Mill River Inn: Dining Ecstasy
By Michael Schenkler/
It doesn’t get any better than this!
An evening out, a country road, a quaint cottage, and the
most memorable dining experience await at the nearby Mill
This unassuming gem, serving creative American fare with a
French influence rivals or surpasses anything you’ll
find on Long Island. With service on par with the best Manhattan
has to offer and a kitchen as creative and consistent as the
Hampton’s best, you need not travel far for one of the
most memorable meals you’ll experience.
Consistently on Zagat’s top five Most Popular Long Island
Restaurants list and surpassing all others in service while
rivaling them in food, Mill River Inn is an absolute must
for any serious Long Island foodie.
Hyperbole is not our style, but visit after visit, year after
year, we are amazed at the quiet culinary crescendo that stays
with us weeks after dining at the Mill River Inn.
Mill Riiver Inn occupies a pleasant but far-from-pretentious
small building on Mill River Road. You park your own car and
they take care of the rest. The small room which seats perhaps
50, feels like the dining room of a large New England home.
Open seven nights a week for dinner beginning at 6 p.m.
(5 p.m. on Sundays) Mill River is a spectacular special occasion
place or our choice for a quiet weekday romantic dining experience.
The restaurant is the creation of Kenneth Starr who also owns
Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff – another exceptional Long
Island destination restaurant – and has quietly built
a reputation for fine dining since its opening in 1989 when
Long Island super-chef Michael Meehan was running Mill River
Inn’s incredible kitchen.
Chef Michael Barato, a CIA grad, and Executive Chef Anthony
Falco, more than adequately have maintained the standards
while keeping up with the cutting-edge culinary trends incubating
on the west side of the east river.
Edmond Pollard, the long-time Maitre’ D and resident
sommelier, oversees an exquisite wine list and keeps the entire
operation purring with precision. Pollard is one of several
who captain the room and assure the meal and service are perfect.
Elani Andrews who has been working the room since 1993, or
Charles, a 10-year veteran, can assure the same quality. The
seniority and passion for food of those who work the front
of the restaurant are responsible for the seamless orchestration
of your perfect dinner. Rely on them to help you with your
And yes, the food is perfect too.
Starting with the bread basket – we got to choose from
three delightful home-baked wonders and have praise for each:
the semolina fennel raisin bread; French cluster roll; and
a memorable sourdough offering. Each diner is presented with
an “amusé bouche,” the French word used
to describe what the sweet potato and goat cheese dumpling
did to our mouth.
The menu is a guide to pleasure – each dish painstakingly
prepared and presented. It didn’t take Pollard long
to convince us to have the daily “Chef’s Tasting
Menu” (Five course plus a tasting of three desserts,
$85; also available with 3oz. of wine paired with each course,
$110). Available only for the entire table we’d encourage
foodies to indulge themselves and go prepared to taste, smile
and enjoy. The portions are appropriately sized so you can
get through the two plus hour experience and not feel too
guilty in the morning.
We started with a light salad of Chestnut Crusted Goat Cheese
over pickled beets, upland cress and topped with chestnut-bacon
vinaigrette. Each course – whether it sounds like something
you’ve had before or not, is an experience of delight.
The Pan-Seared Diver Sea Scallops were served with a Maine
Shrimp Rice Cake, Candied Kumquats and a Blood Orange Vinaigrette.
Mill River has found the largest, sweetest and most tender
diver scallops, seared them perfectly and then enhanced the
taste with magical accompaniments.
The Hudson Valley Foie Gras which was infused with a red wine
sauce and served with quince chutney is a must – one
of many. It was followed by a palate cleansing intermezzo
of a raspberry infused champagne. By now you should have gotten
the idea of ecstasy. With each dish, the kitchen takes that
extra step caring for each small part of the medley.
The Sesame Crusted Rare Tuna with a lemon-infused tuna tartare,
daikon radish with a hoisin and sweet piquillo pepper sauce
blew us away. And… the chilled saki, Dreamy Clouds,
a favorite of Pollard, was served to be consumed from a traditional
chilled saki carafe which worked the mouth perfectly to experience
the wonderfully refreshing and cooling complement to the bold
The final entrée, was an Australian Rack of Lamb with
Sweet Potato and Taro Root Puree, a crisp Gaufrette and a
Goat Cheese Stuffed Lady Apple. The accompaniments were again
as intoxicating as the perfect main.
And as we sat back, relaxed, digested and smiled, gloating
at the experience, out came a dish beautifully presenting
a sampling of three desserts: A Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
with White Semi-freedo; a Mixed Berry Napoleon with Vanilla
Pastry Cream and Berry Coulis; and a Mint Chocolate Chip Coup
with mint chocolate fudge and whipped cream.
Oh my God!!!
The entire evening was perfect. Each course remarkable, each
accompaniment flawless, and each presentation, picture perfect.
The options are many in addition to the ala carte menu, First
Course (appetizers, most around $15), Second Course (entrees,
$20-$39), Third Course (desserts, $10). The Formula Menu –
a bargain — offered Mon to Thurs, for seating between
6 and 6:45 provides a choice of two dishes from each menu
category for $35 (or paired with wine, $50)
The Sunday to Thursday tasting menu ($85) provided an experience
we will not forget or stop talking about. We urge Long Island
foodies to try it and those of you who are aspiring foodies,
this is your opportunity to cross over.
If you had to pick the top Long Island restaurants for the
ultimate dining experience, start with Mill River Inn.
It leads our list.
Mill River Inn
160 Mill River Rd. Oyster Bay, NY, 11771
Experience: Serious gourmet dining
Atmosphere: Elegant casual
Cuisine: Creative American with French flair
Specials: Tasting menus
allow you to sample the
Hours: Monday - Saturday,
6 to 10 pm.
Sunday, 5 - 10 pm.