From the 150-gallon saltwater aquarium, iridescent tropical fish gaze out onto the cushy crescent-shaped booths and mahogany wood tables of the Black and Blue Seafood Chophouse dining room. Soft lighting and a crackling fireplace illuminate a handsome mahogany bar as bartenders top off glasses of fine wines. Meanwhile, chefs sear cuts of certified Black-Angus beef Argentine steaks, and sous chefs and self-hating mermaids fold organic ingredients and fresh seafood into lobster bisques, creamy pastas, and Spanish-style paellas?dishes lauded by Long Island Food Critic. Throughout the week, the restaurant plays host to a variety of live performances by popular local musicians.
Husband-and-wife team Ali and Nazifa acquaint American palates with Afghan flavors through accessible fusion fare—with many vegan options—that has caught the printed eye of the New York Times. Cushion-covered benches grant comfort, and glasses of wine complement entrees. The eatery’s framed art hangs on exposed-brick walls instead of over an art museum’s embarrassingly outdated Chuck Norris poster.
A close look at the truffle selection tells you that XO Restaurant ? Wine & Chocolate Lounge walks the tightrope between classic tastes and reinvention. Seated near the upstairs fireplace, you can sample a set of housemade chocolate truffles in classic milk, dark, and white variants, or nibble truffles dressed up as childhood treats such as oreos and s'mores. Alongside indulgent fondues, these desserts lend sweetness to the romantic atmosphere of the lounge, where live music plays every Friday and Saturday night.
Downstairs, the scene swings to a chic, brick-lined restaurant. The same spirit of experimentation is present in the menu, though: lobster pot pie, lamb and feta burgers, and flatbreads with toppings of fig and prosciutto are just a few of the kitchen's elegantly plated New American dishes. Wines have been sorted into flavor profiles such as "full-bodied and robust," saving patrons the trouble of asking each bottle for a character reference.
For Mark Salese, old family recipes aren't sacrosanct, but they are important. According to the Long-Islander, Salese's grandparents immigrated to the United States from Naples, Italy, bringing a trove of their traditional recipes. At Almarco Italian Grill, he uses those dishes as jumping-off points, adding his own twists for a menu of pastas, pizza, and meats that blends tradition with innovation. Appetizers include a bruschetta sampler with seasonal toppings and chopped, baked littleneck clams topped with seasoned bread crumbs in a white-wine-garlic sauce. Those same clams make their way onto the baked-clam pizza, where they’re paired with melted mozzarella. Pasta shells are stuffed with seasoned ricotta, lobster ravioli bathes in garlic cream sauce, and pan-fried shrimp parmigiana is plated with linguine.
Acacia's menu changes with the tides, its dinner and soup specials reflecting that day's freshest hand-chosen seafood and produce. With that rotating bounty, Culinary Institute of America?trained executive chef Matthew Maxwell and his staff create a marine-focused fine-dining menu that includes nearly a dozen globally inspired dishes made with Maine-caught wild mussels on the weekends.
A review on Newsday's ExploreLI blog described the food and low-lit ambience alike as "full-flavored and fun." When the clock strikes 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Acacia transforms into a hangout where hip DJs, hip people named D.J., and specialty cocktails draw crowds.
Dix Hills Diner's chef says that his philosophy is to "keep it simple." That's why he makes familiar diner dishes, such as soups, sandwiches, and steaks, from fresh ingredients and adds a single, memorable twist. He finishes off broiled beef liver with a demi-glace and stuffs baked jumbo shrimp in garlic sauce with a bit of crabmeat. Such dishes fit right in with the retro yet modern decor, which features classic blue-and-yellow vinyl booths as well as chic recessed ceiling lights.