East End Eats: Good Fun, Good Food, Bubbles

Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk
Stiff drinks and creative but expensive cuisine are the order of the day at Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk. Morgan McGivern

    As a new hot spot/hotel/restaurant, Ruschmeyer’s has so much going on it’s hard to know where to begin. Heaven forbid you come all the way to Montauk and get bored. Boredom is a four-letter word for the folks who flock here, seeking the new, the hip, the trendy.
    There are cute little cabins surrounding a big lawn. There is a tepee, Ping-Pong, paddle and kite boarding, a row of retro-cool bicycles to borrow, and if worse comes to worst, you can blow bubbles, whee! Wait, I’m not finished, there is a sand bar-beer garden at the entrance, a large and strange sight upon entering the grounds. It looks like an amphitheater with picnic tables in the middle of it. Apparently, it’s a pool they decided to fill in. Who needs water when you can have another watering hole? There are D.J.s and musical acts and an artist in residence. The new proprietors of what used to be Second House Tavern describe it all as “campground chic.” It is.
    But I’m not here to talk about the super-duper, fun, fun, fun you can have at Camp Ruschmeyer, which has 19 rooms for rent, averaging $450 per night. I’m here to talk about the restaurant.
    On the night of our visit, there was a sudden and spectacular line of thunderstorms coming across Fort Pond. The thick black line of clouds had the scary pale green undertone that sends me looking for a basement. Perhaps it was this, combined with the barometric pressure, that made our group giddy and grateful to be in the massive wood structure that is Ruschmeyer’s restaurant. It is quite beautiful in a calculated, brand-spanking-new, campground chic way. The staff is clad in cute uniforms, the fellas in J. Crew shirts and boat shoes, the gals in nautical striped shirts and short shorts. The busboys are in black.
    There seemed to be a bit of confusion at the beginning as to who our waiter or waitress was, but eventually a charmer named Ivo took over, and he was a delight. I imagine there are thousands of attractive folks streaming like lemmings to Ruschmeyer’s, but he recognized a member of our party from a few weeks before. Props for that!
    We began our meal with good stiff drinks to steel us for Mother Nature’s lightshow. From there we moved on to food, the Montauk Pearl oysters, watermelon, cucumber and feta salad, a crab cake special, and the charred corn succotash with crab and cilantro. The oysters were excellent and served with three separate condiments, a traditional mignonette, some cocktail sauce, and a tart Asian-style soy vinegar sauce.
    The watermelon feta fad continues unabated and I’ve always found this to be a peculiar, off-putting combination. This version, however, was delicious — heavy on the watermelon and cucumbers, light on the feta. The chili flakes were a nice piquant touch.
    The crab cake special was offered with a Dale’s Pale Ale, but we were allowed to substitute a glass of lighter white wine. The crab cake was excellent, crisped on the outside and full of jumbo lump crabmeat, not bready at all. Best of all was the creamy corn succotash. It was a generous portion of bi-color corn kernels, bits of crabmeat throughout, in a creamy cilantro sauce. Everyone loved it.
    For entrees we ordered the bacon cheddar burger, chilled lobster salad, monkfish green curry, and Montauk white clam pizza from the wood-burning oven. The bacon cheddar burger was great, mainly because it was made with such high quality ingredients. The meat was juicy, the bacon tasting of applewood smoke and served on a fresh brioche bun. It was served with duck fat fries, which were so decadent we had to request an extra side order. They were the Cadillac Escalade of fries, big, rich, honking, shiny things, crunchy and oily.
    The chilled lobster salad was the only dud. It was a good portion of lightly dressed lobster meat with a pile of Bibb and Boston lettuce on top. The guest who ordered it was disappointed; I simply found the vinaigrette bland.
    The monkfish green curry was full of flavor. The sauce was not too spicy and the addition of cashews and brown rice were original and provided nice texture.    The Montauk clam pizza sparked debate. One friend tasted it and made a little “ew” face, she found it way too salty. I loved it. The dough was thin but chewy and nicely charred. What I thought was a thin smear of roasted garlic purée on top was in fact bechamel. The little clams dotting the top escaped overcooking and were tender.
    Dessert choices are limited to Eton Mess and a cheese platter so we passed. We were just a little too excited about the drive home in the storm.
    The service at Ruschmeyer’s was confused, until Ivo commandeered our table. I suspect the training of the staff was minimal, whereas their attire took great thought. The black-clad busboys looked shellshocked, the waitresses were tugging at the derrieres of their short shorts. Ivo, however, was winking and smiling and very generously topping off our glasses when needed.
    The menu is short, expensive, and creative. Appetizers are $14 to $36, entrees are $18 to $34, sides are $10, desserts $12. The cocktail menu and wine list, as well, are short and creative. You can get punch bowls for $100 with names like Walk the Plank. If that doesn’t ensure you have a jolly, nautical time, well I guess you can retreat to the tepee and blow some bubbles.
    Over all, the food was very good and we had a great time at Ruschmeyer’s. And isn’t that what summer is all about?