Almond, that bastion on the corner of Ocean Road and Main Street in Bridgehampton, is more than just a great location. The restaurant — opened by Executive Chef Jason Weiner and Eric Lemonides in 2001 and moved to its present location almost 10 years ago — offers mostly locally-sourced produce, prepared by its locally-sourced chef de cuisine, the James Beard Award-nominated Jeremy Blutstein, who came up in Amagansett.
The ambience can’t be beat; part busy French brasserie and part cozy bistro with outdoor dining as well, cheerful oldies playing, and a busy floor with speedy staff. And the menu features whatever is fresh and in season.
“Marilee brought in these incredible cucumbers this morning,” Blutstein said, referring to local farmer Marilee Foster. The result was a salad bursting with crunch and flavor — Marilee’s Cucumber Salad, with Alex Balsam’s pickled onions, poppy seeds, chilis, whipped feta, and smashed castelvetrano olives.
My husband, Eric Johnson, opted for the mussels to start. Mussels, even in this area known for its seafood, can be hit or miss — it’s a rare night when my Bonacker mate doesn’t get at least one “funky” one in the bowl. But he was blown away by the preparation at Almond, the mussels large and plump, and the broth so rich and tasty it was a real effort to keep him from lifting the bowl to his mouth, a public no-no in my book.
Next came the entrées. Eric chose the Korean-style BBQ short rib, served with Bridgehampton basement kimchi, black bean ssam sauce (a tangy chili paste), and sticky rice. I went for Dan’s crispy lamb (Dan Honig of Happy Valley Meat), Marilee’s gingered cukes, chickpeas, smoked almonds, and Ian’s (Calder-Piedmonte of Balsam Farms) cilantro.
My husband, back in his salad days, used to impress the ladies by drinking Tabasco straight from the bottle, among a host of other juvenile tricks. But the kimchi — a product from a newly-formed collaboration between Weiner and Blutstein called Kimchi Jews, and available for purchase at the L&W market right next door — brought immediate tears to his eyes. “I’m not dumbing it down,” said Blutstein, an expert zymologist as well as chef, with a smile.
After the initial wowza bite, we were both able to enjoy the extraordinary flavor of the fermented dish, filled with healthy probiotics and offset by the sweetness of the short rib and the relative blandness of the rice.
The lamb dish, served in a bowl, also offered a dichotomy of taste — the strength of the meatiness and ginger balanced by the chickpeas and almonds and topped with the fresh verdure of the cilantro.
The restaurant offers Meatless Mondays and an assortment of raw seafood, along with the classic French steak frites, and an entire menu of fries prepared different ways. The menu is always changing, but other appetizers and entrees offered this week include escargot, foie gras, Adobo duck taquitos, Maine halibut with Jim-n-Jen’s two-day eggplant caponata, and a roast chicken dish prepared with Yukon golds, natural sauce, and Alex’s sautéed greens.
The dessert was perfect — a shared sticky toffee date cake with crème fraiche ice cream, a step back into my childhood in England, replete with Lyle’s Golden Syrup, just the way it should be.
“The point is to just have fun,” Blutstein said, and the cheeky menu reflects the fun of eating at Almond in Bridgehampton. All in all, the dinner balanced the atmosphere and experience of a meal in a Parisian eatery with a casual but special dinner out in the Hamptons. Those on a low-salt diet may want to mention that when ordering, but for those seeking a non-stop party in your mouth, Almond is the place.