On a recent Thursday evening I was joined by my dear friend and writing buddy Emily for dinner at Oreya Restaurant & Lounge at the Capri in Southampton. We sat outdoors, facing a courtyard framed in white wood that recalls Mediterranean getaways. Emily’s seat was adjacent to a great box of heavenly wafting rosemary plants. Punctuated with fig and lime trees, the layout is spacious inside and out.
And the handsome German business partner, a Mr. Friedrich, who greeted us at the door is “large format,” like some of the Champagne bottles available. Appropriately, his name is “Max.”
Emily and I agree on most things and so we settled in immediately with cocktails. A Tickled Pink of Grey Goose, Campari, grapefruit, lemon, rosemary and soda for Emily, who commented, “I can’t taste the vodka and that’s a good thing.” Further asserting, “This is a very good drink. I’m going to figure out how to reproduce it. I love Campari.” Emily is a retired bartender, I was once a terrible waitress.
A Flower Girl for moi meant Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, St. Germaine, lemon, simple syrup and lavender bitters in a very pretty glass with a lemon twist on its rim. It was lemon-forward and light and not over-sweet.
Next on the agenda was testing Oreya’s Blistered Shishito Peppers together. We like to treat them as a sort of palate cleanser throughout the meal. These were just right. Not overly blackened and they were tender and tasty, served with preserved lemon and sumac aioli and lemon-infused sea salt.
I admire a top restaurant that offers tap water in reusable bottles.
Emily segued into a glass of French rosé (Bertaud Belieu Cote de Provence, 2014). A lovely pale pink—the darker it is, the sweeter it is, so this served well.
As we contemplated the menu, our server Leslie encouraged us to “take all the time in the world” in a genuine tone that warmed us. He also employed many a “my dear,” which never grated. It was remarkable how faraway the highway and the cares of the day seem from behind this wall. We remarked on it.
The Fresh Garbanzo Hummus tempted, but I went with the Sancerre-Poached Shrimp Cocktail to start. The four tender shrimp were luscious in the face of the freshly grated horseradish.
We split a Charred Treviso & Little Gem Caesar Salad. It was agreed that the green goddess dressing, romaine lettuce, white anchovies, barberry gastrique and herbs were a divine combination, but we had to stop before we’d finished it in order to take in the many other delights Emily ordered the Grilled Bronzino Fillets with their leek and fennel ragout, persillade and charred lemon. She found it quite good with its note of hickory smoke.
I ordered the Seared Columbia River Salmon entrée with eggplant caponata that exuded a tasty, slow heat. The poblano coulis, carrots, cippolini onions and argan oil were distinct flavors that played nicely together. The fish was cooked to a perfect medium, as I’d requested. A rare feat.
Then we shared a number of dishes, like old, well-lubricated friends should. The texture of the deeply savory Crispy Octopus was perfection. The interior almost creamy. The kumquat, minted strawberry granita and pistachio oil were a great match for it. Emily commented, “I would never think of octopus and strawberries together! It works.”
We were told that the Orzo and Cheese, orzo in a feta-based béchamel with black truffles grated on top at table is the house macaroni ’n’ cheese. What a house! The mélange of goodies was rich but not overly so.
Feta Mousse and Heirloom Tomatoes served with cucumber, olives, arugula pesto and charred bread was all that it should be in September. The char on the bread is indeed a nice touch—not toasted, charred like it was meant to be.
The Fresh Burrata with tender tempura figs and fig jam with fresh basil and charred bread was as creamy as expected and the fig elements were not overly sweetened.
At 7 p.m. on this Thursday night this “hot spot” heated up, starting to fill with happy diners. Clearly many people are in the know!
The Jasmine Rice Pudding tempted us both with its Sicilian pistachios and rose water, but we were so full that we were unable to sample the delights of pastry chef Mame Sow. But perusing the dessert menu solved a great mystery. It turns out that this is where the famous Cotton Candy from the Four Seasons restaurant has landed! Order a fabu blob, if you dare.
This great summertime eatery is open through Columbus Day weekend. Chef-owner Greg Grossman stopped by our table and shared that in the off-season the building is undergoing a transformation for the 2017 season. As part of the renovation, the ceiling beams will be exposed and a variety of lush vines will be planted around the courtyard. That’s right, they’ll be “raising the roof” of this delight-filled establishment.
Oreya Restaurant & Lounge at the Capri, 281 County Road 39A, Southampton, 631-500-9055, oreyahamptons.com. Open through Columbus Day 2016.