That Bar On The Corner
by Colin Ambrose
Executive Chef, Estia’s Little Kitchen for Beachouse Media
Confession: I have a favorite corner bar! You should too. Everyone should. Mine is Almond, set on the corner of Ocean Road and Main Street in Bridgehampton. No insult intended to all the other corner bars. We want them all – and we need them all. Each of them brims with their own personality and spirit. Seek out the best match for you. You’ll know it when you find it. And on the off chance you’re thinking about buying a steakhouse, restaurant or, yes, a corner bar, I recommend you spend about three weeks sitting at the bar at Almond to observe what has become a nightly event.
The criteria for an outstanding corner bar are rather simple: First, a happy, qualified, organized barman (or woman). Second, an appealing and organized collection of beer, wine and spirits on the back bar, and a collection of curios, maybe you know them as brick-a-brac, that often distract and disarm the occasional contretemps, which like it or not, comes with bar territory. Third, a bar menu, somewhat more casual than the dining room menu, designed to put customers at ease; make them feel at home. Fourth, an attentive support team that keeps the bartender behind the bar and controls the lights and music to stay in sync with the mood.
Almond spins like a top from sunset to last call. On a recent [solo] Thursday evening visit, my arrival was timed with the last glimmer of legendary East End light filtering through the restaurants double doors. Greeted at the bar by my old pal Binky, I settled in for my usual: the Brussels Sprout salad (it’s gone by May as the seasonal produce ramps up) followed by an incredibly savory braised short rib (the half-portion does me just fine!). The beef was beautifully prepared, served over roasted vegetables – among them chunks of sweet potatoes, which were perfectly cooked. An apple crostini with “Milk Pail” apples and local vanilla ice cream finished my meal on the bar top. I’ll sum up the meal in one word: Superb!
Over the last five months my wife and I have also had dinner in the main dining room at least a half-dozen times, each time meeting a group who have never been, and each time hearing for days-after just how much they loved the experience. Almond’s Caesar salad is worthy of a patent! It’s a unique combination of raw, shaved brussels sprouts, complemented by quartered, roasted brussels sprouts, then a touch of parmesan and a dusting of house made croutons. Go ahead and split it; you don’t want to fill-up early. If you look around, you’ll notice the lights have dimmed and the dining room has filled. It feels more like a private party! At this point, think about ordering a bowl of Mussels for the table. The main courses are spot-on. One night had me splitting a Porterhouse with my brother in law. It came with a pile of sumptuously roasted mushrooms and a few super hot, crispy onion rings. On another evening I chose the ravioli, house made, stuffed with foie gras. After the Caesar salad and a few bites of a friends roasted chicken, the half portion of raviolis was perfect. As coffee came to the table, so did an amazing warm, gooey date cake. This is a must!
The crowd at Almond, whether the bar or the dining room, is always sexy, and, I admit that Liz, the hostess, pays extra attention to this guy when he arrives solo at the bar. I was hooked when the bread arrived. Jason Wiener, Almond’s executive chef, has worked out every step in this dining experience and he delivers every time. His business partner, Eric Lemonides, has equaled the food focus with his warm HUG that greets you at the door and lasts all night long. That’s Eric! And the hug is there for you whether Eric and Jason are in the house or not. The bottom line: Almond has all the pieces in place. It’s “that bar on the corner,” and much, much more!
I like the team here. They know the business because they know the neighborhood along this stretch of the 27 East corridor. The concept says relax; ask for something new, we have it; or if you want that same old thing you can be confident it will taste great.
Almond is located at One Ocean Road in Bridgehampton. Visit their website here or call (631) 537-5665 for reservations.