Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton is a charming place for an off-season date night. The casual, relaxed atmosphere, the quaint tin ceiling. Oh, and the date cake—what would date night be without date cake?—but more on that later. You certainly don’t start a meal with dessert.
On the contrary, to get our meal off to a proper start, I felt the need to check on the bar’s martini. I’m happy to report that the gin martini arrived dry and crisp, and I heartily recommend it.
My dining partner and I decided to continue our date night at Almond with a few appetizers, including the popular and celebrated crostada of Jane’s mushrooms. This dish, with a shell that’s a kind of delightful cross between a flaky quiche crust and a chewier pizza crust filled with a creamy/cheesy wild mushroom mixture topped with a fried egg, elegantly combines the comforting and the refined in a way that’s just right for winter dining. Another fine plate was a salad of Brussels sprouts presented two ways: tasty roasted sprouts were tossed with a slaw of freshly shredded raw sprouts topped with a Caesar dressing. Sprout season has passed, but this dish will be well worth looking for next year.
A third appetizer, this one a special pan-roasted scallop “hash,” sounded intriguing: in my experience, hash is not a term frequently associated with scallops. It turned out to be a delicious pile of roasted potatoes and fennel, liberally studded with sweet scallops and finished with a Rockefeller sauce. Maybe this is what the Rockefellers call hash. By all means, let the gentrification of hash continue.
Long, complicated menus can be a buzzkill—after a long day, who wants to stress out over choosing an entrée? One of the features that makes eating at Almond perhaps a more relaxing experience is the straightforward way in which the menu is organized. All on one page (desserts are on a separate sheet), the selections are categorized to make intuitive sense. If you want a steak, there’s a corner of the menu for you: you have some fine choices of cut and preparation, and you’re set. In another corner, there’s the list of daily specials. If you can remember what day it is, you’re set.
As for us, we were enticed by the venison ragu, which is a rarity on East End menus. However, the local black fish served with clams, yellow-eye beans, fennel confit and bacon won out. A nicely crusted piece of fish arrived atop a bed of beans and fennel, surrounded by a rich sauce. One has a choice to eat the fish in its pure form, but I would recommend knocking it off its perch and dredging it in the savory sauce. A dish of goat cheese ravioli stuffed with butternut squash was seriously creamy and good. It was served with fried plantains, which were deemed a surprisingly nice touch.
Perhaps redundantly, we had thought to order the side dish of macaroni and cheese—call it a compulsion. It arrives piping hot in its own crock, and is in a more creamy European style than the drier, cheddar-based American macaroni and cheese. It would make a meal in and of itself for those with smaller appetites or for children.
Now for the date cake. The sticky toffee date cake, to be precise—made WITH dates, not necessarily FOR dates. By this time in the meal, we were far from certain that we could hold any more food, but we had heard tremendous things about the sticky toffee date cake. Sure enough, the cake is a marvel. Served warm, quite sweet and with a texture approaching that of a bread pudding (the final step in the preparation in fact causes the cake to be slightly steamed), it reminded me of a German dampfnudel or an English pudding, but is very much its own entity. It comes with a scoop of locally made crème fraîche ice cream, which is not very sweet and so nicely balances the cake. It’s the perfect touch for the perfect date.
Almond, 1 Ocean Road, Bridgehampton, 631-537-5665, almondrestaurant.com.