60 Bay Walk
Fair Harbor, New York
Forty years after its founding, Le Dock in Fair Harbor busily continues to serve a clientele so devoted that not even a global pandemic offered a respite to its chefs and servers. With restrictions, unlike customers, falling away, it seemed a good time to revisit and see how everyone and everything are holding up.
Happily, the answer is, very well indeed. The courteous and engaging staff at the front of house keeps a watchful eye on patrons from the moment they arrive, guiding guests to their tables and taking drink orders promptly. Service is friendly and timely – you seldom find a request unanswered for long, and courses are served without undue wait. And while it’s non-stop for the chefs back in the kitchen, the high quality of the food they turn out never falters.
The most important measure of a restaurant’s worth is, of course, its menu – not simply how good the food is, but how it’s conceived and managed. Too many restaurants over-stuff their menus to the point where the customer finds himself submerged in a sea of choices, so many that standards invariably suffer from the sheer number of dishes on offer. Others seem to value artistry and faux complexities of taste over customers’ preferences; it may be nice to know your chef can toss together an array of foods and flavors in inventive ways with elegant names and high-end prices to go with them, but if his purpose is more satisfaction of one’s ego than one’s customers the latter may be less than impressed and still less inclined to return. A key strength of Le Dock is that it keeps its menu focused on a select number of items, offering a wide yet achievable variety of dishes that appeals to almost every palate.
Excellent starters include crispy calamari, traditional fare done more perfectly than any we’ve ever had, while burrata caprese was fresh and flavorful. Caesar salad was light yet crunchy. For main courses, a winner is the Faroe Island salmon, baked in an herb crust and served with crispy grains, spinach and red onion coulis. A seemingly more prosaic dish of organic fried chicken turned out to be a nice surprise, tender boneless chicken enveloped in a light flaky batter, served in a spicy scotch bonnet and sweet chili sauce, complemented by spinach and fluffy mashed potatoes. We noted nearby diners enjoying perfectly-presented items ranging from an elegant cheddar burger with bacon, onions and mushrooms, to baby back ribs with corn on the cob and coleslaw, to linguine in clam sauce to shrimp arrabiata; the diners’ emptied plates and admiring comments showed the meals were as good as promised. Jonah stone clams, skirt steak chimichurri (available Thursday to Sunday only) and vegetarian dinners offer further options. Dessert selection was small but imaginative. The traditional chocolate lava cake was more than satisfying, but the caramel cheesecake took top honors for taste and richness.
Le Dock has an excellent bar and also sports an intriguing drink menu featuring such specialties as a ginger-lime margarita and a mezcal old-fashioned. The cucumber mint martini was tart and cooling, but the one that drew the most inquiries from onlookers was the Rocket Fuel, a pina colada with a float of amaretto and 151 rum.
Owner Michael Miller bought Le Dock in 2018 after 20 years in the demanding dining atmosphere of Ocean Beach and is gratified how many customers from his old place take the trouble to hop a water taxi to Fair Harbor to enjoy his new venue, solid testament to his dedication. Chef Gary Brown takes equal pride in ensuring each dish his kitchen turns out retains the high standards and uniform quality he insists on. Prices, often an issue for even jaded New Yorkers, are reasonable and of good value, and portions strike just the right balance between too much and too little.
Le Dock benefits from its bayfront location facing the setting sun across nearby Clam Cove, but even on rainy nights its breezy, open surroundings add appeal. Beyond the dining room proper, outdoor seating is available. The building’s layout makes its acoustics somewhat problematic, but not so much that dining becomes unpleasant. On an island, and in an industry, where even good places to eat come and go, Le Dock’s legacy, and its management, should insure it remains a key destination in the local dining scene for many years to come.
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