Dining Out visits Dish in Water Mill

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Located in a small storefront in the Water Mill Shoppes plaza, Dish has just two tables and 12 seats, so when executive chef Peter Robertson says the restaurant has a homey feel, he means it.

The restaurant has the atmosphere of an intimate, private dining room, and dinner is served on bare, wood tables. Though the food is presented in a simple manner, what happens in the kitchen is a much more sophisticated production.

Mr. Robertson described his culinary repertoire as “modern American,” with many influences. “We’re kind of all over the place,” he said. “It’s pretty whimsical.”

One specialty of Mr. Robertson’s is Long Island duck, he said, adding that he prefers to use local ingredients. “Now most of the farms are closed,” he pointed out, “but duck is always available.”

And this time of year, Peconic Bay scallops, which he uses in many dishes, are great, he added.

Mr. Robertson and his soon-to-be wife Merrill Indoe started Corks and Forks Catering, based in Bridgehampton, in May 2007. They opened Dish a year later, in the former site of Champa’s, an Indian restaurant.

“We started out as a take-out place, in addition to the catering,” Mr. Robertson said. But he said the location was not ideal for a food store, with little foot traffic going by.

“I always say it’s like cooking for a ghost,” he joked. “You never know if someone is going to walk in.”

Letting his food sit around, rather than serving it at its peak of flavor, also bothered Mr. Robertson about the take-out business, he said.

The chef said he’s very particular about his food, having trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. That’s where he met Ms. Indoe in class more than five years ago. (Dish may be closed for a month in May, when the two get married.)

The couple explained that they opened the sit-down restaurant a few months ago, in November, as a way to build on their catering business. “And keep from being bored in the wintertime,” Mr. Robertson added, only half joking.

“It’s fun for me; it’s sort of a creative outlet,” Mr. Robertson said of the new venture. “We come up with new dishes constantly.”

“It’s very innovative,” agreed Ms. Indoe, Dish’s general manager. “Peter is very creative.”

Though Mr. Robertson got his Hamptons start as a caterer, “I still will always want to work in a restaurant,” he admitted. He added that opening a food store again is still in the cards too for himself and Ms. Indoe. “We don’t really like to box ourselves in.”

With such a small space at Dish, and the summer crowds still months away from returning, the couple only their restaurant only on Friday and Saturday nights, and by reservation only.

For parties of six or more, with enough notice, Dish will open weeknights, the couple noted.

“We’re in the hospitality industry,” Mr. Robertson said. “We want to make people happy.”

Each Sunday, Mr. Robertson and Ms. Indoe prepare the following weekend’s dinner menu and send out an e-mail to their mailing list of past Corks and Forks or Dish customers and others who have learned about the restaurant via word of mouth.

“We’re definitely building this business slowly,” Ms. Indoe said.

While testing the waters, Dish offered a more traditional menu, Mr. Robertson said. But for now the restaurant has settled into offering only a prix fixe each week

Dinner is always $35 per person and includes five or more courses.

Dish does not serve alcohol, so diners are encouraged to bring their own wine. Mr. Robertson said that because customers know what they will be having for dinner in advance, they often bring a wine from their cellar they know will complement their meal.

Some recent prix fixe menus have included:

Peconic Bay scallops in polenta custard; smoked salmon and goat cheese salad; roasted organic chicken breast with squash stuffing and thyme jus; beef deckel; and poached pears with sabayon.

Mushroom dumpling; sauté of shrimp, chorizo and pine nuts; pan-seared Peconic Bay scallops; braised pork belly with adzuki beans, cilantro, lime, red onion, serrano chile; hearts of romaine, pecorino romano, toasted hazelnut bread crumbs; bolognese with fettucine; and banana mille-feuille with chocolate ganache

Seared hamachi with chorizo, lemon vinaigrette and cured olive tapenade; Jerusalem artichoke purée and fried artichokes; Peconic Bay scallops with avocado salad; endive, grilled radicchio, grapefruit and montasio salad; duck breast with farro and corn chowder; bolognese with fettucine; and apple galette with vanilla ice cream.

Quail eggs benedict; Wallkill Farms smoked salmon, capers, red onion, potato gaufrette and frisée; leeks and bacon with angel hair; chicken ballotine with Swiss chard and braised white beans; and apple strudel with vanilla cream.

For reservations on a Friday or Saturday evening, call (631) 726-0246 by noon of that day or e-mail dishhamptons@gmail.com. Dish is also taking reservations for parties of six or more for weeknights with 48 hours notice.

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