960 Bayberry Ave, Merrick (516) 544-4334
“Simple but good” sums up the food and approach at the Anchor Down restaurant, snug up against the Open Bay Marina in Merrick. It’s one of those little known, down-to-earth neighborhood restaurants that are the equal of many fancier and more prominent spots.
Chef/owner Stephen Rosenbluth paid his kitchen and culinary dues well before he opened the one-and-a-half- year-old nautical-themed Anchor Down replete with ship’s lantern, port holes, anchor, ship’s wheel, etc. He rose through the ranks at Manhattan and Island restaurants like Brasserie, Naples 45, Nick and Stef’s Steak House and Legal Seafoods in Garden City. He’s also been a fisherman, so he knows what’s local and what’s fresh, both of which are apparent in the fare that emerges from his very tiny kitchen.
Rosenbluth’s no nonsense approach results in often exemplary versions of traditional seafood dishes: oysters, little neck clams, mussels, branzino, salmon, tuna, shrimp and lobster. That lobster is the buy of the week on Monday nights when it’s a $25 special. It comes with a huge bowl of chopped salad dressed with cranberries, apples and pecans and a take-home-size basket of slightly soggy, limp French fries.
Prior to the lobster that one of a number of very nice servers offered to shell for me, I had some of the plumpest, most grease- free Ipswich clams I’ve ever eaten accompanied by cole slaw and two dips ($14), one mayo-and-tarter based and the other a red shrimp-cocktail-like concoction. A big bowl of smooth, rich clam chowder packed with bivalves ($8) opened another dinner. Spicy wings ($10) were a 50-50 proposition: the fattest ones were juicy, the thin ones were dry. But a jumbo lump crab and corn cake festooned with Old Bay remoulade ($14) harbored substantial shards of crab meat and just enough mayo to hold it together.
A formidable shrimp po boy bursting with lettuce, tomato and a diverse amalgam of herbs and spices ($16) was a meal in itself, though a dab more of remoulade sauce would have improved it. A bountiful portion of super fresh, lightly breaded fish and abundant chips was a bargain at $18. Sautéed shrimp delivered more large fresh shrimp than could be eaten, but in a slightly too-thick white wine sauce ($25).
Amazingly, Chef Rosenbluth manages to cook two house made desserts in his telephone booth-size kitchen and they were the best of the four sweets ($8) sampled. His strawberry tart with a light flaky crust and his ripe peach covered cheesecake were vastly superior to a respectable Key Lime pie and an anemic chocolate mousse cake from an outside source.