Consider this simple fact: Montauk, the final, eastern most hamlet on eastern Long Island, is surrounded by water on all sides. A walk through town obscures this fact, albeit temporarily, but take a trip down East Lake Drive and you’ll be reminded of the majesty of this place. When the three-mile-long road empties out into the bay water of Gin Beach, a parking lot will emerge, along with the sun-worn siding of a restaurant worth visiting: Inlet Seafood Restaurant.
The restaurant is up one flight of stairs, permitting it a true diamond-in-the-rough view of the water. From the circular dining room, which is studded with windows, it feels as though you are floating in the middle of the sea. Which is the perfect place to be, really, when you dive into some of the best sushi Long Island has to offer. And although others may cite Sag Harbor’s Sen or Montauk’s Westlake Fish House as contenders for best in the category — both worthy opponents, to be clear — neither restaurant, for all its redeeming qualities, has this one thing that the Inlet has, and that’s the impeccable view.
Eating fish that has been snapped up from the ocean no more than a few miles away feels fortunate enough. What’s even more fortunate is how good this particular fish is. While the Inlet serves lobster rolls (decadent, on brioche), seared scallops (over a Caesar salad? Count me in), and other assorted fishy fare, this restaurant’s long “best of” list lies in its sushi menu.
Fish is breathlessly fresh, rolls ambitious without skirting the line of inauthentic. Even a seaweed salad will leave you questioning yourself: Do most seaweed salads come with equal parts seaweed and julienned cucumber? The contrast of crunch is refreshing, and it gets to the heart of the matter that the chefs at the Inlet understand completely: texture, when it comes to food, matters.
A pop of tobiko under the tongue? That’s not a coincidence. Crunch tempered by something rich and fat? A balance made in heaven. How food tastes is one thing, but how it comes together in our mouths — how it comes alive — is another entirely. And while the Inlet may not be the finest restaurant out east, its dishes present a worthwhile study in texture. At the end of the day, they just know how to do it.
Get the FM Station Roll. It will prevent you from having to choose which fish you want, because it covers all the bases: salmon, tuna, and yellowtail, along with avocado on the inside, with red and black tobiko (fish roe) on the outside. If that roll feels too indecisive, go, instead, with the Lady Slipper, shrimp tempura for crunch, spicy tuna for heat, and avocado for silkiness, all wrapped in pink soybean paper and served with sweet chili sauce. If you’re feeling spendy, the Spicy Lobster Konbu Roll with its spicy lobster and avocado, will be right up your alley.
Even the purist can find something to love on this menu, like the Blue Claw California Roll — blue claw crab, avocado, and rice. There is, too, sushi served by the piece. Octopus. Salmon. Yellowtail. Tuna. Fluke. Salmon roe. Flying fish roe. It’s all there, ripe for the picking.
Although the sushi maestro conducts his business in a dining room-adjacent space (you can still see him rolling, but there’s no sushi bar), and although the restaurant, as a whole, feels quite casual for such elevated food, do not let these facts deter you. At its best, the fish here is a revelation. At its worst? Still a delicious way to spend an afternoon.