The flavor-packed restaurant fills the baguette-shaped storefront recently occupied by Bistro du Village with savory, wide-ranging and very good cooking. The theme is regional American, but there are high notes from elsewhere, too.
So, claim one of the 32 seats at the cozy, comfortable place, where the artwork is easygoing and the style is openhanded. Tina O'Brien and Robert O'Brien run the two Honeys; these days, she's in Port Washington and he's in Oyster Bay. Either way, you're in luck.
Chef Roberto Baez oversees the two Honey kitchens. His hits here include a lively chile-and-pork tostada, with avocado and snappy pico de gallo relish; and a soulful smoked-and-skewered kielbasa paired with a horseradish-and-sauerkraut potato croquette, finished with hot mustard. The second one signals an end to summer and a preview of Oktoberfest.
Honey-mustard dipping sauce is a foil for tidy, sauteed Maryland crab claws. Baked Pine Island oysters, enriched with spinach and shallots, also stand out. The obligatory fried calamari: better than usual, boosted by a Thai-seasoned barbecue sauce and pickled Asian vegetables. The "cracklin'" pork shank, juicy if not exactly crisp, plays off saffron-tinted risotto, plus stewed Spanish onion and bell peppers. A square of Gruyère-and-potato gratin gilds the tender, boneless rib-eye steak. Seaside, the citrus-and-poppy-seed-glazed salmon swims in moist and mild, accompanied by toasted-chive spaetzle. Purists will enjoy the iron-skillet mussels. Jalapeño-spiked macaroni-and-cheese leads the side orders. The irresistible dessert: a childhood combo dubbed "cake & shake" - a smooth, warm chocolate cake opposite a miniature vanilla milk shake.
Chili coconut prawns are more cloying than spicy, in a sweet-chile-and-coconut sauce. Pan-seared striped bass is slightly less overcooked than the pan-seared sea bass. Dry peach cake. No nostalgia for the S'mores pie, though the iron-skillet presentation is cute.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Two is better than one.
Long Island Pulse
Honey on Main
Port Washington (516) 439-5324
The word is out about Wild Honey on Main in Port Washington. Very shortly after it opened, invited friends and family mingled with paying customers; the newly arrived baby brother of Wild Honey in Oyster Bay was packed on a weeknight. The forty seat storefront spot is owned by Tina and Rob O’Brien, the husband and wife team that have successfully operated Wild Honey in Oyster Bay for six and a half years and failed to replicate that success at Wild Harvest in Glen Cove. The tiny, cozy Port Washington outpost is a more appropriate size and style for the O’Brien’s than the cavernous, Southern skewed spot.
They carried over a number of Oyster Bay
favorites (like the crispy calamari with Thai barbecue sauce), put a
number of interesting spins on others and added some completely new
dishes as well. They’ve also moved Roberto Caez, their German-Cuban chef
from Oyster Bay. (He will now rotate between the two.) The result is a
culinary jackpot for the O’Brien’s in Port Washington.
Wild Honey on Main is a small, narrow and charming place of brick, mirrors, Middle American landscape art, white tablecloths and high ceilings where Bistro du Village had been. Despite those high ceilings, its hard surfaces generate a noisy din. And despite all the hubbub, the upbeat Tina O’Brien seems well able to handle the entire dining room by herself.
A preview of the menu’s sophisticated fare that features creative ingredient combinations was illustrated by a complementary amuse of spice rubbed veal and thin peach slices topped by a dollop of caramelized shallots. It was a harmony of sweetness and pungency. That menu ranges from simple and satisfying to sophisticated. There is also an appealing tapas bar menu ($6 to $12) that is served at tables as well as the bar.
Among the dishes sampled in the first category were appetizers like Maryland crab claws ($11), light, manageable finger food complemented by honey Dijonaise, pickled red onion and toasted bread crumbs and three large, soothing, tender spinach and truffle baked oysters ($9). Bolder choices were the soft, sweet, tender chile and honey pork tostadas ($9) with its Latin/Asian accompaniments (wonton crisp, roast corn pico de gallo, avocado and lime purée) and the numero uno starter, the smoked kielbasa skewer ($9), three slices of sausage drizzled with spicy mustard and imaginatively paired with a crisp-coated sauerkraut and horseradish croquette.
Typical of the simple, straightforward entrées was the moist, tasty version of often mundane roasted (French cut) chicken ($18) and a generous pile of herb panko crusted baby lamb chops ($25) with scant panko. Seafood aficionados should target the fresh, thick, yet delicately cooked pan seared sea bass ($25). This gleaming ivory hued fish is enhanced by its warm weather accompaniments of summer spinach sauté and smoked corn emulsion.
A beautifully cooked piece of crunchy and tender cracklin’ pork shank
($24) topped the list of entrées. This mellow, mammoth meat, perched on
a bed of creamy saffron orzo is much like pulled pork with a Sherry
wine glaze. Consider the jalapeño jack mac and cheese ($6) as a side.
Not to worry about the jalapeño, it bestows just enough kick to elevate
the dish above standard versions.
Desserts are a bit more limited than the eight appetizer and eight entrée choices, especially when the sorbet and berry (both $6) possibilities are eliminated. The sour cream cheese cake ($8) is standard stuff and the respectable warm summer peach cake ($8) is dominated by its spiced caramel. Two super sweets are the iron skillet smores pie ($8), a layered affair of decadent, dark chocolate ganache on a sweet graham cracker crust sealed with a cap of tiny toasted marshmallows. But the ultimate chocolate and vanilla finale is the cake and shake ($9), a warm, gooey chocolate cake next to a glass of vanilla malt shake festooned with fresh, real whipped cream…yes!
Reservations (516) 439-5324
Wild Honey on Main
172 Main Street
Port Washington, New York 11050