Friday, May 18, 2007

Soho meets Maui on Long Island (Restaurant: Blue Honu)

Before my trip this past week, the name Long Island brought to mind images of the barefoot contessa's fabulous house in the Hampton. Courtsey of the food network, I had virtually attended many a summer parties in her expansive garden with her well-to-do friends. Driving towards our destination of Melville, the roadside scenery looked decidedly different from the images in my mind. There were no well-manicured lawns surrounding enormous mansions or miles of yachts docked next to sandy beaches. What we saw in abundance were White Castles and Dunkin Doghnuts, the unmistakable markings of northeastern suburbia.

Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against White Castle, Dunkin Doughnuts, or suburbia. Back in those glorious days when I was blessed with a high metabolism, my stomach provided shelter to a respectable number of burgers and munchkins. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. I can no longer eat indiscriminately without consequences. I had to stop and think about fitting into those little dresses I adore almost as much as good food. I've evolved into a selective nibbler of the truly seasonal and delicious. And institutionalized fast food had fallen outside of my paradigm.

This is not to say that I wasn't ready to embrace suburban dinning. Contrary to popular belief, I do not subscribe to the notion that only fancy restaurant food qualifies as good food. Anyone who has seen me happily slurping noodles street side in small town China would never question my fondness for all good eats lovingly prepared. I was excited to explore the food scene in Melville. If that meant diners and delis, I am prepared to licked my greasy spoon.

As fate would have it, I was not destined to eat simple food in Melville. Instead, our work party marched on to the nearby Huntington in search of something grander. And grander food was what we found at Blue Honu, an elaborately decorated Hawaiian fusion spot on the main street. The decor screamed soho chic with its loft-like red brick walls and larger-than-life red lanterns. Some what out of place, live palm trees and billowy white curtains were placed amidst the modern furniture to achieve a beach side effect. While I found this combination a bit odd, I was nonetheless impressed with the grandeur of it all.

Often a restaurant as obviously concerned with decor as the Blue Honu, worries more about the scene than the food. Purely judging from the half empty dinning room, we could have easily assumed this to be true here. Luckily we also had as reference plates on the tables near the window. The food looked, at the very least, fresh. So we sat and were rewarded for our well-made decision.

Fresh was the overriding theme at the Blue Honu. The way-too-big seafood platter that we ignorantly ordered in pair overflowed with plump oysters and translucent lobsters. The oysters were so pregnant with brininess, it felt as if I was tasting the sea. If I had to find a fault with the appetizer spread, I blame our server for bringing the dizzying parade of plates with no regard for how they may spoil our appetite for anything beyond. Perhaps my appetite was spoiled, because my main course of halibut was rather lackluster. Slightly under seasoned, the delicate flesh of this fish was a bit overcooked. But no one paid much attention to my fish, not even me, for the true star of the evening was the 42 oz bone-in ribeye special my neighbor ordered. It's hard to imagine what a 42 ozer looks like without having seen it. The picture does no justice to the heftiness of it. All I can say is that any family, from my meat-rationed childhood in China, would have been overjoyed to receive that chunk for the week. Aside from whether it's insane to offer such a special for one person, I must commend the Blue Honu for expertly cooking the steak to precise medium rare perfection. The generous piece shared with me by my neighbor tasted exactly like any hearty American steak should.