When dining out at classy restaurants with robust menus, it’s common for a touch of indecisiveness to set in. Should you stick to something safe that you know you’ll like?
Maybe you should ask the waiter about their favorite dish — they work there, so they’ve probably tried everything, right? Maybe, but if there’s one person who would know the ins and outs of every dish on the menu and can make the best recommendations, it’s the head chef.
So let’s re-direct the age-old question, “What do you like best?” to the chefs in charge of some of the finest restaurant kitchens on the East End.
Colin Ambrose: A’s Pop (at top of page)
“Mine is A’s Pop, which is chili chicken, served over a bed of egg whites scrambled with zucchini, broccoli and carrots all on top of a bed of red quinoa with avocado as the garnish.”
Stephan Bogardus: Ira’s Biodynamic Salad, Weakfish
“For 14 years I have been working with a small biodynamic farm less than a mile from the restaurant. The land, energy and love in the soil forms nutritious and flavorful vegetables which are unmatched. We simply dress the spicy brassica lettuce blend with sherry and shallot vinaigrette, then shave fennel, celery and local apples on top of it. So much of what makes the North Fork magical are the relationships cultivated between the people and the place.
“The Halyard is known for our technical cooking of the pristine bounty of our local waters. Currently, we are using a lesser known fish who is a member of the crocker family, weakfish. We slowly steam the filet skin on and serve above a bed of local onions, stewed beans and spicy mustard greens from a local biodynamic farm. The sauce is made from the bones of the fish, fortified with heavy cream and finished with smoked trout caviar and autumn herbs. I love this dish because the balance of flavors along with the technical display of cooking is the reason people go to a restaurant instead of cooking at home. Although, weakfish season is short, and we will only be able to celebrate while we can get the fish.”
Justin Finney: Papaya Salad
“I believe this dish is a must-order at Highway because of how unique it is. The salad is packed with flavor like kaffir lime, chili and galangal, as well as texture from the crunchy green papaya, peanuts and fresh herbs. It is clean, refreshing, bright on the palate — and makes a surprisingly perfect pairing with some of the heavier dishes on our menu like the ricotta cavatelli or a burger.”
Leigh Goodstein: Local Steamers, Lobster BLT
“Mine is simple — local steamers. These things get harder to find every year. And every time we manage to find them, I can’t help but try a few. There’s NOTHING better than a fresh, sweet steamer straight from the bay.
“Notable mention goes to the lobster BLT — always a crowd pleaser and my second favorite.
George Musho: Veal & Pork Agnolotti Cacio e Pepe
“My favorite dish we created at Alpina and find people enjoy immensely is the Veal & Pork Agnolotti Cacio e Pepe. The love of this dish comes from how simple the preparation of the homemade pasta is and how much flavor can be packed into the ravioli with a very small amount of ingredients. The dish starts out by searing veal in a pan until brown, adding garlic and onion, then deglazing with white wine. Then 20-month-old prosciutto di parma is added and simmered until it melts into the filling. The filling is then combined with pecorino, parmesan, ricotta and seasoned with a couple secrets. The cacio e pepe sauce is also straightforward and simple, only using pasta water, pepper, olive oil and cheese to emulsify. A combination of the simplicity, bold flavors and wines we are able to pair with this dish make it simply unforgettable.”
Eric Miller: Braised Prime Short Rib Birria Tacos
Rita’s Cantina in East Hampton
“My favorite dish at Rita is the braised prime short rib birria tacos.”
Jason Weiner: Amber Waves Brussels Sprouts Hot & Cold
“Mine is the Amber Waves Brussels Sprouts Hot & Cold in the style of Caesar salad.”
Cheryl Stair: Ragout
Art of Eating in Bridgehampton
“As cold weather approaches, our heirloom bean, caramelized onion and garlicky fall greens ragout is a soul-warming vegan supper accompanied by a salad of autumn greens with pears and local hazelnuts.”
Steven Barrantes: Whole Fish
“I would say the whole fish. The whole roasted fluke is my favorite right now. It’s a perfect representation of a simple dish made with great technique. The fish is lacquered in butter and sea salt before being roasted whole. We filet it and serve it with local roasted peppers and fresh spicy greens.”
Jared Branch: Claude’s Fall Salad
“Mine is Claude’s Fall Salad — arugula, spinach, romaine, goat cheese, dates, roasted corn, toasted pumpkin seeds, avocado and grilled chicken with a citrus cilantro vinaigrette.”
Phillippe Corbet: Woodfire Roasted Rack of Lamb
“One of my favorites at Lulu is the woodfire roasted rack of lamb for two, served with harrisa garlic yogurt and Israeli salad, finish with grilled lemon and ras el hanout evoo.”
Anand Sastry: Hummus Dishes
“My favorite dishes at Main Street Tavern are the hummus dishes, because they are done the way I learned in Tel Aviv.”
Nicholas Vogel: Truffled Potato Gnocchi
The Restaurant at Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor
“This dish — made with shallot and herb cream sauce, parmesan and truffle pate — reflects simplicity and the sense of calmness that fall brings into the area after a busy summer. The sauce is rich in flavor with a subtle lightness from the fluffy potato gnocchi. It is the first dish I made with the intention of cooling temperatures and having a warming bite to eat. When available, we get in seasonal truffles to shave freshly over the pasta, as well, which is always a very nice touch.”