Seasons by the Sea: Flawless From Start to Finish

Simply splendid!
David Loewenberg, in the kitchen of Bell and Anchor with his chef, Sam McCleland, has a hands-on approach to his newest restaurant, where he suggests wine pairings and offers “real drinks” from the bar. Sunny Khalsa

Bell and Anchor
3253 Noyac Road
Noyac
725-3400


    Our dining experience at Bell and Anchor the other night was simply splendid. The food was fresh and creative with heavy emphasis on raw bar items and local ingredients, the service impeccable, and the view and atmosphere lovely.
    Bell and Anchor is in the Mill Creek Marina in Noyac, and you would never recognize that this was once Oasis restaurant. The space has been completely spruced up with windows all around, an appealing color scheme of glossy deep blues and creams, and pale wood floors. Upon entering there is a long bar on the port side, teal blue and mirrored, with white coral and giant clamshells sharing shelf space with the bottles. Beyond that is the large dining room with nary a bad seat. The view is enchanting, as Mill Creek Marina is surrounded by tall pine trees opening up to the water. There are a few cozy round banquettes and some sound-absorbing panels discreetly placed about on the ceiling to keep down the din.
    Upon being seated you get a basket of warm rolls and oyster crackers. On the night of our visit, commanding officer David Loewenberg was on deck greeting guests, suggesting wine pairings, and assuring us that you could get real drinks from the bar. You mean no master mixologist muddling fennel pollen and Norwegian elk ash into our artisanal martinis? Hallelujah! The menu is simple and creative at the same time.
    We began our meal with a sampler of East and West Coast oysters, clams, frito misto, P.B. and O. (pork belly and oyster), a South Fork shooter, and a special appetizer of a kind of fluke crudo or ceviche. The East and West Coast oysters were Montauk Pearls, nice and briny, and Kumamoto, sweet little morsels. The mignonette and cocktail sauce served with them were good, but I am a spritz of lemon and two grinds of pepper gal, so that’s how I enjoyed them. The South Fork shooter, local oyster, local white wine, jalapeno, cilantro, scallions, and Sriracha was enjoyed by my offspring — it’s not exactly an item you can share with the table.
    The frito misto was outstanding; crispy calamari was mixed in with rock shrimp and clam strips. Tiny bits of fried herbs were scattered in, along with paper-thin slices of lemon that had also been fried. The dipping sauce, an aioli, was reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing with a hint of smoked paprika. The P.B. and O., a genius creation if ever there was one, was three Boston lettuce cups filled with crisped pork belly, a raw oyster, and house made kimchi. Spicy, salty, crunchy, and juicy. The fluke appetizer special was thin slices of raw fluke in a super citrusy dressing, topped with aji amarillo (a Peruvian pickled pepper), cilantro microgreens, and a few grains of pink Hawaiian sea salt, all light and refreshing.
    Mr. Loewenberg suggested a glass of Paumanok un-oaked chardonnay, which went beautifully with all of the appetizers.
    For entrees we ordered the pan-roasted local tilefish, rare seared yellowfin tuna, and steamed one-and-a-half-pound lobster. The pan-roasted tilefish was divine. Two generous fillets of fish, perfectly seasoned, were presented atop some “logs” of braised leeks, which were in turn atop a savory bed of Moroccan-spiced quinoa. Each bite offered a different flavor and texture, a bit of ginger here, cumin there.
    The rare seared tuna was two fat and pretty wedges of tuna, nicely crusted, salted and peppered on the outside, bright pink and juicy on the inside. When my son took a bite of the corn salad first, he literally gasped and exclaimed “I had no idea the corn component could be so exciting!” Yes, he is a gourmand like his mother, and prone to use big words . . . like his mother. The corn was fresh and local, grilled, cut off the cob and mixed with basil, tiny diced tomatoes, squash, and other fresh herbs.
    The steamed lobster was also excellent, sweet and succulent and, if side dishes can upstage the main, these did. The roasted fingerling potatoes tasted like they’d just been dug, scrubbed, and tossed in the oven. The corn pudding was as good as, if not better than, the corn salad, full of herbs, sweet and eggy, like a flan.
    At this point I feel obligated to point out the flaws of our meal. There was one speck of sand in the leeks.        That’s it, folks.
    On the night of our visit, Bell and Anchor was packed to the gills. For a new restaurant, this could make the atmosphere feel like a Chinese fire drill or the Keystone Kops scrambling around. But the service was smooth and professional. Our waitress, Vi, knew the menu and offered great advice. Mr. Loewenberg, as he does at all of his restaurants, was busing tables, giving wine advice, and greeting one and all. One of the more interesting aspects of our meal, which we very much liked, was the civilized portions of the appetizers and the more generous portions of the entrees. The prices are not cheap, but the food is worth every penny. Raw bar items, appetizers, soups, and salads are $6 to $34, with the exception of the Royale at $125, a seafood plateau extravaganza. Entrees are $17 to $45, desserts are $9 to $12. The wine list is long, reasonable, and well thought out. Best of all, there are some local wines “on tap” at a good price, such as the aforementioned Paumanok chardonnay, Channing Daughters rosato, and a Lieb pinot blanc.
    For desserts we tried the Dreamy Brownie Sundae, Key lime parfait, and lemon ginger sorbet. Some of the desserts are made in house, the Dreamy brownies come from Sylvester’s in Sag Harbor.
    The sundae was a couple of super fudge-y moist brownies with Dreamy coffee ice cream, topped with whipped cream, hot chocolate ganache, and chocolate covered coffee beans. Basically representing all the major food groups as far as I’m concerned. The Key lime parfait was also delicious, kind of a deconstructed Key lime pie. It was a tall glass filled with layers of zesty Key lime pie filling, whipped cream, and crumbled graham crackers. The lemon ginger sorbet was my favorite, however, as it tasted like the perfect refreshing palate cleanser after a light fish dinner.
    Our meal at Bell and Anchor was flawless from start to finish. If you are a fan of raw bars, the freshest seafood prepared with a light touch and creative flourishes, professional service and a welcoming staff, you will enjoy Bell and Anchor as well. I hope I can get in next time.


Comments

Local corn -- from where? The local corn has just sprouted its signature top and corn cobs/silk this past week. Some of the "local" corn I've had has not been ready -- it shows promise based on flavor, but really, local corn??? Southern New Jersey perhaps.