Inside the lux Hotel Indigo East End in Riverhead is the hidden treasure, Bistro 72. Executive Chef James Junk offers guests the best in local cuisine, striving to embody the farm-to-table concept of dining by sourcing ingredients directly from surrounding farms including Satur Farms, Davis Peach Farm, Catapano Dairy Farm and North Fork Potato Chips.
Inside the restaurant you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a faraway oasis—if the weather allows, you can enjoy the gorgeous outdoor area. My dining partner and I sat inside near the cozy fireplace, in front of the crooning piano player.
We began with a Bistro 72 staple, the fried calamari. Chef explained how he treats the calamari, cooking it first and then marinating it in a mixture that includes Worcestershire sauce, before tossing it into the batter for frying. The result is the most-tender fried calamari you will ever sink your teeth into. The batter is light and stays with the calamari as it is fried golden, seasoned to perfection, served with a trio of dipping sauces—hoisin sauce, Thai peanut and spicy chili (we liked the hoisin and chili the best).
The short rib taco is beyond delightful, and a fun fusion dish. Served in a freshly made, super-light and crunchy shell, the short rip was sweet and smoky, tender, served with delightful potato straws stuck playfully on top.
The plating at Bistro 72 is second to none. Chef pulls out all the tricks with every dish, paying homage to the phrase “you eat with your eyes first.”
After we devoured the tacos, we tried the silky smooth butternut squash soup, served with adorable, earthy micro greens (from a local farm, of course) and topped with roasted pumpkin seeds. A wonderfully warm and comforting dish, slightly sweet but decidedly earthy. A perfect way to warm up on a cold night.
The Bistro 72 salad is a seasonal dish, and ours featured blueberries, candied pecans and red onion tossed with a champagne and poppy seed dressing and topped with garlic toast covered in goat cheese crumbles—a decadent salad, I couldn’t help but love every bite.
Next, Chef treated us to his salmon, one of the prettiest and tastiest dishes yet. The fresh, wild-caught salmon is seasoned to perfection and pan sautéed until the outside is so crispy you’ll wonder if you’ve died and gone to foodie heaven. The filet is perched atop a divine pistachio risotto cake and vibrant green asparagus. It is all topped with a cascade of beurre blanc that is buttery and light, lending a delicate feel. A dish as epic in design as it is in flavor and texture, the salmon is a pure delight for any discerning diner’s palate.
Not to be outdone, the seared scallops came next, as artfully presented as the salmon. The gleaming scallops are pan fried on both sides until they have that delightful crisp exterior that we all know and love. Served with earthy and bright kale pesto rice, asparagus, and more of that luscious beurre blanc.
The restaurant has moved toward steakhouse cuisine, so we had to try the Filet Mignon. It was as tender as you would expect from any great steakhouse, served with housemade garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus.
Chef urged us to try one of his favorite desserts—the Banana Brûlée. He tops banana boats with sugar and torches them until crunchy like the exterior of a traditional crème brûlée. Served with ice cream, drizzled with caramel and nuts, it was the perfect way to end the night—alongside my frothy, hot, decaf cappuccino, of course.
Bistro 72, 1830 West Main Street, Route 25, Riverhead, indigoeastend.com, 631-369-3325.