What’s more evocative of summer than dining in a garden? At the Backyard Restaurant at Solé East you can enjoy delicious food and drinks garden-side, poolside or inside the intimate yet airy dining room. The white canvas-backed chairs are comfy as can be, and the strings of lights ringing the outdoor dining area create the ideal atmosphere for a romantic dinner for two or a special night out with friends or family.
On a recent Thursday night, yellow gazpacho with choice bites of lobster meat and sliced avocado was one of the specials. If they have it when you go, get it. Gazpacho can be tricky: too puréed and it becomes thin and watery; too chunky, and you’re eating salsa, not soup. But Chef Joaquin Melo Herrera’s gazpacho is just right—perfectly garlicky, but not overly so, and with a slight citrus tang backing up the tomatoes. The avocado and lobster are a sweet accompaniment.
Other starters (or “cicchetti,” as they’re labeled) to try from the regular menu are the creamy burrata with baby artichokes, blistered heirloom tomatoes, and a crostini spread with olive tapenade. The cheese is wonderfully smooth, and if you run out of crostini, you can have the burrata with the crispy toasted bread that’s brought to the table, complete with a dish of olive oil, balsamic reduction, melting butter pat and roasted garlic for dipping.
But being in Montauk necessitates fish, shellfish—anything from the ocean, and you’ll want a lot of it the way it’s prepared at the Backyard. The grilled calamari bruschetta with roasted tomatoes, radicchio, capers and Calabrese peppers, is a good bet. No need to worry about rubbery squid: the fish is as fresh as you can get. A diner who ordered it at a nearby table cleaned his plate. The same goes for the grilled Portuguese octopus, which comes with a mix of corona beans, fresh oregano, harissa, lemon and caper berries.
In keeping with the seaside vibe, the Mediterranean plate offers selections that conjure the whitewashed Greek coast: fava bean hummus sprinkled with paprika, an incredible roasted eggplant dish with a pomegranate reduction. There are sweet cipollini onions—pop a whole one in your mouth just because you can—and the requisite olives, as well as a stracchino cheese that has the tang of feta, but is much milder, and the buttery consistency of slightly melted mozzarella.
For the entrée course, go for the grill—yellowfin tuna, that is. (Other options are skirt steak, wild striped bass, and diver scallops.) Everything but the beef is caught in the Montauk waters. Pair your protein with creamy polenta, roasted mushrooms, bok choy or grilled asparagus. Simple and delicious. The tuna comes with half a grilled lemon for squeezing.
Another succulent option is the Mon-Tauk Fish Stew with bone-in monkfish, fennel, carrots, saffron potatoes and littleneck clams, all in a tomato-y lobster-y broth that doesn’t overwhelm the fish. The stew is warm and rich and lovely—perfect if the Montauk evening is on the chilly side.
Cap your night with a frothy cappuccino and a sweet treat. The most popular item on the dessert menu is the flourless chocolate torte. Decadent and not too sugary, the torte has the right amount of bitter to truly make the flavor exceptional. Or go for the tiramisu. The top layer of mascarpone is the definition of silk. You’ve never tasted anything so velvety and creamy. It’s the perfect finish to a truly incredible meal.
The Backyard Restaurant at Solé East, 90 Second House Road, Montauk. Call 631-668-9739 or visit soleeast.com for more information.