(631) 923-2299, Huntington
Mussels and music are the headliners at the attractive recently-opened Acacia in Huntington Village. Eleven of the 17 entrées are pots of the ubiquitous bivalve. They aren’t your father’s mussels. They are an elegant and creative rendering of the familiar shellfish that includes bouillabaisse, paella, Louisiana and provençal versions.
Executive chef Matthew Maxwell, previously of Riverbay in Williston Park and Brasserie in Manhattan, is combining large, plump, sand-free, almost sweet mussels with the flavors and ingredients of France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Thailand and Mexico, among others. They have been turned into virtual herb gardens, overflowing with aromatics.
But a chef can be no better than the ingredients he has to work with and they are of uniformly high quality here. The bouillabaisse mussel embodies this with its jumbo shrimp, tender littleneck clams, fresh fish, tomato and fennel strips, mellow saffron broth and traditional rouille ($25). The chorizo-sparked paella mussel with littleneck clams, tomatoes, peas and saffron is another example ($22). (The mussels range in price from $18 to $29).
More expensive and basic are the six chicken, steak and fish entrées ($22 to $34). We sampled a flavor-packed but less than buttery-tender grilled eight ounce filet mignon with a scoop of welcome three cheese scalloped potatoes ($32) and five tall, scrumptious seared, dry sea scallops escorted by crisp Yukon Gold potatoes and a spicy leek relish ($28).
Starters, soups and salads varied in size from a substantial turret of tuna tartare on a platform of avocado and spicy mayo ($13) to three tiny nubbins of prosciutto-wrapped figs with a touch of truffle cheese and baby greens ($12). The reddish lobster bisque was standard stuff ($10) while jumbo lump crab cakes deserved their “lump” description. They were long on crab and short on filler ($14).
The housemade desserts ($9) were tiny but terrific. A runny, luscious chocolate lava cake was well proportioned while small, thin slices of cake and pie weren’t. Yet, the Key lime pie was worthy of the Florida Keys. The dense, delicious New York cheesecake and especially the (heavy on chocolate) chocolate polenta all were bell ringers.
Diners who seek quietude and conversation should sample Acacia’s many delectable dishes on a calm weekday. Acacia (it means “life” or “energy”) lacks absorbent materials and is an all-hard surface spot. On one of its often-busy weekend nights the explosive, ear-splitting screeching from the upfront bar scene ricocheted off the walls, ceiling, floor and bare tables. Diners attempting to escape the bedlam at the bar huddled at the rear of the dining room as far from the hubbub as possible. DJ music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights added to the sometimes-deafening din when we visited about a month after Acacia’s opening.
In a subsequent phone conversation with Michael Cassano, a former financier who owns Acacia, we were told that a partition between the bar and dining room is planned. It would be a godsend.
Photo by Paul Kim / thefphoto.com