We'd heard a lot about '18 Bay', nearly all of it good. So, boarding the ferry at Sag Harbor for Shelter Island, we were anticipating a special evening. Mainly, this is what it turned out to be. The homely building is a former supermarket. On a late summer Sunday as we entered the restaurant, it felt almost as if we were having dinner with neighbors. The restaurant was half filled (we were early) so we cozied up to the bar and asked the pleasant young woman to make us a couple of their own cocktails. The Manhanset - vodka with a lemony spin - sparked our appetites. We moved to the table and then waited forty minutes. When we gently asked our black-shirted waiter for a progress report on our 'tasting plate' of four appetizers, we received a curt 'it's coming' for a reply. We gave middling marks to three of the four dishes but the mushroom soup was foamy and bland. Another twenty minutes passed until the arrival of a green pasta with crispy oysters; a novel pairing and quite tasty, if a bit 'meh'. We asked for salt and pepper (often lacking in restaurants with a dedicated cuisine) to kick up the flavor but, as if to prove our tastes were not sufficiently sophisticated, the seasonings never materialized. The two entrees were outstanding - a sea bass with a knock-out succotash of vegetables, and a medallion of lamb supported by a jus of darker meat that simply ka-powed on the tongue. The crumble dessert was an anti-climax, stodgy and lukewarm. Wines were excellent; three glasses of a North Fork organic sauvignon from the Shinn vineyard and a glass of powerful Nebbiolo. The bill for two, including cocktails, wine, service and a 20% tip was $240.00. A long way from the prix fixe but we wanted to try '18 Bay' and now we had.
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