East End Eats: Elaia Estiatorio Is Simply Perfect

The evening was everything one could hope for
The horseshoe bar remains but the interior of Elaia Estiatorio has been elegantly renovated. Laura Donnelly

Elaia Estiatorio
95 School Street
Bridgehampton
631-613-6469
Dinner nightly, closed Mondays

Everything about our recent meal at Elaia Estiatorio in Bridgehampton was a delight. From the simple but elegant renovation of the space at 95 School Street to the food to the dinnerware to the friendly staff, the evening was everything one could hope for.

When a manager stopped by our table to greet us, one of my dates for the evening was convinced we had been found out as reviewers. Not so. Chris, or Datenight, as I call him here, is simply still recovering from his traumatic experience a few weeks ago at Le Bilboquet. We assured him that hospitality and friendliness are usually (hopefully!) the norm at a dining establishment.

Elaia Estiatorio is light and white with tall windows all around, skylights, and a huge U-shaped bar. It is divided into two dining rooms. To the right of the entrance, all of the tables are along a wall of banquettes, comfortably cushioned with a pale beige striped fabric. There are some pretty blue and grey plates displayed up high along the walls and some black and white photographs here and there.

A basket of slices of excellent bread was delivered to our table along with a bowl of olives and little bocconcini-sized balls of yogurt to spread on the bread. We began our meal with a variety of spreads, the skordalia, melitzanosalata (eggplant), and fava. We also ordered some fried haloumi cheese, spanakopita (spinach pie), grilled octopus, and keftedes (meatballs).

All three of the spreads were excellent. The skordalia, which is a garlicky potato puree, was light and a bit lemony. The eggplant was slightly chunky with flecks of parsley and cilantro, and the fava spread, made with yellow split peas, was slightly sweet and topped with pickled red onions and capers. They were served with thin, salty olive oil crackers.

The fried haloumi cheese was served as little rectangular logs on top of a sweet grape compote. The spanakopita was as good a version as we’ve ever tried. The filo dough was crisp and thin, the spinach filling was fresh whole leaves mixed with just the right amount of feta and dill. The grilled octopus was also one of the best renditions of this dish. It was super tender and very smoky from the grill. It was served with more of the fava spread, pickled onions, cherry tomato halves, and a few drops of good olive oil and vinegar.

The meatballs were another winner, four tender, fluffy, moist, and perfectly seasoned meatballs on a pool of good tomato sauce and topped with some kefalograveira cheese, a salty sheep’s milk cheese similar to Parmesan or pecorino.

For entrees, we ordered roast chicken with lemon potatoes, grilled lamb chops, baked stuffed eggplant, and leg of lamb cooked in parchment paper. We all agreed that our meals were like going to a good friend’s house for Sunday supper: rustic, tasty without being fussy, simply just right.

The roast chicken was perfectly cooked, tender, and coated with herbs, and the Greek lemon potatoes were an excellent rendition of this classic side dish. The grilled lamb chops came out medium rare as ordered and were beautifully seasoned, served with briam, a combination of potato slices, zucchini, and eggplant.

The stuffed eggplant was a lovely presentation of a small eggplant half stuffed with caramelized onions, peppers, onions, and pine nuts and topped with some Manouri cheese. A side of zucchini wedges was as carefully prepared as every other thing we tasted. Ellen declared it “a fabulous vegetarian dish.” A vinegary red pepper sauce on the plate added some nice zip to the eggplant.

The parchment-wrapped leg of lamb was another beautiful presentation, the charred paper constructed into a perfect round pouch. When opened and emptied onto the plate, the aroma of lamb and herbs wafted up. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the potatoes, carrots, and onion served with it had absorbed all the marvelous juices.

As our meal progressed, we noticed how beautiful all of the settings were — some blue-gray pottery, some white stoneware, hammered flatware, small vases on each table with wild flowers, everything adding to the atmosphere and charm. The service on the night of our visit was excellent, which was quite remarkable considering the restaurant had been open for only three weeks.

The wine list is all Greek wines, so we needed help figuring out the grape juice situation. Our waitress, Crystal, was knowledgeable and helpful.

Prices are moderate to expensive. Spreads, salads, and appetizers are $11 to $25, main dishes are $26 to $55, sides are $11, and desserts are $14.

For dessert we tried the baklava, a yogurt with fruit, ekmek kadaifa, and galaktoboureko. The baklava was rolled filo dough filled with walnuts and honey syrup, rather than the usual layered in a sheet pan and cut into squares or diamonds. It was crisp and lightly cinnamon-y.  The yogurt was a rich, creamy swirl topped with sour cherries and toasted sliced almonds. Ekmek kadaifa is comprised of threads of kadaifa (similar to filo dough) baked beneath a milky custard seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon and topped with fresh whipped cream. This was also drizzled with some syrupy cherries. Galaktoboureko is a semolina custard baked in layers of filo dough. This one was delicious and fresh, garnished with a candied orange slice.

Most Greek desserts are super sweet and syrupy and these were no exception, but each one was absolutely divine.

We completed our festive meal in the spirit of the place with glasses of tsipouro, a clear brandy made from grape skins, similar to grappa or marc.

My friend Alex asked a question halfway through our meal that I had never been asked before: “What makes a successful restaurant out here; one that can last all year round?”

 I started to point around the room, “food like this, the little things like these flowers, the friendliness of the staff, warmth and hospitality, atmosphere. This. Just this.”

Elaia Estiatorio is a brand spanking new restaurant. It was filled with happy diners by the time we left, and we all agreed that this is a place with staying power, a place that we would look forward to coming back to.

Some of the dips offered at the restaurantLaura Donnelly
A warm atmosphereLaura Donnelly