Garden of Eating...Backyard at Sole East
by Debra Rose
Step onto the grounds of Backyard Restaurant at Solé East, and brace yourself for the unexpected. While the Montauk dining scene slowly morphs from local to lounge, Backyard manages to pull-off the thorny task of blending both, and does so with grace and style.
The meticulously manicured grounds and hip clientele sipping hand crafted cocktails in tall, thin glasses is photo-shoot worthy; an observation later confirmed as Teen Vogue happened to set up camp in a tent outside for a spread in an upcoming issue. Plum T.V. breezed through the dining room, and the bar was dotted with couples, singles and friends waiting for tables and enjoying a glass of Spanish Rioja or Organic Malbec.
Yet everything swank was offset by its low-key counterpart. We spotted diners in flip-flops and un-tucked shirts, as well as in dresses and diamonds. The wait-staff donned tee shirts and ponytails while deftly executing a multitude of tasks; casually explaining intricate menu items in detail while opening bottles of wine with poise is all part of Backyard’s presentation. This place just exudes pure cool.
Inside, the whitewashed walls were aglow with candle light and the remaining rays of sunset, while the patio encircled by well-sculpted hedges offered a quieter setting. Every seat inside and out is coveted.
This Saturday evening we arrived close to 8pm, just as the DJ was winding down with The Jackson Five’s “ABC” and Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock” from the last eight hours of spinning...a regular occurrence on Saturdays throughout the summer. We finished just before 10pm, when the Sugar Shack Burlesque show began... another regular Saturday evening event. For reggae fans, Solé East hosts Winston Irie every Thursday evening, and the live music continues during Sunday Brunch with live Jazz and unlimited Mimosas. Backyard smoothly carves out an alluring niche of a chill vibe with superior local, fresh cuisine served with panache.
The Cellar is a careful selection of Long Island, Organic and Old World Wine, rounded out by the ubiquitous Prosecco and Veuve Cliquot. An icy Bellini of white peach and pear, White Sangria of brandy marinated fruit or a Miles with Bacardi Silver, peach puree, mulled nectarines, mint leaves and lime creations are more fun than aloof.
Ordering and dining is playful. Each dish had an innate ability to woo us so we left it in the hands of our waiter, skilled at reading our tastes like tea leaves. Chilled, grilled vegetable Gazpacho and Yellow fin Tuna Tartare with razor thin chips were impressive, followed by buttery Wild Striped Bass and plump Scallops with local Bok Choy. Thumbelina carrots and roasted beets are native to Long Island’s North Fork and Montauk Monkfish and Black Bass are wildly popular. Backyard delves further into gastronomic brilliance with its house-made pasta in the form of Lobster Cannelloni, Beef Brisket Ragu and Fettuccine, all available in appetizer or entrée portions. To satisfy the craving for a lighter snack, mussels in white wine with French fries generates an enthusiastic response.
Backyard takes their desserts seriously, industrious in flavor and in creation. The Lavender Crème Brulee earned its stripes with the spoon test; a thick, caramelized shell atop warm custard infused with Lavender captivated our full attention. We plan to return to sample the Flourless Chocolate Espresso Tart or Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Puree.
Sole East is a Tale of Two Restaurants, walking the tightrope of staying true to Montauk’s roots while daring to venture into top culinary talent and cuisine. Striking the balance, those that visit Backyard are sure to enjoy everything it has to offer.
Sole East and Backyard Restaurant