Undersea World Of Tom Schaudel
By Pete & Mike/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Partying at Doc Finley’s old English
Pub has been a favorite Huntington pastime for the under-forty
crowd as well as the Hibernians. Now, the decade-plus-old
watering hole that is run by Doc and Sandy Finley has taken
an unexpected and welcome turn.
Finley’s of Green Street remains the
same – a beer lover’s haunt of dark wood, with
a warm low light and the clamor of a pub -- but its entrance
hallway leads you to a most surprising encounter.
Unexpected relationships can make for a great
dining experience. Finding tuna paired with mango evokes the
kind of surprise that comes from one’s first chocolate-covered
pretzel. Unexpected, and surprisingly good.
Welcome to Rockfish.
Such unexpected relationships are the signature
of restaurateur chef Tom Schaudel, proprietor of some of the
Island’s most innovative restaurants. Billed as a beachfront
fish shack without the beach, Rockfish is the newest in an
archipelago of Schaudel establishments that dot the Island.
Perhaps best known for the aptly named Coolfish in Syosset,
Schaudel eateries also include, Thom Thom in Wantagh, Angelfish
in Long Beach and the new Mansion at Woodlands (formerly Passionfish)
on the Oyster Bay Golf course, among others.
Schaudel made his first splash on the Island’s
restaurant scene with the opening of Panama Hatties in 1982
and has since become known for those unexpected pairings.
At Rockfish, the unexpected begins at the door. Walking past
Finley’s down an undistinctive hallway that leads to
Rockfish, the beachfront décor gives diners their first
clue to the undersea world of Tom Schaudel that awaits.
The décor at Rockfish is a simple
recreation of a beachfront fish shack. Exposed brick walls
are about the starkest contrast one will find to walls painted
in neutral tones of weathered putty. It’s the kind of
décor designed to not clash with a spectacular beach
view, though admittedly, Rockfish doesn’t have one.
What the restaurant does have is one of Huntington’s
best patio dining areas where even a hint of warm weather
brings lively crowds.
But enough about patios and décor.
At Rockfish, it’s all about the food, and Schaudel doesn’t
disappoint. There’s a reason he’s has built a
dynasty of restaurants, many of whose names end in “fish.”
He’s does darn well with the stuff.
The simple appetizers – a half-dozen
oysters ($10.50), little neck clams ($8) or the shrimp cocktail
establish a good baseline to judge the food. The clams on
a recent Friday visit were sweet and fresh. If it’s
that creative flair you’re craving, Schaudel shines
with a variety of ceviches ($11). Basically a sashimi marinade,
the shrimp ceviche is paired with a coconut/panka chili; scallops
swim among diced passion fruit, chipotle and avocado; and
tuna is complemented by a tangy lemon soy sauce.
Hot appetizers – or “small plates,”
as they’re called on the menu – offer an excellent
opportunity to sample Schaudel’s creative range. Priced
from $6 to $12, any three would tease and satisfy the hungriest
gourmet: Gumbo Ya Ya shows a New Orleans influence; Kung Pao
calamari an Asian one; and fried oysters are pure American.
Maryland crab cake is accompanied by a delightful mustard
sauce; and the fish taco is pure Schaudel – international
with a touch of humor.
If it’s fish shack you’re after,
Rockfish dresses up the fried fish sandwich ($11), oyster
roll ($12) and lobster roll (market priced) with flavorful
sauce, crisp fries and slaw.
The thing about wonderful and surprising
taste combinations, though, is that those small samplings
often are not enough. The “large plates” allow
for a fuller experience. Blackened catfish, served with jambalaya
rice and a mysteriously named “voodoo sauce,”
($17) is delightfully spiced and bone free; rare seared tuna
tostada ($19) is one of those unexpected combinations bringing
together black beans, chipotle aioli and a mango salsa (who
would think to put together mangoes and tuna?). It’s
a delight. The menu offers something from the simple to the
complex. Grilled shrimp with risotto ($20) pays homage to
a classic combination -- tomato and basil. Penne pasta with
shrimp features roasted tomatoes and lots of basil. The selections
include pasta, seafood, chicken and steak entrees from $15
Dessert time brings another opportunity to
show off Schaudel’s flair. The key lime taco is a whimsical
creation with fresh banana and tangy key lime filling in a
crisp “taco.” Roasted pineapple bread pudding
with coconut custard sauce and caramel brings a warm feeling,
and of course there’s a Schaudel signature, the rich
and decadent Chocolate Bag. It’s a must!
Rockfish does lunch and dinner and with the
spring weather, its patio dining season is in full swing.
A prix fixe menu is available Tuesday through Friday and Sunday
We’ll see you there.
34 Green Street
Cuisine: fish shack with
a creative flair
Price range: Moderate
Prix fixe menu-Tues.-Thurs. & Sun., $20.95 pp
Hours: Tues.-Sun. 11:30-10
Fri. & Sat. 11:30-11