Breathing New Life Into An Old Inn
By Pete, Rosie &
Will / email@example.com
of the Island’s best known restaurants is getting a
top to bottom makeover from its new owners. The Maine Maid
Inn, long an institution among seafood lovers, is getting
a fresh new everything by Dix Hills restaurateurs Rajiv and
Payal Sharma, who acquired the Jericho restaurant this spring.
Though Rajiv had a career in banking, the Sharmas are not
new to the restaurant business. They own Sitar Indian restaurant
in Huntington are currently building an Indian restaurant
in midtown Manhattan. And while Maine Maid Inn may be a departure
from the ethnic food model they have had success with, the
old dowager is already benefiting. Painters are already at
work bringing a brighter color palette to the decor, and the
Sharmas, working with executive chef Santos Reyes, are doing
the same with the cuisine. A new menu introduced about a month
ago has brought an Asian fusion influence on the classic American
seafood and steaks for which the old Inn was known.
The restaurant first opened in the 1940s but the structure
it occupies dates to 1789. It was the home of Valentine and
Abigail Hicks (Hicksville got its name from the family), members
of the Quaker community that settled the area in Colonial
times. The Hicks provided safe haven for slaves seeking freedom
along the “Underground Railroad,” and the attic
room where they hid travelers is just beyond a tiny door in
an upstairs hallway. Peering up the steep staircase that many
slaves climbed on their way to freedom, it’s easy to
see why so many staff members tell ghost tales. Lights that
go off by themselves, unexplained noises and a sense that
someone is there in an empty room are seemingly commonplace.
Manager Kathleen Sabella prefers to call them spirits, and
yes, she’s had her share of strange occurrences. The
“encounters” particularly occur in the upstairs
dining areas with their crooked floors, low ceilings and all
the other quirks of a 200-plus year-old house. Many diners
prefer the cozy upstairs spaces to the main dining room on
the ground floor, but that may change as renovations get underway.
During our recent visit, painters were putting the first coats
of a sky blue to the walls in an adjacent dining room. Expect
a brighter interior throughout.
Expect the same from the kitchen. The recent culinary overhaul
brought contemporary flair to Maine Maid’s menu. Sure
the expected steak, lamb and pork chop dishes are there. So
are the seafood dishes. But there’s a new influence
at work. A little Asian, a little Pacific. Payal Sharma calls
it New American.
We called it fun with spices.
From the start, Maine Maid Inn tickles the tongue with the
flavors of a well-stocked spice cabinet. The platter of Rosemary
flavored bread that starts the meal is accompanied by two
flavored olive oils for dipping: one reiterates the Rosemary
flavor, the other has some heat to it. It’s a sign of
what’s to come.
We followed with a seasonal pumpkin soup, surprising for its
lemongrass and ginger flavors, and drizzles of chili infused
oil dotting the surface.
Appetizers follow the trend. Shrimp Duo ($9) bring a pair
of fire roasted jumbo shrimp interlocked yin and yang style,
one in a tamarind glaze, another plain, and served with an
avocado aioli. The comfortable familiarity of Crab Cakes ($10)
is enlivened by a salsa of corn, red pepper and Bermuda onion
and drizzl of a mango aioli. Even Calamari ($9) takes a new
twist. Wok fried in a sweet and sour glaze and sprinkled with
black sesame, the tender rings of octopus are decidedly Oriental.
The Asian influence is also evident with the introduction
of Spring Rolls ($6) to the menu. We tried two different kinds
– the Duck Confit with Romesco sauce from the regular
menu, and a Southwestern style one with spinach and corn.
Entrees are likewise seeing the influence of new hands. The
star of our evening was easily the Aleppo Crusted Tuna ($23),
a slab of Sushi-grade tuna pan seared just enough to crust
the Turkish pepper, and sliced thin over mixed greens is like
a fine rare steak for seafood lovers.
Rice Paper Wrapped Mahi-Mahi from the specials menu gave a
sweet treatment to the tropical game fish. The rice paper
wrapping seals in the juices of a Mahi-Mahi steak with lime
and cilantro, and added texture.
Even the traditionalist dishes will wake up the tongue. Elegantly
presented Rack of Lamb ($27), is aromatic with Rosemary spice
and a fine peppery crust, paired with baby spinach and roasted
potatoes. We left not a trace of lamb left on the slender
We’ll return to try others: the Grilled Prawns ($24)
with mango and carrot slaw, an orange citrus sauce, sundried
tomato risotto and rice noodles; Bacon Wrapped Tilapia ($19)
and Filet Mignon with Three-Cheese Fondue ($26) all sound
Maine Maid Inn’s desserts haven’t caught up to
the rest of the menu in the sense that they remain traditionalist.
We enjoyed a cranberry apple crumble and the Maine Maid Inn
must, the bread pudding.
Outstanding even as a work in progress, we look forward to
returning to this venerable restaurant to see her newly painted
and, yes, newly named. In a move that keeps tradition while
announcing a fresh new face, she’ll soon be known as
the 1789 Restaurant at the Maine Maid Inn.
Maine Maid Inn
4 Old Jericho Turnpike, Jericho
Cuisine: New American with Asian-Pacific
Atmosphere: Contemporized Early
American ranging from cozy to spacious
Price range: Moderate
Hours: Sunday & Monday: 12-9
Tuesday-Thursday: 12-10 Friday & Saturday: 12-11