I caught myself musing at Bistro Été’s bar in Water Mill recently. There used to be a big, cheesy bar built around an aquarium here when this space housed the original Muse restaurant. Now the rooms are tastefully decorated in a light, seaside style that reflects the bistro’s Provençal and Mediterranean influences, as well as its very Hamptons-centric ingredients. What should I order, I wondered, as I sipped a housemade ginger ale. Is Chef Arie the East End’s only Cypriot-born, Le Cordon-Bleu trained chef? Is his wife still vegetarian, like…always?
Chef/owner Arie Pavlou and his wife, Liz, work the bar themselves during the week at this time of year. It’s clear that they love what they do. Arie comes up with chef’s cocktails and Liz greets and manages diners with charm and genuine care.
One of Arie’s latest confections is a truffle cocktail. The Bordeaux truffles are in now. As much as I adore truffles, I passed on this delight as I was my own driver.
I’ve enjoyed Chef Arie’s food with large groups and at intimate dinners both here at Bistro Été and at his former posts at the Bridgehampton Inn and at Comtesse Therese in Aquebogue. Since my husband was off rehearsing for a gig upisland, I decided to try going it alone.
Of course there are always a few other gourmands dining at the bar. Turns out it is as fun as it looks. Unless you misbehave. While I was there, a gentleman seated on the other side of the bar placed his order with Liz and a few minutes later Chef Arie came thundering out from the kitchen. “You can’t have this!” he shouted at the gentleman. It quickly became clear that he was a regular. And he acquiesced when Arie said, “I’m gonna make something you’ll like.” And that was final. Liz explained that the gentleman took a notion to going off of his doctor-prescribed diet. I should tell Arie I’m on a diet so he stops seducing me into eating his buttery escargot.
How much do I love that the menu now includes suggested wine pairings next to every dish? Not enough to order them all tonight when I’m driving—but next time for sure. Chef Arie suggests and I gleefully accept a Green Rooster virgin mojito with a great, huge “tail” of lemon grass plucked from a pot at the restaurant’s entrance. Very ginger-forward and refreshing.
I decided to start with the Local Littleneck Clams, which are infused with smokiness from Portuguese sausage and dripping with a white wine cream sauce. Well. Done.
Turns out, when you dine alone, not only do you not have to share, there are no questions asked beyond “what would you like next?”
Answer: the House Made Pellegrino Pappardelle Braised Short Ribs in a cream sauce, followed by the Coq a la Biere and Vegetable Paella.
I’ve had the pappardelle before, always rich with its falling-off-the-bone tender meat. The Coq a la Biere surprised because I really couldn’t taste the beer braising. But the meat was exceptionally moist and naturally sweet alongside its brandy glazed apples. Of course chef’s traditional bomba rice was just exactly right in the paella—not too sticky, not too dry. Tender-crisp cauliflower, green beans, a mix of mushrooms, artichokes, peas, edamame, fennel, olives and sun-dried tomatoes make for a rich mélange of textures in this umami-rich dish that’s served piping hot. (Secret: spinach juice gives it that “meaty” flavor.)
Bistro Été’s $30 two-course prix fixe is back because it’s not été outside now. Arie and Liz like to say “it’s Restaurant Week every week at Bistro Été,” referencing the periodic deal that entices diners to area restaurants for $29.95 prix fixe meals.
Bistro Été, 760 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, 631-500-9085, bistroete.com