126 Main Street
I dined at Doppio East in Sag Harbor the other night. It had been open only a week so far, and though this is a bit early to review a restaurant, sometimes we feel that if you are open for business and charging for your product, you are fair game. But I assure you, I did take into account the newness of this establishment.
Doppio East is the fourth in a series of chain restaurants owned by the Timeless Hospitality Group. The other Doppio Artisan Bistros are in Huntington, the West Village, and Greenwich, Conn.
Some of the redecorating and renovations done by Madison and Main, which last occupied the space, remain. Doppio East is a bit lighter and more streamlined. There is a nice long bar to the right of the entrance. A tall table with no stools is to the left of the bar, and tables and banquettes fill the rest of the room, opening to a pretty patio in the back. There are cool Edison-bulb light fixtures, chandeliers here and there, and some exquisite flower arrangements. Along the walls are some brass candle sconces nestled in picture frames. With real live candles! More on this later. . . .
Some of the other Doppio locations are known for their pizzas. As Doppio East has yet to get permission to install a pizza oven, we’ll have to wait for that. The website assures us that “all Doppio breads, pastas, and dressings will be made in house.” A more interesting promise about Doppio East on its website is “taking advantage of its location in one of the pre-eminent fishing villages of Long Island, Doppio provides some of the best seafood the island has to offer.” Well, now, I’m not sure Sag Harbor is or ever was a pre-eminent fishing village. It certainly was an extremely busy whaling port back in the 1700s, but whale oil was used for lamps, so it was kind of more like a major oil port. I don’t see a lot of fish in the waters of Sag Harbor; I see oligarch-sized yachts and Grady-Whites. Doppio East does have black bass on the menu, so props for that.
The meal begins with good warm bread and olive oil. We started with appetizers of crispy calamari and shrimp, Adriatic seafood salad, and short ribs. The crispy calamari and shrimp were good, but the lemon tartar sauce was pooled on the bottom of the plate so you didn’t have a lot of control over how much sauce you got with each piece — you got it with everything. There were a few zucchini chips and slivers of potato mixed in, which was a nice touch, but the lemon tartar sauce could have used a bit more lemon.
The Adriatic seafood salad was a bust, with cool calamari, octopus, shrimp, and cockles on a few arugula leaves with no discernible dressing. The short rib was very nice, just needed salt and pepper. The meat was rich and tender and the sweet and sour sauce with peppers was tasty.
For entrees we ordered the linguine with cockles, two orders of the fettucini with Bolognese (but one with linguine instead of fettucini), the black bass bouillabaisse, and branzino. The linguine with cockles was very good and lemony. The only problem with it was that the dried peppers in it had been sliced up so there was no avoiding getting a jolt of extreme heat by surprise. Might be best to leave the peppers whole like at a Thai restaurant so they can be fished out or chomped into voluntarily, depending on your tolerance of heat on the Scoville scale. My 15-year-old guests, Harry and Jerry, enjoyed their linguine and fettucini with Bolognese sauce, although the portions were a bit small for an entree. Harry declared it had “a good ratio of cheese to sauce” and Jerry said “I could have eaten more but it was satisfying.” Gosh, I love budding gourmands! I’m pretty sure the fettucini was made in-house, the linguine not.
The black bass bouillabaisse was pretty good but a bit sweet and not very saffrony. The rouille on the one piece of toasted bread served on top was also a bit sweet, not spicy-garlicky. The branzino was very good, served with citrus-braised fennel. The fregola (a pasta similar to Israeli couscous) served with it was super buttery.
The service on the night of our visit was pretty good. My only complaint about our waiter brings us back to the candles. As there was a light breeze passing through the restaurant, the candles were dripping wax onto the back of the banquette and splasing onto the back of Jerry’s shirt. When we pointed this out to the waiter he suggested we blow out the candles. No concern or apology for getting wax on clothing. Can you imagine the hell to be paid if it had happened to a high maintenance lady guest wearing a chartreuse shahtoosh!? Another problem was the nerve-wracking din coming from the kitchen. The angry shouting and clattering of dishes is something the staff needs to work on.
The prices at Doppio East are moderate. Small plates and salads are $10 to $17, pastas are $19 to $25, entrees are $25 to $36, and desserts are $11. As it was only open a week at the time of our visit, there were only two desserts available, both made in-house. We tried both, a vanilla panna cotta and the ubiquitous molten-ish chocolate cake. The vanilla panna cotta was an excellent version, silky rather than gelatinous, not too sweet and full of vanilla flavor. Why it was garnished with basil leaves is a mystery. The chocolate cake had good flavor but was served cold.
If I were to give a grade based on the food and service at Doppio East I would give it a C-. Based on the fact that it is brand new, I will give it a B-. Here’s hoping that the promises they have made will come to fruition.