An experience to behold is dining at Monsoon in the former Bank of Babylon building, run by the trendy Bohlsen Restaurant Group, renowned for restaurants such as Prime, Tellers, and Verace.
Monsoon’s Manager, Doug Riley, oversees an enthusiastic staff serving creative, tasty and attractively presented food. The eco-friendly modern elegant décor includes a mezzanine overlooking the action. The lighting and music form a cool setting featuring a lively bar as you enter.
Chef Jack Grace devised a distinct Asian-influenced menu with sushi, sashimi, rolls, dim sum, dumplings, steamed buns, and more. Monsoon is also known for its steaks. The notion is that dishes should be shared.
We chose an exciting specialty roll, the Japanese Cowboy, made with Wagyu beef, lobster, and avocado with dips of eel sauce and yuzu mayo. We also enjoyed a sushi sashimi sampler, finishing our small-plate tasting. We rounded off our small plate tasting with crab cakes that were crabby, not bready.
The heart of our experience was steak and duck. The New York strip steak was superb — aged 21 days and served perfectly rare, harmonizing with a duo of crispy shrimp and lobster wontons and accompanied by a subtly dressed watercress salad. The Peking duck, made in a special roasting oven, was moist inside and crispy outside, served with steamed buns, thinly sliced cucumber, scallions, and hoisin sauce.
We ordered a side of wok-charred mushrooms popping with crispy shallots. Wines are on tap or by the bottle. The signature dessert, the Tempura Fried Oreos, has a chocolate dipping sauce supplemented with powdered chili.
A meal often leaves you thinking about the best part. This time, we had a conflict because each dish was as terrific as the other.
Monsoon: Steak & Sushi, 48 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-587-4400, monsoonny.com. 5-11 p.m. Mon. to Thurs, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri. and Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sunday.
DA GIGI TRATTORIA & BAR
Many homemade pasta manufacturers deliver to restaurants serving “fresh” pasta, but they cannot compare with the freshness of the few that serve pasta made on premises, or pasta fatta in casa.
We recently discovered Da Gigi in Lynbrook, whose fresh homemade pasta is the real deal. This destination restaurant is not easy to find, which may be why it has been Lynbrook’s best-kept secret — until now. The evening started with complimentary pesto bruschetta with thinly sliced pepperoni to tempt our palate as we perused the menu.
Although not extensive, the wine list includes a nice selection priced from $25 to $85 per bottle, with each also available by the glass. We went right to the top and enjoyed a Brunello di Montalcino.
Our granddaughter was with us, so we had the opportunity to sample even more than usual. We started with polpettine al sugo, a remarkable casserole of tiny veal meatballs dancing in a light tomato sauce garnished with melted Auricchio cheese — our granddaughter’s favorite. The polpo alla Siciliana (grilled octopus), served over shaved fennel, was presented with orange slices. The burrata Pugliese is a soft mozzarella escorted by zucchini flowers, baby spinach and roasted peppers.
On a subsequent visit, we tried the salumi e formaggi, selecting from a choice of eight cured meats and eight cheeses. Strongly recommended for a Tuscan dining experience.
We love tuna tartare, which was a special. Chef Will Merget says he cuts tuna to order, then dices and mixes it for the tartare. The freshness was apparent.
We shared three wonderful pastas: the bigoli al torchio al ragu anatra (duck tomato ragu), trofie al pesto and the special, squid ink black capellini served with seafood. Trofie is our favorite pasta, native to Liguria, the Italian Riviera. From Genoa east it is served with potatoes and fagiolini (string beans). Da Gigi adopts the western version of pasta and pesto, no additions.
The trifle we are accustomed to is rolled like a mini-crescent roll. Da Gigi’s was made in a pasta pressing machine and appeared much like a fusilli. It was tasty with structure, like fresh pasta should be. Buono! The brasato di bue alla piemontese, braised boneless short rib in red wine sauce, was a reminder of our Torino dinners.
Dessert was homemade tiramisu, well worth the calories.
Da Gigi Trattoria, 174 Merrick Rd., Lynbrook, 516-599-0298, ptwelvecatering.com. 5-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.
Jeff is a practicing attorney. Vera is a retired schoolteacher. Both love Long Island food and wine and are delighted to share their discoveries with you. Send your recommendations to [email protected]