When the food is this good, I usually advise diners to “run, don’t walk!” But Westlake Fish House is right in Montauk’s Westlake Marina, so I advise a quick swim! It’s so worth the effort.
I’m still thinking about the salad and the blowfish I ate there last week. But you want all the details, right?
First things first, Westlake Fish House has undergone some restoration—it’s still low key and has that authentic Montauk fish house look—but Chef Larry Kolar’s food is out of this world! So Westlake offers up just what the locals and our summer visitors—yes, even those hipsters—crave. A well-edited menu of modern takes on traditional dishes prepared with an experienced hand. Flip that same menu over and it’s all sushi and sashimi. Impressive.
Locals: Heck yes, the place is open for a reasonably priced breakfast starting at 5 a.m. and you can buy your bait, tackle and ice right next door.
Summer Folks: Heck yes, there’s a real fire burning in the fireplace, a kids menu, local wines (from Corey Creek, Macari, Martha Clara and Wölffer) and chopsticks at every place setting.
Everyone: Heck yes, there’s a long, wooden bar made from wood salvaged after Superstorm Sandy and a specialty cocktail menu. And, heck yes, there are fish tacos, a swordfish BLT and fried monkfish & chips on offer for lunch!
So what did my husband and I, two year-round gourmands from “away” order? Husband started with a “Hybrid,” that’s Jack Daniels, sweet vermouth, muddled orange and cherries and bitters. He said, “People who like Manhattans will probably like this.” I told him he should try a Coney Island Watermelon ale but he disagreed. He considered having a Montauk Driftwood Ale (When in Rome…) or a Fire Island Lighthouse Ale but decided to wait and have a chardonnay with his seafood entrée.
He started with a Westlake Salad of local calamari, Bibb lettuce, sriracha, Thai basil and cilantro. It’s like a big lettuce wrap of grilled, fresh squid. First he said “Mmmm,” quickly followed by the more definitive “MMMM! MMMM!” Sold.
He moved on to the Golden Tilefish with hen of the woods mushroom, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, lime shallot oil and whole coriander and pink peppercorns on top. The “golden” comes from good old-fashioned butter and kosher salt. This is honest, traditional fish cookery notably elevated. Or as husband so eloquently put it in the heat of the eat, “It’s not simple but it’s really good. It’s direct—it’s…‘boaty.’” Chef Larry suggested a local chard as a pairing. He was very helpful throughout the meal as was our server Jamie. There’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere at Westlake that I hope to revisit soon.
When I asked Jamie what was the most popular breakfast item, she said “Lotta, lotta coffee!” When I asked Chef Larry what his favorite dishes were on the menu, the Chicago native said without guile, “It’s all good.” Agreed!
I started with a very traditional bowl of Montauk Clam Chowder. Yes, that’s the white kind, and there’s a welcome touch of flouriness about it. Made with local clam pieces, potatoes and thyme, this is comfort. It’s probably a good “gateway seafood” for kids. I’ll look forward to sampling this chowder the next time I judge the Montauk Chowder Contest.
I had a special entrée: grilled, local blowfish over a salad. Wow, this melding of East-meets-West flavors and textures rocked my world! The Thai marinade on the fish, the light but flavorful carrot-ginger vinaigrette, the pecan halves and fresh cucumber and heirloom tomatoes…delish.
Husband and I shared a freshly house baked strawberry shortcake for dessert. That biscuit was still warm and so good. Traditional can sparkle in the hands of a master!
Westlake Fish House, 352 Westlake Drive, Montauk. 631-668-FISH, westlakefishhouse.com
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