of Key lime pie and my very decadent Reese’s (yup, we went there) chocolate peanut butter fudge. Both were served with fresh, ripe berries that provided a little palate-cleansing reprieve.
Restaurateur and caterer Tim Burke’s Backbar Grille is open seven days a week and on Thursdays from 9 p.m. till midnight catch East End reggae artist Winston Irie. Call 631-728-2208 for a reservation or just stop by at 78 Foster Avenue, Hampton Bays.