As a boy growing up in Queens near his family’s restaurant, London Lennie’s, Les Barnes used to accompany his father – Lennie himself – to the Fulton Fish Market, in those days by the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.
By Tom McDermott
As a boy growing up in Queens near his family’s restaurant, London Lennie’s, Les Barnes used to accompany his father – Lennie himself – to the Fulton Fish Market, in those days by the East River and Brooklyn Bridge. Today, diners at Saltaire Oyster Bar & Fish House, his year-old restaurant in Port Chester, are the beneficiaries of all those mornings spent among fishmongers and oystermen. Les Barnes knows fresh seafood when he sees it.
Les and his wife, Beth, moved to Rye about 20 years ago where they’ve raised a family of girls: Teagan, Greer, Fiona, and Shea. While he was still running Lennie’s, which he took over in 1977 and where his mother Joan still spends time, he looked in Rye for the right opportunity to open a new place. When the large former granary space once occupied by Willet House became available, the time was finally right.
Saltaire is a long way from Lennie’s original fish and chips beginnings. But, one thing never changes in family owned and managed restaurants: hours spent with the staff, among customers, talking to purveyors, and minding the small details the way Les and his wife, Beth, still do. On a given night, you can see them, and often their daughter Teagan, helping, planning events, serving, watching as you enjoy perfectly grilled East Coast Swordfish or Seared Halibut, with your choice of beure blanc, tomato velouté, or walnut-citrus vinaigrette sauce.
But, we’re getting ahead of our story, which rightly begins with oysters, shucked center stage at the bar, especially at Buck-A-Shuck time, Monday-Sunday 4-6 and all day Thursday (at the bar only), with selected wines at $7 per glass. And, we are talking about very good wines – Val De Mer 2013 Chablis or Pierre Luc-Bouchaud 2015 Muscadet. An assortment of beers and cocktails are also available.
Oyster enthusiasts and newcomers may dip these extremely fresh bivalves (also clams) in several sauces, including a superior mignonette; purists will also delight in the raw taste of the briny seas around Prince Edward Island (Raspberry Point, Pink Moon), Washington state (Kumamotos, Shogokus), New England (Standish Shore, Rocky Nook), and other waters.
Saltaire chef Cedric Lamouille, who trained at Jean-Louis in Greenwich, has created a seasonal, simple-to-read menu, according to the best available seafood. Small Plates, like Jumbo Lump Crab, Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare; Soups – Clam Chowder, of course; Roasted Spring Beet, Burrata salad; and Mussels in the Pot line one side. Oysters, clams, tower combinations, and seafood – Whole Roasted Bass or Bronzino, Steamed Lobster, Florida Red Snapper and Gulf Shrimp, New Zealand King Salmon line the other: seared or grilled. There are also the house specialties, such as Bedford Sea Scallops or Striped Bass, depending on what is available and fresh.
And, just in case you don’t happen to be in the mood for seafood, Saltaire has you covered with Allen Brothers New York Strip, Black Angus Filet or Burger, and Roasted French Chicken Breast. They will soon be adding to that land-based menu.
Saltaire offers an excellent selection of wines, many at very attractive prices for glasses, bottles, and liters. This holds true for the reds, as well as the aforementioned whites. For example, the 2013 Jamhill Estates from Oregon and 2013 Saintsbury Carneros pinot noirs are $25 and $34 per bottle, and both pair well with seafood as well as steaks and burgers.
Designed to be a casual oyster bar and fish house, Saltaire the servers wear denim and chambray, and both regulars and visiting pre-show Capital Theatre diners can relax in a friends and family-friendly atmosphere.
The restaurant offers a two-course pre fixe lunch every day but Saturday for $20; Wine Wednesday with guest sommeliers, 6-7:30; and will start serving Sunday Brunch in November.
Saltaire is located at 55 Abendroth Avenue. Call 939-2425.