One clue that Fresh Hamptons is a different kind of restaurant comes when you find that the front page of the menu is devoted to a message from the executive chef/owner, Todd Jacobs.
In addition to promising locally produced meat and vegetables and fresh, locally caught fish, Jacobs alludes to Fresh Hamptons’ unique menu organization, which features family-style portions and a la carte sides. It’s a menu that puts the customer in control of portion size as well as taste combinations. In a break with high-end restaurant tradition, at Fresh Hamptons you get to decide how much food you get and what comes with what. It’s unusual, both because we’ve come to expect chefs to dictate accompaniments and because it leaves more decisions for the diner.
While Jacobs admits that some diners find it hard to decide what side dishes to order with their entrée (and there are a few “platter” suggestions for those who can’t handle the pressure), on the whole he finds the approach to work very nicely. “This way, it allows diners to maybe order a smaller portion of meat and more of the delicious local vegetables,” says Jacobs. This tilt away from meat is, as we have long known, a healthier way to eat, and Fresh Hamptons is not shy about emphasizing the healthfulness of its offerings. In fact, a good number of the restaurant’s food offerings are designed to complement the practice of yoga.
On the other side of the coin, Jacobs notes that in the more traditional restaurants he’s managed, tremendous amounts of wonderful side dishes go uneaten by those diners whom we might call the hardened meat eaters; so at Fresh Hamptons, patrons who know they’re not going to eat the beets don’t have to order the beets, and that way much less food is wasted.
Whatever the options for the determined carnivore, though, the menu at Fresh Hamptons clearly gravitates toward healthful choices. Local veggies make their appearance in some very attractive salads, including the house tossed salad, which is nicely customizable with add-ons, including local raw cheddar and raw cashews. The local organic chicken noodle soup contains gluten-free fusilli for those watching their gluten. There’s also a raw-food friendly, vegan summer roll featuring a mix of julienned fresh vegetables wrapped in a collard green with tomato chipotle vegan aioli.
On a recent early winter’s evening, we opted for a middle ground between healthy and indulgent. The curried local organic pumpkin soup was on the sweet side, and gained a pleasing creaminess and complexity when the dollop of fresh Greek yogurt was stirred into it. An appetizer of garlicky organic guacamole was served with some nice warm, crispy tortillas and hit the spot very nicely.
Encouraged by Fresh Hamptons’ menu, we also got right into the spirit of favoring vegetable or starch sides over meat entrées. The side-dish combination platter allows you to order any five sides from a list of around 15 choices: the choices range from hand-cut French fries to steamed local organic beets to steamed bok choy and shitake mushrooms with ginger tossed with sesame oil, and the portions are quite generous. Five sides could easily satisfy the side-dish needs of a family of four, and they are meant to be enjoyed family style. We went with the lovely, earthy steamed local organic beets, the sweet jewel yams with fresh ginger, the more decadent garlic whipped potatoes, and the Thai green curried local vegetables.
We also tried the gluten-free macaroni and cheese side dish. Having spent some years trying to find passable gluten-free pasta, without success, we were pleased to find that Fresh Hamptons has solved this riddle. The gluten-free pasta had fine texture, and the sauce was rich and creamy. Superb!
After all of this, perhaps the entrées will seem an afterthought, but they shouldn’t. At Fresh Hamptons, you order your entrée by weight (1/4-, 1/2-, or 1-pound portions), with 1/2 lb. being the standard adult portion. I went for the luscious braised beef short ribs—one of the best winter dishes I know—while my partner tried the pan seared local scallops, which were sweet and delicious.
For dessert, it was the housemade sorbets, including a sorbet made from locally grown paw-paws. You can’t get that everywhere!
Fresh Hamptons, 203 Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton, 631-537-4700, freshhamptons.com