Darlings, Mummy got back from Provincetown a few weeks ago from a vacation of "Food, glorious food!" there at the end of Cape Cod! For years, travelers and locals alike knew that you couldn't get a bad meal in P-town (as the in-crowd calls it!) because the competition between the restaurants was so fierce! Fresh seafood EVERYWHERE, and brilliant chefs pouring in from Boston for the Summer to bludgeon each other with their talents, made for a veritable gourmet-get-away-by-the-sea!....and although a lot of the folks up that way are of self-denying Puritan and pilgrim stock, their 21st century descendants deny themselves nothing when it comes to lobster in rich sauces, fried clams and oysters, and scallops the size of silver-dollars with the tenderness of BUTTAH!
Well, after a week or two in P-town eating....and eating, (and gaining 20 pounds!!!), I returned to NYC to reminisce, (and JOG!)......Sated, but wistful! Sure, we have fabulous restaurants all over Manhattan, and a delectable concentration of them in the Village, but what to do when out by the seashore....particularly on Fire Island?!........ You know...Once upon a time, Cherry Grove, the gayest of the 17 towns on that 32 mile long sandbar,(and rivalled only by the Pines which is now ruled much more by money than merriment!), had a wide assortment of eateries which included the widely renowned MONSTER. Folks from all the other towns would beat a path to the MONSTER for it's terrific menu and cozy (and eccentric!) ambience. Celebrities from Broadway, television, and Hollywood would drop in with no fanfare, and the MONSTER's reputation spread like a case of poison ivy at Summer Camp!....but in a GOOD way!!
One of the MONSTER's rivals was the restaurant with the best view of the bay, so named the TOP OF THE BAY. It was much beloved by the townsfolk for its homey atmosphere, hearty food consistently good and well priced, and its Wednesday night "employee specials" for the local workers. Walking into TOP OF THE BAY, even on a weeknight, you'd always be met by a festival of bawdy jokes, raucous laughter, and show-tune and top 40 sing-alongs....and of course, the food!.........Well the world, and the MONSTER, have come and gone since those heady days of the 60's and 70's......but TOP OF THE BAY is still here!!!... (cue Sondheim's anthem from FOLLIES. You're on Miss DeCarlo!!!).
With a complete, and classy facelift by owner Ron King, the new TOP OF THE BAY BISTRO still has its original drop-dead views of the bay, especially sought after at sunsets when the crowds burst into spontaneous applause as the sun sinks below the Western waters...(eat your heart out Key west!). The weathered grey/silvery green and white interiors, soft lighting, and newly installed lounge area with comfy wrap-around banquettes add to the glamour, but its the food that is bringing the crowds. Chef Stephen Daniello has created a menu of fusion with a Cajun flair! No worry for the milder palates out there!! Nothing is going to send your tongue to the burn unit at Columbia/Cornell!!! My fave-raves include the corn chowder appetizer with chunks of buttery corn bread floating on the surface.....this is more like a dessert than an appetizer! Last night, Steve surprised all of us with Lobster Sliders...cute little "burgers" on the fluffiest buns (no giggling, please!), and a generous scoop of fabulously creamy lobster salad at just the right temperature. (Sounds like sex, doesn't it? Well, it WAS!).You get three of them, and it almost spoils your dinner it's so rich.....but don't give up! Just let your tummy settle for a minute and order the Rigatoni Bolognese, sumptuous and perfectly al dente!....I know, because my dinner companion, Fabio Gorgissimo, an al dente snob, literally RAVED!!! Just as he did when he ordered the Chicken Parmigiana on a bed of perfect linguini!!! The tomato sauce was both sweet AND tangy, the cheeses blended wonderfully, and the chicken was miraculously moist!!! (How many of us dread Chicken Parmigiana because the meat is a fossilized wallet under a bed of plastic and dead ketchup??) My Duck Breast with orange/cherry wine sauce was tender, smoky, and wonderfully complex...and the sweet potatoes and braised Endive and asparagus were an inspired counterpoint! Homemade Cherry Pie was irresistable, even though it required us to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow by local roofers! The regular menu includes the chowder, Bruschetta with lobster/shrimp scampi, and the Shrimp and Grits!...one of Steve's most brilliant creations! I've watched entire tables of diners, each with a portion of the Grits analyzing and trying to decipher just how it's done, like a forensics team on CSI.
This season has proven to be even more of a triumph for Ron and Stephen and the wonderful staff including Regis, Joe, Todd, Joseph, Charity, Chris, and manager Roque! Even with the economy on the fritz, and restaurant revenues teetering back in the city, this boite on the bay packs'em in!...so don't go thinking you can coast in on your good looks and easy manner. Most nights, reservations are necessary!!! TOP OF THE BAY BISTRO in Cherry Grove...Run! DO NOT WALK! See you there, mon cher! xoxo, Sybil.