Almond Restaurant Reignites Ocean Road
BY SYLVIE BIGAR
Roasted Montauk Striped Bass with tiny clams, casino butter, baby fennel, charred leeks, pancetta
Let’s establish a few facts right off the bat: Wherever Eric Lemonides and Jason Weiner decide to set up camp, crowds will follow. We went to the first incarnation of Almond and gorged on escargots in what looked like an army barrack made over by the Queer Eye team; we went to Almondito, next to the warm and fuzzy tank in Wainscott, and got drunk on salsa verde. When it morphed into Almoncello, we got in touch with our rustic selves and chewed the malfatti adoringly. Then it was Fire Island and even Manhattan.
But this season, the perfectly matched duo—one at the front of the house, the other in front of the stove—has reopened on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton, and for the first time, diners are flocking to what was, until now, a doomed location.
Surprisingly, in a bout of nostalgic longing for the recently defunct Gino’s on Manhattan’s East Side, Lemonides has covered the back wall of the grand, triangular room with the red zebra wallpaper that had become Gino’s trademark. “My mother used to take me there when I was a kid, and while the rest of the family oohed and aahed over the food, I was already excited about the wallpaper,” Lemonides says with a laugh.
With the front door and windows wide open, Almond seems to be airing out its past. Families usually open the show, followed by couples and a higher-pitch singles scene after 10 PM. The noise reverberating on the pressed antique tin ceiling is deafening, but the comfort food acts as a sound barrier: Chicken liver crostini deliver both crunch and nutty fattiness. A chilled avocado and cucumber soup drizzled with ancho oil cools and sizzles at the same time. Thick black mussels appear to grow out of the heavy cast iron. The roasted local fluke with hints of fennel evoke Provence; the English pea and lemon raviolis an Italian spring.
You may need to crash early after “le grand macaroni and cheese” studded with prosciutto and truffles, or the cheese fries Québécoise with mozzarella curds and gravy, but if you are after Weiner’s lighter hand, pick his signature grilled asparagus, topped with a poached egg, or the delicate salmon fillet. Hard to imagine anyone with room for dessert, but crèmes au chocolat fly by, hiding delicious salted almonds.
There is no zebra (thankfully!) on the menu, but Almond is earning its stripes. One Ocean Road, Bridgehampton, 537-5665
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC STRIFFLER