Fresh Hamptons, in Bridgehampton, is an East End homecoming of sorts for Todd Jacobs, who first gained renown with a six-year stint as executive chef at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, starting in 1988. He went on to open his own restaurant, Tierra Mar, in Westhampton (since closed), then owned the Atlantica restaurant, first at the Westhampton Bath and Tennis Hotel, then at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach.
Now Mr. Jacobs is back in the Hamptons with a place of his own, a rustic-looking spot with reclaimed-wood walls, bare wood tables and wooden chairs. Jacobs calls his food “farm-to-table New American.” I call it healthy food that tastes good.
For 25 years Mr. Jacobs has been an advocate of food from local farms and boats. All of the meat, fish and poultry at Fresh are free of antibiotics and hormones; nearly all the fruits, vegetables and dairy products are certified organic and locally produced. The berries in our strawberry-rhubarb shortcake came from the restaurant’s own garden in front of the building.
Diners can choose meat or fish entrees in quarter-pound, half-pound or full-pound portions — a boon for those with small appetites and for those who would like to have a vegetable-centered meal. Those entrees are à la carte, and customers can pick side dishes ($5 each) from a list of 17.
The beginning of the meal is just as customized. Take the create-your-own salad ($9). Diners select the lettuces of their choice, pick 5 toppings from a list of 14 and a vinaigrette from three options; add-ons are $1 or $2 more. I loved my salad of romaine, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, beets and asparagus with add-ons of Gorgonzola and fresh avocado in a balsamic vinaigrette; after all, I’d picked all my favorites.
We tried two other salads: an excellent Greek salad starring romaine and mesclun, and a spinach salad topped with grilled portobello mushrooms. The latter was a bit of a surprise: The menu called it “warm baby spinach,” but ours was definitely a cold, raw salad.
The leek and potato soup with crème fraîche and chives needed a shake of salt to bring it to life. Other openers included a barbecued duck spring roll and a stack of grilled vegetables topped with lightly melted goat cheese that was a vegetable lover’s dream come true. The spring roll, though, had more unannounced spinach than duck, and its promised plum wine sauce translated to mere drizzles on the plate.
Our favorite entree was wasabi-crusted skate with a ginger beurre blanc on the side. Also excellent was mesquite-grilled organic salmon with a tasty lemon-caper vinaigrette. Both fish were lightly cooked and flaky. The flavor-packed bouillabaisse was defined by its wide range of impeccably fresh fish and shellfish.
Among the meats, the braised, boneless short ribs with merlot wine sauce were melt-in-the-mouth tender. Grilled Moroccan-spiced hanger steak was not, but then, hanger steak never is.
Side dishes were exciting. Our favorite was Thai red curried spring vegetables, cubed in a sauce of coconut milk, ginger, cilantro, garlic and red curry paste. The dish had a slight kick. We also gave high marks to the creamy roast garlic whipped potatoes, the grilled, pencil-thin asparagus and the steamed organic beets, which had a wonderfully earthy taste.
The only disappointment at dessert time was the gluten-free brownie sundae, which had a too-dense, fudgelike texture. Much better were a white-chocolate-yogurt and banana napoleon; a strawberry-rhubarb shortcake special served with house-made ice cream; and the refreshing homemade sorbets.
Fresh is an exciting restaurant with innovative portion options and creative, good-for-you food that is also delicious.
203 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike