When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: The Montauk Location: 4360 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale Open: About three weeks Eats: New American Price: $15 to $20+/person
Designed to look something like a Long Island beach house, this new spot took over the building that formerly housed Bungalow, a sports bar and restaurant. With a new white paint job on the outside and a dining room decorated in eclectic, East Coast preppy style inside, there's no doubt that, at least aesthetically, The Montauk is a nice change.
As for the menu, it almost seems as if The Montauk can't decide between embracing its Long Island theme and appeasing the tastes of Scottsdale's conservative and health-driven diners. You'll find clam chowder and a lobster roll, but also an $11 hot dog and green curry shrimp.
With two large patios (one with tables and one with lounge seating) and a bright, open dining room, it's easy to see how The Montauk has already attracted a steady weekday lunch crowd. On our visit nearly every table on the front patio was occupied, as well as several tables inside the restaurant.
On the recommendation of our server, we started with an order of coconut lemongrass ceviche ($11), stylishly served in a halved coconut, and a bowl of house potato chips ($4).
We have to admit, we were surprised at how long it took for the two starters to come out of the kitchen. But when they did, the generous portions of both impressed us immediately. The chips were topped with a sprinkle of melted Parmesan cheese, herbs, and a light flavor of truffle oil, making for an easy-to-like starter.
Served with a side of tortilla chips, the ceviche made a more complex appetizer. At first bite we thought the dish really only hit one note; the sweetness from the coconut overpowered everything else. But thanks to a smattering of jalapeño slices and cilantro, we were able to find some balance. The shrimp contributed a nice citrus flavor to the mix, though we didn't pick up a distinctly lemongrass flavor.
For entrees, we felt we had to try the lobster roll -- after all, the theme is Long Island, right? The $20 sandwich falls on the pricey side of the menu, and after tasting one we'd have to recommend you steer clear.
Though it's a large dish, in theory, for the price, we didn't feel the quality lived up to expectations. There were several pieces of shell in our sandwich, and though the meat tasted fresh, the sweet bread bun overpowered all the other flavors. Chive potato crisp dust, sprinkled over the meat, added texture, but didn't seem necessary.
On the upside, we really enjoyed the chicken and cauliflower "fried rice." The $12 entree featured soy-tinged cauliflower "rice" mixed with edamame and topped with a fried egg. The flavors were light and simple, but made for a savory dish that didn't try too hard -- though we will say the side strip of bacon felt a little random.
Overall, it's clear that The Montauk will have appeal as a stylish spot to dine and drink. We have a hard time deciding whether the food alone is worth a visit after having one dish fall flat and other achieve success. If nothing else, we'll be back to indulge our East Coast day dreams on the pretty patio.