We’ve spent a lot of time on this site, and others, discussing The Hamptons and its food scene. While the local produce and seafood are as good as it gets, that hasn’t translated into a more refined dining scene worthy of your big bucks. We love Lunch, Estia’s Little Kitchen and Round Swamp Farm as much as anyone, but when it comes to real deal modern culinary establishments, we can all agree that The Hamptons aren’t what they should be. Pierre’s may be good for some celebrity sighting, Bobby Van’s for some Botoxed MILF hunting, and The American Hotel for an occasional dose of nostalgia, but generally speaking the restaurants out East are all numbingly average and crazy expensive. That all just changed. Tom Colicchio and his team recently opened the first legitimate destination restaurant on the East End. And they did it during off-season, which is a serious statement.
Topping Rose House is a historic landmark. Built in the late 1800′s, it was once the home of local Judge Abraham Topping Rose. I wish that was my last name. The original home has now been restored and transformed into a beautiful restaurant, and they’re building a boutique hotel and spa on the property too. While the hotel is still a minute away from opening, the restaurant is already rocking, and is easily the most exciting thing to happen to The Hamptons dining scene, like, ever. We don’t get into celebrity sightings much unless its a sports hero or Kate Upton, but seat us next to Howard & Beth Stern and we’re giggling (and Tweeting) like little girls. That was the first indication that things were going to work out just fine here at Topping Rose. Stern is cool and all, but it was actually the food that we left talking about.
At Topping Rose, Colicchio’s menu purposely focuses on sides and garnishes, as opposed to the main line items. For instance, an item might be displayed on the page with things like cardoons, carrots, fennel, and turnips, listed in bold, and then the protein, say, blackfish, will be in smaller print under all of that. That doesn’t mean that the dish is small, or focused only on the window dressing. It’s just that Colicchio thinks side ingredients and flavor combinations are what ultimately draw a diner in. And he makes a good point. You best believe we’re ordering anything that’s garnished with braised chili bacon and horseradish. Ultimately, there is nothing revolutionary happening at Topping Rose, but the restaurant’s approach to fresh, local and sustainable food pushes all the right buttons. The house made pastas are all excellent, and the small touches like sending you home with a round of freshly baked cookies as you leave goes a long way. The service is also solid, but we do have one complaint – the dining room is too tight. The staff has minimal room to operate, which means someone is always getting in your space and bumping into your chair. Not exactly something you’re excited about when you’re paying top dollar for a meal. It also gets incredibly loud in the Topping Rose dining room, which is fine, but my mother, as most mothers do, took issue with it.
Pickled Cauliflower, Gold Raisins And Pine Nuts with Bay Scallop
This started the meal off on the right foot. Aside being a beautiful dish, the flavor combinations and texture contrast between the pickled cauliflower, crunchy pine nuts, and raw scallop were amazing.
Braised Chili Bacon, Horseradish and Molasses Jus with Fried Oysters
This is the braised chili bacon and horseradish we referred to above, served with a fried oysters. We win. Order this.
Topping Rose Farm Greens
Anyone who has been to a Hamptons farm stand knows that they take their greens seriously out East. This simple salad is simply a bunch of different local greens on a small plate. It’s a nice plate of seasonal rougage. But for $13, the serving size should be doubled.
Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato and Bottarga
The pastas at Topping Rose are all made fresh in house, and come in both half and full orders. For our first trip here, we decided to keep it simple with the spaghetti and we didn’t regret it. This bowl of pasta was anything but simple. You could taste the freshness of the tomatoes, and it had a nice little spicy, peppery kick to it.
“LASAGNA” with Broccoli and Parmesan
Damn was this a unique and delicious spin on lasagna. Creamed broccoli and cheese is sandwiched between long, flat green noodles. It’s incredibly dense and crazy flavorful. Order it.
Cardoons, Baby Carrots, Fennel And Turnips with Blackfish
This was the example dish we mentioned above, and I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Blackfish is (believe it or not) a white fish with a similar consistency to salmon, and it holds flavor extremely well. It came in just the right amount of vegetable broth, and was surrounded by all my favorite veggies. So good.
Sweet Pepper Relish And Fried Fingerling Potatoes with Wagyu Skirt Steak
You’ll be hard pressed to find a piece of meat any better than this one. The fried potatoes had a crisp to them that was completely out of this world, and the meat itself, while surely enhanced by the sweet pepper relish, stood up on its own quite nicely. It’s the most expensive dish on the menu at $42, but it’s worth the splurge.