I ventured out to Montauk for dinner at Westlake Fish House in early May, before this much raved about restaurant became completely overrun for its second summer on Lake Montauk. The hamlet had yet to fully awaken from its winter slumber, and, though I had been to Montauk numerous times since “the season” officially ended last fall, I had yet to fully embrace everything that is wonderful about the start of a new summer on the end of the Island. In other words, I came to Westlake Fish House slightly overdressed—even the well-heeled know high-heeled shoes are eschewed in the “un-Hamptons” of the East End—but soon relaxed into a vibe that is classic Montauk: fresh seafood and outdoor dining with sweeping water views.
With executive chef Larry Kolar at the helm, Westlake Fish House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. True to Montauk’s family-friendly dynamic, there’s even a kids’ menu. My sister and I, however, were there to try the sushi. We had both lamented multiple times that good sushi is not an East End guarantee, which is a crime considering the amount of freshly caught fish that comes through Montauk Harbor each day.
Westlake has a number of sushi options—specialty rolls that combine a number of flavors, as well as your standard sushi and sashimi rolls; and also maki rolls.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, we started off the night with cocktails—strawberry daiquiris, the perfect complement to the start of another Montauk summer. Then, it was onto the appetizers. It was a night for calamari, apparently, as we ordered the Westlake Salad (local calamari, basil, cilantro and Bibb lettuce) and the fried calamari. These dishes shared a distinct lightness. Whether breaded or, in the case of the salad, doused in freshly squeezed lime juice—my doing—the true flavor of the calamari came through. The fried calamari was crispy, which is the only way the dish should be served. But it was the salad that truly stood out as unique. The combination of fresh cilantro and a hint of basil made this a quintessential summer dish; the refreshing flavors are the perfect way to break up a hot beach day.
Then, it was onto the main event—the sushi. We started off with two specialty rolls—the Rough Riders (shrimp tempura, cucumber inside; tuna, yellowtail outside) and the MTK (spicy tuna inside; tuna, fluke outside). The rolls arrived like a work of art—shades of red and orange presented side-by-side, almost too pretty to devour. But ravenous we were, and the presentation of the rolls did not overshadow their flavor. The spicy tuna wasn’t overly so, and it went well with the thin slices of tuna and fluke that topped the exterior of the roll. The tempura-encrusted shrimp had a nice crunch that was enhanced by the slices of tuna on top of the roll.
Still hungry—three rolls is perfect for two people—we ordered the New York roll (tuna, salmon, yellowtail and cucumber topped with avocado and wasabi sauce). I never thought there would come a day when I would favor raw fish over sushi, but that May evening was it. The New York roll was presented as a rainbow, alternating being topped with avocado and tuna, and I found myself gravitating toward the tuna over the avocado every time.
We ended our meal too full for dessert, so instead we meandered downtown for a nightcap, dreaming of warm summer days enjoying the magic that is waterfront dining in Montauk.
Westlake Fish House, 352 Westlake Drive, Montauk. 631-668-FISH, westlakefishhouse.com. Westlake Fish House is a participant in Dan’s Taste of Two Forks presented by Farrell Building Company, a food and wine tasting event, on July 18. For tickets and additional info, visit DansTasteofSummer.com.