East End Eats Good Greek, Not Chic

The latest reincarnation of the Old Stove Pub
There’s now an attractive new bar at the Old Stove Pub. Morgan McGivern

Old Stove Pub
3516 Montauk Highway
Sagaponack
537-3300
Seven days, from 5 p.m.

   There are some very appealing aspects to the latest reincarnation of the Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack. The ramshackle, long-in-the-tooth building has been cleaned up, but not to the point of newness. The charm of the old farmhouse with wraparound indoor porches remains. The atmosphere is cozy. There are also some delicious, classic Greek dishes being served here.
    However, there is also a degree of plainness, on the menu and on the tables. The menu is brief, there are two meaty Greek specialties, two fish offerings, and three steak choices, listed by size but not cut. The china is of the bulky sort you find in diners, the salt and pepper served in cafeteria-style shakers. Either the restaurateurs cleaned out a Fishes Eddy to provide tableware or perhaps these items have been collecting dust upstairs since the Old Stove Pub’s heyday . . . about 30 years ago.
    Upon entering you are surrounded by the aforementioned wraparound porch. Further in, there is a piano to the right, and an attractive new bar to the left. The space has been opened up a bit, and there are some large Leroy Neiman prints around the restaurant.
    We began our meal with taramosalata, saganaki, and melitzanosalata. All three were excellent. The taramosalata was a mixture of carp roe, bread (or potatoes), lemon juice, onion, and olive oil whipped into a light, fluffy mousse. This is one of my favorite Greek appetizers and this was a super version, tart and salty, not too fishy or rich. Saganaki is another classic dish of Halloumi cheese baked to ascalding, bubbling temperature and topped with lemon juice and olive oil. The Halloumi retains its firm, almost squeaky texture. It was a delicious, chewy appetizer. Melitzanosalata is a roasted eggplant dip with parsley, garlic, and in this case, a bit of goat cheese was mixed in. The eggplant was nice and smoky. The bread served at the table and with the appetizers was a good rustic bread, but we felt that some warm slices of pita would have been better.
    For entrees we ordered the moussaka, pastitsio, shrimp tourkolimano, and Sagaponack steak. The moussaka was one of the best and freshest versions I have ever tried. It was a layer of tender eggplant topped with spiced ground meat, usually beef and/or lamb, and then a layer of rich, cheesy béchamel sauce. Inexplicably, there were cubes of cheese all around the plate as garnish. Every flavor came through — nutmeg, a hint of allspice, and a bit of hot paprika or red pepper. The pastitsio was also beautifully prepared. A layer of pasta was topped with a tomato meat sauce and topped again with béchamel; it was creamy and rich.
    The shrimp tourkolimano was three large shrimp served in a tangy tomato sauce, topped with feta cheese and served in a piping hot gratin dish. Some rice on the side would have been a nice accompaniment. The Sagaponack steak (sirloin) was very good, cooked rare as ordered. As the entrees are all a la carte (as in, if you want a starch or veg with your steak you have to order separately), we asked for a side of the creamy spinach. This, too, was delicious, it consisted of briefly sauteed spinach leaves with a hint of garlic, diced mushrooms, and sour cream.
    The service on the night of our visit was friendly and knowledgeable. It appeared that our server may have also been the manager on duty, doing double duty. It was an apres-holiday weekend night and there were few other diners and no music, which made for a very quiet evening.
    Some of the prices are quite reasonable, some frightfully expensive. You can get one of the Greek specialties for a mere $18, but if you want the “classic” steak and two sides, you are up to $68 for a fairly simple meal. Appetizers and salads are $8 to $18, specialties and seafood are $18 to $34, meats $20 to $80. (The $80 price tag is for a 32-ounce steak for two.) Sides and desserts are $10.
    The wine list is appropriately heavy on Greek wines, features a few Wolffer selections, and, as your eye travels down the list, gets quite expensive, most bottles being in the $100s and a few over $2,000.
    As they were out of most of the desserts on this visit, our waiter/manager George treated us to some tiramisu and baklava. The tiramisu was okay. It looked and tasted commercially made. The baklava had delicious flavor but suffered the fate all baklava does after a day or two or three of sitting around: The phyllo dough was flaccid from age or humidity.
    On the whole, we enjoyed our meal, especially the classic Greek dishes. I would totally go back for all of them. I do not, however, understand the pricing for the pretty good steaks, served all alone, on a diner-style platter.