(631) 584-4600, St. James
Five.Five 2 in St. James continues to come on strong since it exploded onto the Long Island restaurant scene late last year. Among its attractions are a Sunday Jazz Brunch, live music Fridays, Sundays and some Saturdays, and the diverse menu of tapas, first courses, second courses, accompaniments and desserts created by Executive Chef Adam Pitré. Mr. Pitré presided over kitchens at Ruvo in Greenlawn and Chop Shop Bar & Grill in Smithtown before taking the top toque reins at Five.Five 2, where he seems to have come into full flower.
The 98-seat, new American spot (where O’s Food and Wine Bar had been) is divided into a multitude of small, almost nook-and-cranny-like rooms, with cloth table covers, candles everywhere, wine bottle decorations and somewhat cramped seating. When the restaurant is swamped, as it was on a busy weekend in March, there can be too much discussion and delay before newcomers with confirmed reservations are finally seated.
Yet most of Mr. Pitré’s creative cooking tends to erase the few negatives encountered (including a rather pricey wine list that starts at $35 a bottle and $10 a glass). Outstanding warm pillowy rolls delivered one-by-one make for a promising prelude to the meal. The seven sizable tapas are entrées in disguise. They can be substituted for appetizers or eaten as meals in the lounge. Try the super-tender short ribs ($12), the three jumbo Angus sliders covered with caramelized onions ($12) or the lobster-infused Gloucester deviled eggs ($11).
Among the first courses, we encountered two impressive dishes: Large, grit-free PEI mussels resting on ethereal shallot herb nage ($10); and a substantial “Peeky Toe” crab cake studded with corn that gave it an interesting texture and a coulis of piquillo pepper that further enhanced it ($12).
The menu’s description of “fork tender” short ribs is accurate. The meat in this lovely, luscious presentation separates from the bone at the mere touch of a fork while its simple, rustic flavor pervades the dish ($26). Earthy flavors can also be found in the generous slabs of the superior Kurobuta pork chop and its refined accompaniments ($30). Speaking of accompaniments, super rare Ahi tuna merged perfectly with its baby bok choy and coconut rice. Its soy ginger glaze added another welcome note though a bit more of a crust around the fish medallions would have made it even better ($32).
The menu’s heavyweight Black Angus filet mignon, perched on a Yukon Gold potato purée that’s enlivened by a welcome veal reduction, is all it should be: Sizeable, well-presented, homey and straightforward. It was ordered and indeed came medium rare ($36).
Among the sweets, the rich salted chocolate mousse, the smooth vanilla gelato and the pistachio crème brûlée are recommended (all $8).
Photos by Stephen Lang