I used to work in reality television so I’m not really giddy about ‘celebrity ‘chefs. Except for Eric Ripert. He is the second Mr. Tracy Weiss.
I also tend to avoid restaurants that are hyped to a level where food bloggers are foaming at the mouth to get in. How can any meal live up to expectations when I’m inundated with wild praise just a few months into opening?
Yet, I didn’t let any of my usual rules get in the way of booking a table at Tom Colicchio’s Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton at the first opportunity. His people tend to turn out good food and Colicchio and Sons is on my regular rotation in the city. More importantly, even on an overproduced TV show like Top Chef, Tom’s been a champion for Long Island foodstuffs. He puts his money where his mouth is often seen at roadside stands on Main Road near his home on the North Fork.
His South Fork homage to simple dishes with the freshest ingredients the region can supply is a new restaurant is on the ground floor of a restored Greek Revival Mansion. The structure was built in 1842 for Judge Abraham Topping Rose. In addition to sounding like a new character on Downton Abbey, the Judge was Renaissance man who was a musician, hunter, local attorney and to Mrs. Topping Rose a sex machine as the pair had six children.
Colicchio took a page from their namesake’s playbook and has as many interesting things going on in this guy’s old house.
Nights are DARK out on the forks in the wintertime — Topping Rose House is a beacon from their terrifying inky black parking lot. The ‘opening soon’ spa is ghostly and half constructed, but forgotten when I glimpsed the private event barn on our way into the Inn.
Inside, the 25-seater bar area set the scene for a cozy meal with gleaming white walls and traditional black farm house chairs. ‘Cozy’ was the word of the evening. The dining room is crammed with no more than 15 tables, which provides for an intimate evening, but one where the wait staff is backed up against another seated patrons. My one complaint about our experience.
Happily, I can report there is an appropriate number of Long Island wines by the glass available urging the uninitiated to try something ‘Not French’. The vendors tapped to source local produce reads like a who’s who on Long Island: Braun Seafood, Browder’s, Satur Farms, Blue Duck Bakery, Montauk Pearl Oysters. To name a few.
Even though we visited in the winter when root vegetables and cauliflower flood farm inspired menus, Topping Rose House kept dirt candy the star of this show. Their menu echoed this ideology showcasing veggies traditionally listed as side dishes over the protein accompaniment printed in smaller font. Meat eaters need not fear — there’s enough flesh supplied to satisfy.
Try These – Get ‘em Before Their Gone:
Pickled Cauliflower, Gold Raisins And Pine Nuts with Bay Scallop : Don’t overlook as yet *another* raw prep of Peconic Bay Scallops. The sour of the pickled veg, sweet of the seafood, crunch of the pine nut = A Kick Ass bite. Perfect with the Shinn Vineyards Pinot Blanc or the bubbly offered from Sparkling Pointe.
Braised Chili Bacon, Horseradish and Molasses Jus with Fried Oysters: Best fried oyster I’ve had this side of New Orleans. Yeah, I just said that. Get your own, don’t share with your selfish husband who easts more than his share.
Heirloom Beans and Linguica Sausage with Roasted Cod: Fresh Fish with a crispy skin nestled in a bed of perfectly cooked beans with a snap and rich, flavorful pork. Not the most imaginative dish in the world, but one of the most delicious.
Brioche Donuts with a Brown Butter Glaze – Yes, there are Donuts on every menu in the entire world, but these are more than donuts. They are a way of life.
Pasta – He’s Italian. It’s delicious. Just do it.
Pro Tip – The bathrooms are an elevator ride and a fair hike from your table. Pack a snack and leave a trail of bread crumbs, you’ll be gone a while.
This is not fusion food, an imported delicacy from an unknown land or some sort of groundbreaking new cuisine. Topping Rose House takes fabulous ingredients that Long Islanders have at their disposal and make delicious, well-crafted food. (No pun intended.) For special occasion prices, you get stunningly beautiful and wonderful dishes that let the food, not the chef behind the concept, get all the glory. Less about the prep and more about the raw materials going into the menu. If simple continues to be a trend, I will recant all of my nasty remarks about the masses and will be first in line for venues on the South Fork who have as much substance asstyle.
I cannot imagine how mobbed this joint is going to be come summer, but I hope I know someone staying in one of the 22 hotel rooms opening at the inn. They can pay a small fortune to sleep while I can peep into what I imagine to be perfectly renovated guest rooms. And they’ll be tasked with getting reservations while I dream of what Chef de Cuisine Ty Kotz can do with spring/summer produce as I sip a cocktail on the wrap around porch.
Topping Rose House Restaurant
One Bridgehampton – Sag Harbor Turnpike
Bridgehampton, NY 11932