Solé East, that Tudor landmark turned boutique hotel on Second House Road in Montauk, holds a hidden treasure within its walls. Those who pass through the light and spacious lobby can head straight out, through a verdant bamboo tunnel, and emerge into the Backyard, Solé East’s gem of a restaurant concealed behind shrubs and plantings, but still with an outdoor, airy feel.
The dining room is open to the outdoors, but protected. On one side is a patio, where we were seated, next to shrubs to protect our privacy and that of the inn guests. The bar side is nearer to the swimming pool, which is probably more kid-friendly. The restaurant features breakfast with all sorts of goodies, lunch, brunch, and poolside dining.
But we were there for dinner. My guest for the evening was one of the best faux finish, mural, and trompe l’oeil artists on Long Island, if not in the world, Heather Dunn. Although neither of us are proper ladies when on our own, when we get together, the F-bombs drop like the Cuss Wars have begun. Just assume that every quote is liberally steeped in expletives.
Our lovely server, Azaria, brought out the bread, and it was something — fresh baked sourdough served with a pat of butter doused in olive oil, topped with roasted garlic cloves and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. “This is amazing,” said Dunn, kind of, with a few more words.
The focus at the Backyard is “a healthy and simple approach to market fresh cuisine,” as it says on the website.
We shared an appetizer, a Mediterranean plate, beautifully presented, featuring freshly-made hummus, spicy eggplant, red onion agrodolce, olives, and a crema de pecorino cheese I had never had before, sort of like a Brie. The spicy eggplant was perfect, the hummus, which was dressed with spices and roasted chickpeas, was also very tasty, as was the “sweet and sour” onion creation. The cheese was out of this world, with fresh grilled pita bread. “This is delicious,” said Dunn, kind of, with a few more words.
For our main courses, my guest chose the cavatelli pasta with lobster meat, jumbo shrimp, tarragon, tomato ragu, oyster mushrooms, and a shower of parmeggiano. The Backyard at Sole East doesn’t skimp on the seafood — the dish was packed with large pieces of the shellfish, and the mushrooms and pasta were perfect.
I ordered the oven-roasted chicken, served with polenta and broccoli rabe, in a chicken thyme jus.
If you’ve read other restaurant write-ups penned by yours truly, I’ve expressed that you can really tell a restaurant by how it prepares its most simple dish, roast chicken. If it’s dry or over-seasoned, or, God forbid, underdone, then there’s a problem.
The chicken at Solé East was one of the best I’ve ever had. No kidding. “And this broccoli rabe is awesome,” said Dunn, kind of, with a few more words, copping a taste off my plate. By the way, friends can cop tastes without asking, but girlfriends can cop tastes with their fingers without asking.
The menu includes a raw seafood bar, lots of simply grilled items, vegetarian and vegan choices, and everything is beautifully presented in a calm and peaceful environment. There are kid-friendly choices as well, really something for everybody. The manager, Sean, came over to see how we were doing. He told us about the incredible blueberry pancakes at brunch, and we decided we will come back for them at a later date.
When we got up to leave, we got a hug from Azaria. Not only did we have a delicious meal, and get a chance to catch up, but we felt like we had made friends as well. Whether you’re getting together with an old friend, or a family dinner, or a romantic rendezvous, the Backyard is the place to be.
The Backyard at Sole East is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 AM to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 11 PM, and offers up the Bossa Nova Sunday brunch from 10 AM to 2 PM. To view menus, and for more information, visit www.soleeast.com.