By Arielle Dollinger
A chandelier at the entrance of Huntington’s Prime is made of the wood of a French oak barrel, once used for wine. Feet ahead is a set of doors that came from an old castle in Oaxaca, Mexico, and to the left and above is a ceiling made of the wood of a reclaimed Pennsylvania barn – the second of two barns to be knocked down for the making of this ceiling, after the first did not turn out as desired.
The New York Avenue steak-and-seafood restaurant opened in November 2006 and presents what co-owner Michael Bohlsen described as “a take on American cuisine.”
“Prime is more than just a dinner; it’s an experience,” said Bohlsen, who was “born and raised in the restaurant business,” into a family that currently owns seven restaurants.
For him, every night at the restaurant is an event.
“We get to throw a party every night, and hundreds of people pay to come,” he said.
Prime sits on the shoreline of Huntington Harbor. Above the restaurant’s “Wave Bar” – one of several bars on the premises – is a window and a set of mirrors. The mirrors function like a periscope, Bohlsen said, reflecting in a way that allows those sitting at the bar to watch the setting sun.
But Prime does not rely on the view, he said.
“We do not compromise any of our standards because we have the view to fall back on,” Bohlsen said.
Décor inside the restaurant is no less elaborate than the building’s exterior. In the Harborside and Vine rooms, there is a dark brown velvet wall – the color is “Black Bean Soup,” Bohlsen said. Along the far wall, opposite the windows, is an arch of glass that reveals the 8,000-bottle wine cellar, lit from the floor. A glowing enclosure, dotted with the seemingly tiny circles that represent the bottoms of wine bottles, the display is incredible in the truest sense of the word.
A wall in one dining room is made entirely of glass blocks, the creation of a Gramercy artist. The lodge, a room Bohlsen said is meant to evoke the feeling of winter comfort, features a fire place and lots of wood. The kitchen is white and entirely open; the chef sees every dish.
Outside, meanwhile, there are a fan tail meant to mimic the back of the boat and trees wearing white lights year-round.
Inside, at the table, a waitress brings a bread basket.
“Fresh bread for you; it’s a cheddar brioche,” she says.
Prime’s head chef is now Ben Burham, who has cooked at such venues as Four Restaurant and started cooking for Prime about a year ago, but the chef tonight is Sous Chef Franco Pollini, who sends out a selection of dishes. Pollini has a degree in visual communications, but now makes a different sort of art.
“When I want to make art, I usually stick to something that goes on a plate or something that goes on a canvas,” he said.
His dishes are works of art.
The shrimp and lobster wontons ($16), pan-seared, are crispy and served on a plate decorated with hoison glaze and miso mustard.
The gnocchi ($15), tiny potato dumplings, sit in a parmesan-white truffle sauce with shreds of parmesan.
The wellington ($39), a dish that Bohlsen said will stay on the menu as it changes from spring/summer to fall/winter and back, is filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry, along with mushroom deuxelles, served at the center of a pool of bordelaise and brie fondue.
Colorful and textured is the lobster cioppino ($39), consisting of lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and saffron broth.
Prime also features a sushi bar, out of which come such rolls as the Montauk Roll ($25) – spicy tuna, avocado and tempura crunch, topped with lobster, yuzu mayo and eel sauce.
Among dessert options are the cheesecake ($11), plated with raspberries and peanut sauce, and the chocolate fondue. On the oval-shaped fondue plate ($14) are strawberries, pretzels, banana slices, square marshmallows and apple chunks.
The menu at Prime will change soon to feature seasonal ingredients, and menu items like the watermelon salad will leave to make space for those more seasonally appropriate.
Prime: An American Kitchen & Bar
117 New York Ave., Huntington