Review: Bistro Eté in Water Mill

Bistro Eté
Photo: Barbara Lassen

My husband and I had been looking forward to dining at Chef Arie Pavlou’s Bistro Été in Water Mill all summer, but life got in the way. In fact été, or summer, in the Hamptons got in the way. We finally had a chance to indulge last Sunday evening. And indulge we did—Husband started the ball rolling with a Tanqueray martini, expertly prepared by bartender Harold. In addition to eating from the onsite garden, and on local produce and local seafood, you can quaff locally at Bistro Été on wines from Kontokosta Winery, Macari Vineyards, Pindar Vineyards, Wölffer Estate Vineyard—or chug locally on Montauk Brewing Company’s Wave Chaser IPA.

We’ve been avid fans of this chef’s work since he was the star at Comtesse Therese on the North Fork, and we happily followed him to the Bridgehampton Inn. Last summer, the dream of having his own place was realized in another Water Mill location—as a pop-up. So, now, here, year round is the real deal. Business is booming and this chef is blooming!

Escargot at Bistro Eté.
Escargot at Bistro Eté. Photo: Barbara Lassen

The custom-designed space is completed with beautiful tableware and, significantly, Chef Arie’s beautiful wife Liz, who says, “Our dogs REALLY missed us this summer!” She’s excited to work four nights a week with her “sexy chef.” Open seven days a week over the summer, Bistro Été is now open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner. They’re also open on Sunday, October 8, for Columbus Day weekend and to serve the Hamptons International Film Festival crowds.

Our server Scott shared that the specials of the evening included a smooth gazpacho, swordfish with gigante beans succotash, and a local striped bass with truffles. For an additional $18, any dish can be “trufflized.” This involves a large automaton called “The Trufflizer” (which bares a striking resemblance to Chef Arie) erupting from the kitchen and showering your dish with a lot of thinly sliced fresh truffle.

With a menu that offers “Coastal French [as in Cordon-Bleu-trained] Provençal Cuisine,” Husband was primed to order octopus. He found the Grilled Wild Caught Spanish Octopus with grilled romaine “nicely charred—crispy on the outside, tender in general.” Scott supplied a fine wine pairing based on Husband’s request for something “white and mineral-y.” It was something Italian.

I barely heard what Husband was saying about the octopus because my Roasted Eggplant with saffron yogurt and pomegranate seeds had an enticingly blackened crust that yielded into a melting eggplant perfection. Perfection is a word that comes up often in regard to Chef Arie’s cooking that and balance.

I opted for the Zucchini “Spaghetti” with tomatoes and fresh basil as my entrée for a happily vegetarian meal—but did I mention the foie gras? Creamy, barely warm and in a housemade cherry sauce. You can’t really have a complete “Arie dinner” without it…or escargot—piping hot and tarragon/garlicky. It’s not diet food, neither is the filet mignon or the brie, but it’s so worth the calories.

And we were informed that we HAD TO try the “all fresh juice cocktails.” Which I did, but I was driving, so I just tried two—a bright orange one of fresh-squeezed orange juice, Botanist Gin and a touch of lime juice, shaken, that tasted like a sure cure for summer’s overcommitments, and a pink one that struck a most splendid balance between rosemary and pink grapefruit.

We also tried the housemade pappardelle, which is made with San Pellegrino sparkling water, in its braised short rib sauce. We were told it’s a bestseller and it’s easy to see why. It is INTENSELY flavorful and rich. It melts in your mouth, salty-in-a-goodway. When he came up for air, Husband exclaimed, “Oh my God!  It’s so GOOD. Really, really good!”

Duck wings at Bistro Eté.
Duck wings at Bistro Eté. Photo: Barbara Lassen

Back to my big carved-wood bowl of fresh-from-the garden zucchini “pasta”—when it arrived I was already too full to speak but my eyes said “Help me!” Husband tried it and we wondered what made it so very rich. The secret is a dollop of burrata that is stirred in and disappears but for its unctuousness. This dish inspired me to dust off my spiralizer when I got home—well, after I got home and took a long walk.

Zucchini cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel. Of course the zucchini comes from the onsite garden and we’ve all had zucchini cake in the Hamptons in August. But I was unprepared for a master chef’s take on this standard. The muffin-sized cake is cut to hold layers of ice cream, the whole thing artistically drizzled with caramel, yielding a treat reminiscent of a classic sticky date cake but lighter and utterly irresistible. A little tower of power. I. Ate. The. Whole. Thing. The small candle on every table winked at me as if to say, “Yeah, it happens.”

If you somehow have room at the end of a meal for more—or, in case you don’t—at Bistro Été you can take home prepared containers of housemade ice cream, candied orange peel, margarita mixes, the house dressing and boxed truffles.

My notes from that evening are somewhat crumpled and stained. There’s a line that reads “So good it should be illegal!” I’m not sure what it referred to—could have been a number of things. Decide for yourself.

Bistro Été, 760 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, 631-500-9085, Follow Stacy’s foodie adventures on Twitter @hamptonsepicure

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