Over the weekend, we paid a visit to the restaurant at Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport, New York, on the North Fork of Long Island. The Inn is a gorgeous 1863 manor home in the Italianate style, built and named for a prosperous captain in the Union Army. Once one of the North Fork’s most stately homes, it fell into disuse and was at one point slated for demolition. After a two-year restoration, it re-opened in 2005 as an inn and fine dining restaurant.
The space is lovely—I would almost call it extraordinary—with comfortable tables generously spaced and an authentic post-Colonial interior, marred slightly by modern art wall paintings that clash with the atmosphere.
Chefs Michael Ross and Tom Schaudel serve an haute barnyard menu featuring locally-sourced produce. It would be considered extremely expensive even in Manhattan. Appetizers are $10–24, entrées $27–44. The tasting menu is $95, and there is a Friday night prix fixe at $45.
If only the food lived up to the atmosphere.
The local Catapano Farm makes a terrific goat cheese, and this featured in several dishes, starting with the amuse bouche and both of our appetizers. I had the Roasted Baby Beet Salad ($15), but the goat cheese was plopped on top of it in an unappetizing, unspreadable lump. It also seemed under-seasoned, with a 25-year sherry vinaigrette failing to make much of an impression.
Tempura Squash Blossoms ($16) featured the same Catapano goat cheese, but the tempura had come out of the deep fryer too quickly. It was mushy and not warm enough.
Yellowfin Tuna ($37) was sushi-grade, and only barely seared. Fish of that quality doesn’t need much help, but here it was overpowered with a warm potato salad, tomato confit, chive oil, a quail egg, and a perversely bitter black olive–caper vinaigrette.
In our second entrée, we finally had a dish that lived up to the billing: an organic thick-cut New York Strip ($44), which wisely was allowed to make its own case without interference, except for traditional truffled parmesan potatos and a wonderful garlic creamed spinach. My girlfriend said, “This was the best New York Strip I have ever tasted.” It was smooth, buttery, and just about perfect.
But at a restaurant this expensive, it’s not good enough when, out of two appetizers and two entrées, there is only one item that could be recommended without hesitation.
The wine list includes offerings from almost every North Fork vinyard—no small feat, as there are dozens of them now. A 2003 Martha Clara Estate Reserve Syrah ($55) needed a few minutes to open up, but thereafter delivered the goods.
Service would have been fine, except that the amuse bouche and the appetizers came out almost simultaneously. At 9:00 p.m., we appear to have been the last reservation of the evening, and we sensed the kitchen was trying to get us out in a hurry.
We really wanted to like this place, especially given the lovely atmosphere, but the performance was uneven, and based on the reports of others who’ve dined here, we doubt that our experience was atypical.
Jedediah Hawkins Inn (400 South Jamesport Ave., Jamesport, N.Y.)