Hometown Chef Delivers
At Ven˙e 56
By Luann, Lou & Gerry/
A Hauppauge restaurant with Huntington ties is putting a new
spin on fine casual in every sense of the phrase.
At Venúe 56, named for its exit off the Long Island
Expressway, upscale and casual characteristics create something
that is not exactly a fusion of the two, but rather a simultaneous
occurrence. The waiters look classy in all black, but wear
sneakers. White linen tablecloths are covered with a brown
paper sheet you can color on using the crayons on the table.
The exquisite $28 pork chop comes with potato salad and corn
on the cob. On the night of our visit, there were both suits
and sweatpants among the patrons. All around, it was upscale
and casual at the same time and it works.
Formerly Sweetwaters, the bustling Venúe 56 opened
in December 2009. There are prix-fixe dinners during the week
until 6:30 p.m. and after work parties on Thursday
nights, where fashionable attire is a must. On
the weekends, the tables are cleared away after dinner and
the lively bar scene gets pumping. We hear weekend brunches
are to come. And on May 2, a Sunday barbecue on the outdoor
patio will attempt to give you the feel of Hamptons
in the middle of the island, said Russ Fragala, who owns the
restaurant with partners Christian Arcello, Nick Boccio, Michael
Murphy and a few silent partners.
At the helm of the restaurant is Executive chef Marc Anthony
Bynum of Huntington. Most recently head chef at Tellers Chophouse
in Islip, he was formerly sous chef at Prime and chef at Rookies
Sports Club in Huntington. At Venúe 56, his presentation
and creativity are tops.
God-given inspiration, he said. Seeing it
in my head, seeing the dream, and putting it on a plate.
The team seems strong with Bynum, pastry chef Lorraine Licursi,
formerly of Prime in Huntington, and mixologist Jeremy Strawn.
Our knowledgeable waiter, Alex, was Culinary Institute of
the Arts educated.
We started by testing the bar, and Strawn did not disappoint.
The Volstead ($14) is a perfect flirty, fruity and sweet drink
for the ladies: vodka and elderflower liqueur with shavings
of fresh strawberries topped with champagne. For the men,
the Molasses Highball ($12) is thick, rich and masculine,
made with molasses rum, house-made ginger liqueur and vodka.
Our appetizers were tops, both fun and delicious. In the Kung
Pao Shrimp ($12), rock shrimp are breaded and crisp, served
with peanuts, scallions and a kung pao sauce tempered by sweet
grilled pineapple a wonderful combination of flavors.
Bynums buffalo sauce in the Buffalo Chicken Tower ($10)
leaves a constant but pleasant fire on the tongue. The sauce
coats tender white-meat chicken drizzled lightly with bleu
cheese dressing and topped with crispy thin matchstick fries.
In the Pan-Seared Scallops ($14), the Israeli cous cous with
golden raisins and toasted pine nuts is creative and tasty.
A Pear and Walnut Salad ($9) was the perfect dish to cleanse
the palate of the spicy buffalo and kung pao sauces. With
frisse, radicchio, Belgian endive, chunks of bleu cheese,
sweet candied walnuts and walnut vinaigrette, it comes with
the most beautifully cut pear.
The Halibut ($32) and Back Yard BBQ ($28) are standout, mouthwatering
entrees. The halibut is fresh and flaky, served in blood orange
vinaigrette with a brilliant combination of braised fennel
and a five-onion salad. In the Back Yard dish, a juicy and
perfectly cooked double-cut pork chop is served with a creative
house-made barbecue sauce with subtle hints of peach flavoring,
potato salad made with egg and a whole grain mustard-mayonnaise
dressing, and corn on the cob. Crispy Wild Atlantic Salmon
($26) is also a savory dish, served with wilted garlic-infused
spinach, grape tomatoes, pearl onions, English peas and citrus
butter, while Le Bonne Femme Red Snapper ($32)
sits in a mixture of fava beans, lardoons, grape tomato confit,
spinach and fish stock.
The steaks at the tables of our fellow diners looked enticing.
Short Bone Rib Eye ($44) is a grilled 22-24 ounce, 21-day
dry aged, all-natural rib eye. Bynum also serves up a Filet
Mignon ($34) and New York Strip Au Poivre ($32) in a peppercorn
For dessert, the chocolate soufflé was sinfully delicious.
With all the makings to become a destination hotspot, Venúe
56 has tremendous potential and even greater flexibility.
Catering and corporate parties are also available.
470 Wheeler Road, Hauppauge
Atmosphere: Bustling, lively
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Price range: Moderate-Expensive
Hours: Mon-Wed 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., 5-10 p.m.;
Thurs-Sat 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., 5 p.m.-midnight;
soon to be opened on Sundays