I was warned it was hard to find. I was dubious about the term “food bar.” And I had never been to Wading River, although I knew it was somewhere in the western foothills of North Fork wine country. But one trip to Michael Anthony’s Food Bar convinced me of what the locals (and Zagat reviewers) have long known: this is a terrific restaurant.
We got past the name thing once we entered the front door. Michael Anthony’s Food Bar has a bar, yes, a lively one with an acoustic guitarist on the Friday night we visited. But like the menu, which is divided into sections called BeginningBar, RawBar, PastaBar and GrillBar, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. [expand]
Chef and owner Michael Anthony Toscano (who is what they used to call movie-star handsome) has been in the business for more than 25 years. His cuisine is eclectic: Italian, French, Fusion and Modern American. His equally lovely daughter Cassandra is a more recent addition, and she has the front of house well in hand. A certified sommelier, Cassandra left a food management position in Manhattan to come out East to help her dad. By the time we were finished with our dinner, I asked Chef, “How did you ever get along without her?” She’s that good, “and only 25 years old,” he boasted. Cassandra has a big career ahead of her.
We started with the Sesame Calamari, which came on mixed greens with Cilantro Soy Sauce. It was just crunchy enough with a tangy late hit on the palate. We also sampled a delicious Tuna Hand Roll du jour. In between courses Chef sent out not one but three amuse-bouche, each more intriguing and filling than the one before. The pickled beets were crisp and light. The figs with ricotta and truffled olive oil were rich, sweet and mysterious. But the star of the show was his signature Linguini Lo Mein, made with porcetta, egg, spicy mustard greens and red pepper flakes. Outrageous.
I ordered Duck Breast with Green Tea Honey Glaze and Baby Bok Choy. It was crisp on the outside and perfectly tender within. My dining partner changed his mind at the last minute, from filet mignon to scallops, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the Paripaso Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California that Cassandra originally paired with the filet. Michael Anthony’s has a few local wines including Laurel Lake, and Bedell’s Taste Red Blend, but for the most part it carries Californian and Italian wines. The Sea Scallops, by the way, in Panko and Lemon Garlic Velouté, were large and succulent, sitting on a bed of edamame. (Is it just me or is edamame having a moment?)
Our server Trish from Mattituck insisted we try the Chocolate Ganache Cake (we split it), and Chef brought out cappuccino and homemade biscotti! The entire meal was sophisticated, full of surprises and beautifully presented, with an edible flower on almost every plate.
Michael Anthony’s Food Bar attracts a loyal clientele from Greenport to Setauket, and regular customers from Westhampton and Southampton, “a straight shot south,” Cassandra explained. No wonder Zagat gives it a score of 24. Michael Anthony’s Food Bar is a winner…and worth a trip from wherever you live.
Michael Anthony’s Food Bar, Restaurant and Catering. 2925 N. Wading River Rd. (between Hulse Ave. and Hulse Landing Rd.), Wading River. 631-929-8800, www.michaelanthonysfoodbar.com. [/expand]