Ambiance: Casual, Relaxed, Seafood Spot
Between 1988 and 2003, Stacy Kaplan Gertz and Richard Gertz were Long Island restaurant royalty. They owned Panama Hatties, considered by many diners and critics to be the most outstanding restaurant on Long Island. Then they sold their upscale digs, left the restaurant business and moved to Florida. Nearly four years ago, motivated by family and weather concerns, they returned and settled in Port Jefferson. But not to run a restaurant. Yet, last summer they got the itch again resulting in the July opening of Crazy Fish Bar & Grill.
It’s no Panama Hatties, nor does it try to be. Stacy Gertz, its manager, explained her intentions by saying she wanted this new venture to be “fun,” a laid-back neighborhood eating place rather than a big-deal enterprise striving for the heights. And that’s what it is. They’ve given up luxurious white-cloth dining for bistro-type table settings of paper over cloth. Their new restaurant’s focal point is an extensive outdoor deck high over Trader’s Cove with more seats than their indoor dining rooms. The drawings of local third-graders line the walls of one dining room.
Despite these homey touches and modest goals, Frank Connestro, the executive chef who has been the kitchen commander at a number of South Shore restaurants, is turning out some interesting dishes that often give new life to traditional preparations. Fried oysters are standard stuff, but here they are adorned with mango purée and a tangy sriracha horseradish ($12). Two husky lobster tacos on flour tortillas were piled high with avocado, mango salsa, crème fraîche and cilantro ($14).
Among the recommended starters was an entrée-size special of grit free steamers in white wine with garlic ($14), but absent any bread with which to sop it up. A huge plate of seafood nachos ($12) included some unfortunately soggy chips but they still worked to scoop up the shrimp, scallops and crab in tomato and scallion cheese sauce. A broiled scallop entrée in a sesame garlic sauce ($24) is ideal for diners that want light fare. A fish taco platter ($24) featured super fresh cod accompanied by everything from black beans to lime aioli. Seafood paella ($29) was diminished by bland sausage that neither looked nor tasted like its listed chorizo.
Finally, remember this is a fish restaurant. There are only four or five land-based possibilities, but that is not what this place is about. Stick to seafood.