Topping Rose House
(631) 537-0870, Bridgehampton
The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton is Exhibit A in what it takes to open a sophisticated, high-end restaurant in the Hamptons. Its emergence began eight years ago when Bill Campbell, the former chairman of Visa International, plunked down $5 million to purchase the Topping Rose House, a somewhat rundown 1842 Greek Revival mansion at Bridgehampton’s main crossroads. After five years of negotiations with the town he took on a partner, Simon Critchell, another high roller who once ran Cartier. Together they ploughed $12 million more into rejuvenating the property and making it a 75-seat restaurant and 22-room inn. Last fall they brought in Tom Colicchio, star of TV’s Top Chef, and made him the face of their new venture. Mr. Colicchio in turn installed the talented Ty Kotz from the well-regarded Tabla in Manhattan as his everyday chef.
After assembling an impressive array of local farm and seafood sources, the elegant inn opened last September at the tail end of the East End season. Now as an ultimate big deal restaurant, it prepares for its first full season and official grand opening in early May (it’s open in April Wednesday through Sunday).
Certainly after all the time, money and energy, it’s reasonable to assume a special result. That expectation has been fulfilled. The sparkling Topping Rose House boasts barrel-shaped lighting, candles, crisp white tablecloths, original art, gleaming polished wood floors and an elevator to the downstairs restrooms. The menu changes almost daily and features farm-raised and handmade ingredients like in-house pastas, sausages, ice creams, sorbets and a harvest of seasonal produce from its one-acre farm out back.
Creative dishes unavailable elsewhere abound here. Mr. Kotz combines disparate ingredients rarely envisioned, much less realized at most other Island restaurants. For instance, the three perfectly fried oysters may be standard fare, but not intelligently combined with the subtle, balanced add-ons of braised chili bacon, horseradish and molasses jus as they are here. They, by the way, are a typically priced first course for a high-end establishment at $24. Another initial course displaying admirable creative variants is the sunchoke risotto ($25) whose topping of fried sunchoke chips adds a welcome crunch that gives way to the easy warmth of the rice with its black truffle specks and spirited Bordelaise sauce. Lighter openers are the fresh, abundant sunflower greens, pea leaves and micro purple radish ($14) that’s an imaginative step up from most tossed greens. A non-traditional, no-tomato sauce, no-meat lasagna ($20) is a simple square of rolled egg dough pasta harboring broccoli and parmesan. The roasted veal sweetbreads with honey, walnuts, olives and brulée orange were somewhere between lightly anemic and bland.
We sampled three of the menu’s five main courses and liked them all. Best were three husky slabs of Niman Ranch pork with three well-thought-out platemates: Pink Lady apple purée, Brussels sprouts and Riesling choucroute. A maritime fantasy of two fish dishes satisfied the seafood lovers at our table. Especially noteworthy was the delicate, tasty roasted tilefish ($38), while the heftier grilled monkfish ($39) was accompanied by an agreeable blunt housemade linguiça sausage. If you order any sides, opt for the warm, wonderful chickpea sticks ($11) energized by black pepper and paprika.
The gifted pastry chef Cassandra Shupp turns out a puffy, light, apple tarte tartin ($12) highlighting super-ripe apples, and an exemplary lemon meringue tarte ($12) with a pomegranate reduction. Both are refined delights, though her brioche donuts are a bit dry.
Photos by Stephen Lang