J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse
(516) 628-2800, Oyster Bay
J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse has a lot going for it, featuring both rustic Italian foods (the Island’s favorite) and gargantuan steaks (the nation’s favorite). The original J. Michaels in Northport has established a positive reputation and a substantial fan base. A destination restaurant, the Mill River Inn occupied this building at 160 Mill River Rd. in Oyster Bay for many years, so diners know it well. Vincent P. Michaels, who has partnered with Antony Gironta and Vincenzo Ferrara (who ran Serata at this location for a relatively brief period), is a master restaurateur. He often works both as a chef in the back and out front, warmly greeting all who enter (sometimes with hugs and kisses). He also acts as a consultant for other local restaurants.
The Mill River Inn was intelligently reconfigured during its Serata days. It’s now a commodious, high-ceilinged, white tablecloth venue with striking chandeliers, plenty of ventilation, a handsome back wall bar and the most unusual attribute for an Island restaurant: A moderate, comfortable noise level. Diners can actually hear what the people at their table are saying, even during the 10pm Thursday and Sunday dance scenes.
With one surprising exception, nearly everything at J. Michaels version II mirrors the Northport original. The appetizers, salads, non-steak entrées and side dishes are on the menu while the steaks, topping out at a stratospheric $69, are on blackboards. The waiters (although they don’t give the prices of specials), are smooth, knowledgeable professionals. Unfortunately they don’t always deliver the dishes and the runners who do have no idea who ordered them.
Appetizers are the size of entrées elsewhere. The complimentary, husky slabs of toasted, peasanty bread slathered with sweet melted Gorgonzola and chopped scallions also make a welcome appearance. The three hearty and warming old world veal meatballs under buttermilk onion straws and fresh ricotta cheese are one of the most satisfying and least expensive appetizers ($13). They trump the satisfactory, lighter, new world lobster meatballs that could use a smidgen more lobster and bit less filler ($19). The Maytag blue cheese wedge salad also harbors plenty of welcome, substantial applewood smoked bacon ($12). A huge platter of tender calamari arrabbiata is propelled and enhanced by its spicy sauce ($16).
The soft, sautéed milk-fed veal scaloppinis in the new world chicken capricciossa were a little bit overwhelmed by their roasted red peppers, asparagus and mozzarella cheese baked in a prosciutto sherry wine sauce ($26). The fresh, moist, delicate salmon bruschetta, with a balsamic glaze and basil-infused olive oil was seafood perfection ($26). However two mini steaks, Kansas City and rib eye on a bone were far from perfection. They were minerally and juicy, but very chewy (both $44). Our only side dish, wispy, admirable buttermilk straws, easily fed four diners ($8).
A knockout Oreo crust chocolate mousse pie ($14) and dense, rich American cheesecake ($10) ended the meal with a hint of magic.
Photo by Paul Kim / thefphoto.com