From the name, you’d think the menu in Sagaponack (an affluent Hamptons town) serves swordfish, soft-shell crabs, and shad roe from the rough waters of Montauk. But since Kyungil Lee took over, he has focused the menu on Asian-Mediterranean cuisine via executive chef Phil Choy, formerly of Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud. The results are breathtaking.
Located in New York’s Flatiron District, the two-story premises doesn’t look much like a Long Island seafood restaurant, aside from the seashell glass storefront and blue-and-white color scheme. The front room and bar are very noisy, so ask for a table at the back in the adjoining dining room.
There’s a whole section devoted to oysters, and even though I’m allergic to bivalves, I have to report the reactions of two oyster lovers at my table who pronounced an assortment of dressed oysters – with Fresno, Serrano and shallots; cucumber, yuzu, trout roe and dill; and Italian caviar, buttermilk and yogurt; all three cost $23, which is out of the ordinary. They’re also served roasted, with four varieties at $21.
All the dishes are quite beautiful and bright (Lee would have to turn on the table lights to see it), including an immaculate flute garnished with coconut, Marcona almonds and tobiko, seasoned with a cucumber sauce, coriander oil, chili oil and lime ($22). Richly Flavorful Salmon raw comes with yuzu, sesame, orange flavor and a bite of serrano chile ($22). The ubiquitous appearance of Brussels sprouts is here too, sweetened with maple syrup, soy, apple and sesame seeds ($14. One of my favorite items is a large serving of Prawn langoustines of plump shrimp soaked in garlic with chili and preserved lemon to add a real bite ($17).
Larger plates are just as tasty, especially the ‘nduja mussels, a large bowl with pork sausage, guajillo and the hot and spicy Calabrian condiment ($23). Beautiful scallops, fatty and perfectly cooked, accompanied by polenta, maitake mushrooms and chicken Juice ($34), while the Shoyu Salmon comes with jeweled rice, rich brown butter and mushrooms ($32). Ricotta horseshoes took the subtlety of peekytoe crab well with Jerusalem artichokes and a squeeze of lemon to provide acidic balance ($14). An extra $14 worth of caviar would compromise these flavors.
I didn’t have a chance to try it, but Sagaponack serves a paella with chorizo, saffron clams, mussels, shrimp and squid ($35 per person).
There are only two desserts, and the one to order is the luscious Thai milk cake flavored with cinnamon, ripe mango and a pecan crumble ($17). The strawberry, Earl Gray tea and mint crème brûlée ($15) was a little overwrought and its caramelized crust tasted like it had been burned with butane.
In retrospect, there’s a lot more Mediterranean than Asian influence on the menu, but Choy’s background serves him well in that regard and means his creations are unlike anyone else’s. Seasonings and spices, hot and sweet, combine with top-notch main ingredients to make his food extra special. If you don’t go to Sagaponack expecting chowder and baskets of fried shrimp, you’ll be delightfully surprised. Then again, if Choy tried his hand at these items, he would probably make them with his own flair.
4 West 22sd Street
Open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday.