Restaurant Review: Kozu Hamptons in Southampton

Sushi from Kozu Hamptons. Photo: Stacy Dermont

Zach Erdem is a busy man. He’s the impresario behind Southampton hot spots 75 Main, Kozu Hamptons, Summer House, Hotel ZE and AM Southampton. If you think he slows down in the “off” season, you would be very “off.” Erdem is re-opening Summer House this weekend for locals and savvy visitors to enjoy some DJ-assisted fun. (Expect a Latin and Top 40 vibe on Fridays and R&B and hip hop on Saturdays.) The club is attached to his sushi place Kozu Hamptons and the upstairs of this historic complex houses the cushy, air-conditioned suites of Hotel ZE. Of course 75 Main, just down the street, continues to thrum at lunch and dinnertime.

My friend Emily and I took in a dinner at Kozu Hamptons last week and chatted with Erdem. He had recently played host to a wedding brunch for 250 that he said worked out very well, spreading over the different areas inside and out on the property.

Erdem led us on a tour of Hotel ZE’s nine guest rooms. He miraculously created the hotel over this past May and June for a July opening. Erdem designed the interiors himself, bringing in many of the components from California. Each room has one predominate color detail and every room sparkles and invites. The ceiling beams are exposed, the floorboards are wide—chic meets Old Southampton. In its first season, Hotel ZE accepted some overflow bookings from Bridgehampton’s Topping Rose House, but the 2017 reservations are already flowing in.

Of course Erdem also completely overhauled Kozu’s kitchen “to Japanese.” He said, “I learned a lot about Japanese food,” noting that most of the cooking is done on one 24” by 24” grill now. Seated in the high-ceilinged dining room, Erdem looked every bit the fit patrician in sweater and scarf. He told us  he is planning to add a pool next year and advised that we order “the chocolate cake, my favorite.” There’s a chance this Turkish mogul is never wrong. Our sampling of the Kozu Chocolate Lava Cake supports this notion. However, our server made what proved to be the best suggestions of the night—unfiltered saké and the crispy rice!

Kozu Hamptons
Kozu Hamptons. Photo: Stacy Dermont

We quite enjoyed ourselves as groovy tunes played from above. Emily started with a glass of Malbec. Then we both indulged in the aforementioned saké. We agreed that something this good should never be filtered. We asked for the Shisito peppers as an appetizer and were informed they are out of season. Very true. So we shared the Edamame, seasoned with Szechuan pepper, garlic and sea salt.

We had to try the Smoked Pork Belly Buns. The sweetness of the hoisin sauce is balanced by the pickled Daikon radish and ginger. Chopsticks in hand, we forged ahead to tackle the Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice served in rectangles with little pepper slices on top. So good—a delightful mix of textures and flavors. We also shared a dish of Vegetable Tempura, which was super-hot, light and crispy.

I had the Veggie Roll with avocado and asparagus expertly wrapped in a long slice of cucumber flesh. Light and satisfying.

Vegetable Tempura
Vegetable Tempura. Photo: Stacy Dermont

Emily got her sushi on with a Negitoro Roll of fatty tuna and scallion. Plus the Spicy Tuna Roll with tobiko (flying fish roe), which comes in a particularly pretty arrangement.

In addition to the not-too-sweet lava cake, we also indulged in sharing a delish Banana Tarte Tatin with buttery caramel and vanilla ice cream. Emily had her way with a rich Yuzu Mascarpone with gingersnap streusel and blueberry compote. She couldn’t finish it and had it wrapped ‘to take home for her husband.’ But I bet she ate it for breakfast.

We agreed that, though our wide-ranging meal was delightful, we could have done well with the $29 three-course sushi prix fixe or the five-course chef’s choice for $38. Erdem says he’s accommodating any budget in the off-season—no wonder Kozu Hamptons is a popular spot for holiday parties.

Kozu Hamptons, 136 Main Street, Southampton, 631-619-6660.

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