Curious what the press has to say about Fishbar? Look no further.
Chef/Co-Owner, Fishbar on the Lake
I grew up kind of all over New Jersey in a tight-knit Italian family. I’m half Italian, half Irish, and it’s a great mix. I went to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., and I graduated in 2000. I’ve moved all over since college, including San Diego, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and Montauk, N.Y. I’ve always lived on a coast and worked with seafood and ingredients indigenous to the area. My focus is local ingredients and seafood. Cooking wasn’t a big deal in my family, but I was in high school when I decided to be a chef. It was between being an English professor or a chef. I picked a recipe out of a book and said I’d be a chef if it was good; however, we had to order pizza that night because it was terrible. But then I thought you have to know how to feed and take care of yourself, so if fueled an interest toward a field I knew nothing about at the time. After that it was a constant learning experience. Before Fishbar I was working as the executive chef at a restaurant down the street, and that’s where I met my boyfriend. We found out this place was coming up for lease, so we opened Fishbar two summers ago, and our focus has been pretty obvious to me from the beginning. I already had connections with all the fishermen, so there wasn’t any doubt it was going to be local fish only — from Montauk boats exclusively. Fishbar maintains a license for being a fish dealer so we’re allowed to purchase. Not every chef can buy from them. They have a limit as to what the catch can be, and also you need to be licensed to purchase from a boat. It’s a really stupid rule. As a fisherman you have to sell your fish to a certified dealer. The busy season, summer, is chaos seven days a week. During the off-season my boyfriend, Daniel, who co-owns the restaurant, and I sit back and think what it is we’re going to change. We also get to travel and extend ourselves into what other people are doing, other areas and cuisines. Last winter we went to Austin, Texas, and lived there for a while. We didn’t want to spend very much because we wanted to leave it in the bank and reinvest into our business. So we both worked in Austin restaurants and learned quite a bit. Chopped will be my first competitive experience. I think the concept of the show is fun. I think I can win because I’m a good chef and can make flavor combinations on the spot. I think I make good food.
Lake Montauk’s Fishbar worth the trip
Here it is: the last good restaurant on Long Island.
At the Gone Fishing Marina and opposite the airport is Fishbar on the Lake. Chef Jennifer Meadows makes it a destination for the splashiest seafood around. Perched on Lake Montauk, with a made-for-brochures view, it’s an ideal spot to watch summer slip away. It takes a while to get to Fishbar and a little longer to land a table. Unless you’re an octet or larger, expect to wait. But Meadows, who greets the fishing boats to stock up, puts in plenty of time, too. This East End-New England combo plate deserves yours.
Try Meadows’ house-cured bluefish, an ideal preparation that turns this combative swimmer impossibly delicate. Three squares of blue are paired with pickled onions, saffron-tinted aioli and ovals of grilled baguette. Nibble on homey corn-and-jalapeño fritters, ready for chile-and-lime, updated sauce rémoulade. Meadows’ New England-style clam chowder brings in a fine taste of Nantucket, just as the crisp calamari with marinara and lemon perfect a local favorite. The clam pie will remind you of a soothing seafood-and-vegetable stew, under a square of puff pastry. Deviled blue crab takes you south, with sweet meat and drawn butter. Then, move on to delicious, pan-seared scallops, set on hoppin’ john made with jasmine rice, black lentils and applewood-smoked bacon. Meadows also stands out with pan-seared tilefish, atop fingerling potato salad; fried cod and fries for a deluxe fish-and-chips; and pan-seared John Dory. And lobster sliders go beyond any spin on lobster rolls. Continue the theme with either a pristine, steamed lobster, or lively blackened monkfish sliders. Fishbar’s tuna burrito invites another bite. Just in case, dissidents can enjoy Buffalo-style chicken wings and strip steak.
Steamed mussels and oven-roasted monkfish materialize overdone. Campanelle pasta with vegetables reaches you at room temperature, a victim of backed-up orders and frequently uneven service. The only respectable dessert is carrot cake.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Catch of the season.
467 E. Lake Dr., Montauk, 631-668-6600.
Chef Jennifer Meadows coats yellowfin tuna, with Cajun-style spices that include cumin and garlic, sears the fish with olive oil, then surrounds it with avocado salsa, jicama slaw and wasabi-laced sour cream, all suitably wrapped. It’s one of our 10 favorite tuna dishes on Long Island.At the Gone Fishing Marina and opposite the airport is Fishbar on the Lake. Chef Jennifer Meadows makes it a destination for the splashiest seafood around. Perched on Lake Montauk, with a made-for-brochures view. Meadows’ experience in shoreline cuisine includes stints in San Diego and Oahu. The relaunched restaurant’s dishes go from deviled blue crab, tuna seviche and smoked local bluefish to Cajun fish sliders, clam pie, fried cod and steamed lobster.
Fishbar on the Lake: A Slow Food chef and a captain’s son make magic in the kitchen.
by Geraldine Pluenneke
MONTAUK—“He’s just entering the harbor!” Jennifer Meadows snaps off her cell phone and heads out the door of Fishbar on the Lake in a light May drizzle. The petite chef pauses outside to grab a wheelbarrow and trots with it down the 600-foot-long dock of the Gone Fishing Marina in Lake Montauk. She reaches the end just as the scallop dragger Endangered Species eases alongside. Men heft two 50-pound cotton sacks, puffed pillows bursting with snowy white scallops, from the boat into the black barrow. “And one for you,” smiles Mike, the owner, handing her a scallop in its shell.
In the kitchen, Meadows pries the shell open to reveal not only a large and gooey mass surrounding the prized white muscle but a tiny, three-inch-long fish. She deftly trims the muscle, rinses and slices it, adds shards of a long thin red pepper called the “devil’s toenail” and squeezes of lime. It is sweet, hot, balanced, with the kind of freshness you expect a seaside town should always reflect. Marius, a line cook who had just lugged a basket of blue crabs into the kitchen, reaches out for a piece of scallop after scooping up several crabs trying to make a getaway. Meadows’s partner, Daniel Grimm, nods in approval after his taste.
What sets Fishbar on the Lake apart from many East End restaurants is that it serves only fresh fish and seafood. That actually is unusual. (It’s unusual enough that Edible East End readers voted her a “local hero” in 2008 for her devotion to serving only fresh, local foods.) If a certain fish supplied by one of Meadows’s “guys” is sold out, diners will have to wait for the next boat and another night. The labor-saving frozen portions relied upon by many of the area’s restaurants, always at the ready in freezers, never cross Fishbar’s plates. What you eat at Fishbaris only hours from the sea.
Usually it’s handpicked by the chef, who races to other Montauk Harbor docks by car to meet the fishing boats she works with just as they pull in. She knows their approximate planned time of return and their satellite cell phone numbers and starts phoning just before they’re expected back.
“When the boats come in, they don’t wait for you,” she says.
Adds Grimm, who grew up the son of a commercial fishing boat captain, “They’re selling thousands of pounds of fish and if you’re only buying a few fillets, they don’t have to do it.” Meeting the boats involves an equation composed in equal parts of force of personality, enthusiasm and respect for the product, and allows Meadows to pick out the most recently caught fish in perfect condition, unbruised by the weight of other fish.
Day boat fish is consistently fresh. “Trip boats,” gone five to 10 days fishing the deeper Munson and Hudson ocean canyons southeast of Montauk, store their catch on ice. The last caught is a chef’s ideal and, so, an eater’s delight.
“There’s something energizing about eating food that was grown right in our backyard and caught off these boats, and meeting the people that actually do the growing and the harvesting of the fish and vegetables,” says Meadows.
The Meadows-Grimm restaurant is launching its second season with a renovated casual, understatedly elegant dining deck overlooking the 180-boat marina and Lake Montauk and across its waters to docks on the far side, and beyond the harbor entrance to the Long Island Sound. The space is handsomely enclosed in wood-framed glass panels that lower in fine weather. A new forced-air heating system can keep the enclosed porch summerday-warm through Thanksgiving. It’s a simple, classic aesthetic that suits the simpatico couple. But the menu is pure Meadows.
Meadows absorbed her ideas about freshness both for seafood and produce in a string of sous-chef jobs that began in XO Café, a fusion restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2000 when she graduated from Johnson & Wales with a culinary degree. In high school she had decided that her future lay either as an English professor or a chef. A test meal in the kitchen would decide, she told her stepbrother. The Dijon mustard–crusted chicken she cooked emerged inedible: burned charcoal on the outside, raw within. Even so, literature lost as she devoured books on chefs and food to learn how to get it right. “I was amped,” she said. She went on to cook in San Diego; in Hawaii, where people celebrated posh weddings by serving a local fish, moi; next, in Washington, DC, at organic Restaurant Nora’s, then at the nearby Ritz-Carlton’s Fahrenheit.
On a wintry December day in 2006, Jennifer cooked a test menu for the Inlet Restaurant, recently built by the Montauk Inlet Seafood Corporation and owned currently by a group of six local fishermen. The firm “packs out” and sends to market nearly 10 million pounds of fish annually, the highest production from any facility in New York State. The next day she was both hired as chef and had caught the eye of one of the owner’s sons, Daniel Grimm, and he, hers. A few weeks later, she wowed the local Slow Food convivium with a January dinner menu that included not only lobster but porgy, a fish some of the members had never tasted. Then, within months, the pair—now a couple—learned that the Inlet was going on the block (for $30 million). They decided to strike out on their own, and took over Fishbar in January 2008.
Among Fishbar specialties are monkfish, sea bass and scallops— cooked golden (on both sides, please) to coax out their sugary content but left slightly opaque in the center. There are deviled blue crabs, Cajun fish sliders. “If you want a meaty white fish, try tilefish, try porgy, try something other than the fluke,” says Meadows. She tries to avoid this common denominator on East End menus. “We don’t serve fluke much.”
Meadows and Grimm both love the misunderstood bluefish. “But bluefish does have to be eaten the same day it’s caught,” says Grimm. “Otherwise, the flavor, the aroma changes dramatically,” shudders Meadows. She smokes bluefish and sometimes whiting over mesquite on her kitchen grill as an appetizer and serves it with pickled onions, saffron aioli and a little baguette. She cooks fillets skin-side down on a very hot pan or grill so the skin crisps as the moi did in Hawaii, but the flesh stays moist. She never flips fillets. There will be fish poached in garlic and juniper berry–imbued olive oil. Her adherence to Slow Food principles extends even to black pepper. She grinds it fresh over every dish as it’s prepared. “I think pre-ground pepper gets stale. It absorbs flavors from the room.”
Sometimes an unfamiliar fish name appears on the menu: John Dory, also known as Saint Pierre and beloved by multiple-starred European chefs for its exceptional flavor. Meadows will come out and show diners the whole fierce-looking fish caught by Daniel’s father, Bill Grimm, who owns two draggers and who co-founded Inlet Seafood Corp. 25 years ago. “John Dory are almost unknown by Montauk fishermen,” says the elder Grimm. “You stumble across them in 600 to 1,000 feet of water. We let Jennifer know right away.”
The underappreciation of unfamiliar fish and discarded parts (Bill Grimm loves to eat the entire scallop, as many in France do) once led the New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne to spend three days aboard Grimm’s boat writing a piece on the subject.
“He invited me to come to dinner at his home in East Hampton. I think maybe I made a mistake by not going,” reflects Grimm. “I think you did,” laughs a listener.
What lands on the plate has changed in 40 years. So has the fisherman’s sensibility. When Bill Grimm began fishing in the 1970s the catch was primarily cod and yellow-tailed flounders and fluke. By the mid-’80s Japanese buyers flew in first to select, then to airlift away, prime giant tunas, then to train the sometimes careless Montauk crowd and their distributors on how to care for and grade fish. This set the stage for the training of the American sushi appetite. Meanwhile, Daniel, from the age of six, spent every summer moment on his father’s boat.
By 2006, the catch out of Montauk was mainly squid, whiting, fluke, porgy and tuna and Daniel was graduating from New Mexico’s St. John’s great books program. Students used no textbooks, reading such original source material as Isaac Newton, Euclid, Einstein. The program cultivated in Daniel a passion for “jumping into something new like the restaurant and figuring out how to make it work.”
Daniel turned to the business side of fish. When Meadows arrived at the Inlet she had never “fabricated” a fish, so one or another of the owners of the “pack-out” corporation pitched in to fillet and portion fish with wooden-handled Dexter fishing boat knives for the restaurant’s dinner. “They laughed at my expensive Japanese knives,” recalls Meadows. She, too, now wields a mean Dexter. She also treats vegetables with the same precision as fish.
Using a skill honed at DC’s Restaurant Nora, she cooks vegetables separately to intensify the personality of each. There are both the familiar and names often as odd as John Dory, like salsify and yuzu yellow beets. Just-cooked fava beans wait brilliant-green in a container. Carrots and potatoes may be grilled over charcoal, perhaps fingerlings to pair with tile fish. Kohlrabi sautéed in a little olive oil is then steamed in a little clam juice. “So it goes with fish,” Meadows explains, “just like you use chicken stock to cook rice served with chicken.”
Through June, the Fishbar serves dinner 4:30–9:30 p.m. Thursday– Sunday (until 6 p.m. all entrees come with chowder or salad and dessert), and lunch starting at noon on Saturday and Sunday; a $19.95 pre-fixe until 6 p.m.; lunch and dinner daily in July and August noon–10:30 p.m. Jennifer will prepare customers’ own cleaned catch with her sides and serves chicken, burger and vegetarian dishes. And Meadows and Grimm have three imports from the past winter spent working in Austin, Texas: a new sous-chef, Travis Graham; the concept of $4.95 “bottomless mimosas,” and “Make Your Own Bloody Marys” to be served at July and August Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 467 East Lake Drive, Montauk; 631.668.6600; freshlocalfish.com .
Geraldine Pluenneke writes from Montauk where she is completing a book about flavor.
Joan Powers Porco
Publication: The East Hampton Press
Sep 29, 09 1:31 PM
Jennifer Meadows and Daniel Grimm are an attractive couple who are receiving a lot of Press these days. We talked with them at their Fishbar Restaurant, the morning after they had prepared a four-course dinner for 21 people featuring wines from the Wölffer Estate vineyards. Roman Roth, Wölffer’s winemaker, paired the wines with the particular food served. The couple looked bright and relaxed. “It was a celebration bringing everyone together,” Jennifer commented, speaking of the dining enthusiasts at the event, many of whom were local provisioners.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Daniel, the son of local fisherman Bill Grimm, views his background in philosophy studies as helpful in running a restaurant. Jennifer, after a disastrous cooking experience, challenged herself to become a chef. She graduated from famed culinary school, Johnson & Wales in 2000 with considerable prior working experience. Daniel described their working synergy. “She has a lot more experience and understands the heart and soul of a restaurant while I appreciate the more technical aspects,” he said.
Though Jennifer has a significant background in cutting edge organic restaurants, she has come to value sustaining local farms and foods even more. It was a consequence of a cooking stint in Hawaii where she learned the value of eating indigenous food. “People got excited about eating the food they grew up on,” she said. Daniel grew up eating local foods as his father was a hunter as well as a fisherman. His mother fed their six children with fresh foods as a member of a local co-op. “There are lots of foods that are good and healthy and yet don’t have the organic logo attached to them,” he said.
Due to two enthusiastic women who lunched at Fishbar one of whom is a TV producer, Jennifer is going to appear on a television cooking show called “Chopped.” It is a competition style show where four professional chefs are presented with a mystery basket for each course. “You have 30 minutes to make the first course,” she said. “They supply you with funny ingredients like oysters and blueberries.” If you don’t get “chopped” for the appetizer course you go to the entrée to be followed by working the dessert course if the contestant survives the entree course. The show won’t be released on The Food Network until five months after the taping, which will be sometime in October.
The couple seems to thrive on activity, as they have also made a documentary with local videographer Lisa DeGuia. She was referred by Brian Halweil, editor of “Edible East End” magazine. Lisa joined Jennifer at Dan Farnham’s “Kimberly,” a tilefish boat. They spent several hours videotaping as they talked about buying fish. “It was fun,” Jennifer said. “I climbed all over the boat.” She learned a great deal about the high quality of her fish selection, from the filming.
The cooking portion of the documentary followed a week later. Jennifer cooked tilefish and several specialty items. “We talked about cooking and why I think it’s important to buy fish from local boats—buying local in all its different aspects, the farmers, growers including wineries, and bringing them together,” she said. Her philosophy was manifested at the previous night’s wine dinner: “It was so relaxed; it was just like a family meal where everyone is jovial.”
“It was a great way to end the summer,” said Daniel.
The energetic couple, who are personal, as well as business partners since they met and worked at the Inlet Seafood restaurant in 2006, are eager to find a small restaurant possibly in Costa Rica or a bed and breakfast, for the winter. A Fishbar cookbook may also be in their future.
Pleased with this season’s increase in clientele, they attribute it to their “well developed website,” vimeo.com which has pictures, menus, and includes the documentary. As with many things, the couple created it together, using their individual strengths. Jennifer reports, “We each do what we’re good at and never argue in between.” That seems like a great recipe for a successful relationship and a successful restaurant.
Written by T.J. Clemente of the Montauk Pioneer
Quaint, genuine, charming, friendly and good eating describes one of Montauk’s coolest places to dine, the Fishbarl ocated on 467 East Lake Drive in the Gone Fishing marina in Montauk. Owner and Chef Jennifer Meadows along with Daniel Grimm make every meal at Fishbar special. With happy hours 4-6 seven days a week, draft beers are half price and the view of the harbor is breathtaking. It is no wonder so many celebrities have been dining there lately. Privacy, intimacy, great service and great food are what Fishbar is all about. I will share with you the delights Jennifer prepared for me and my friend Jerri so that you can understand the scope of talent and her genius as a chef.
We were presented with a combination plate for a first course that consisted of Cajun Monkfish Sliders that were so delicious I can still taste the cajunness of the Monkfish. The Jalapeño and corn fritters were tasty and a winner in my book. They were served with a chili lime remoulade. But the true work of art was the presentation of Deviled Blue Crab served on a hot rock. The presentation receives high style points and the taste was just awesome.
The second course was pan seared scallops with hoppin John. Fishbar Hoppin John is made with jasmine rice, black lentils, applewood and smoked bacon, along with local tomatoes and fresh pesto. Jerri raved all the way home about how it was the best thing she had had in months. Also served was a whole black bass with an actual hook in its mouth, served with baby carrots, braised radishes, fava beans and Swiss chard. It was worth taking a photo of and I enjoyed every tiny bite of the tender, perfectly prepared bass.
Before discussing the dessert I should mention that Fishbar is mostly covered outdoor space with world class views of most of Carl Fisher’s gem, the Montauk Yacht Club and the multi million dollar yachts that dock there. It has a Monte Carlo feel along with an Alaskan sea town all at the same time. It’s a great place to bring a special someone where you can dine and talk and hear each other. Jennifer Meadows who used to cook at the Seafood Inlet, has the greatest smile to go with her talents in the kitchen. She makes the atmosphere at her Fishbar ever so pleasant. Daniel Grimm does an excellent job suggesting wines, and helping anyone pick what is right for them from the diversified menu. The Fishbar is opened seven days a week for lunch and dinner from 12 noon until 10 p.m. Fishbar has a superb raw bar featuring clams and oysters Fridays and Saturdays. The Fishbar has a wonderful diversified wine list by the bottle and by the glass as well as a great bar with a great view.
For dessert our waiter Chris, brought out with Daniel a creation of Jennifer’s which was a funnel cake with fresh berries, whipped cream, apricot and an amazing strawberry sauce. Need I say what a winner this dessert was? We also enjoyed a special blended coffee. I was very pleased with the whole dining experience.
The complete menu is worth checking out at www.freshlocalfish.com. Fishbar can be reached by dialing 631-668-6600. They do prepare special lobster dishes including the Fishbar special consisting of two 1 Lb lobsters, 10 clams, 10 mussels, 10 grilled shrimp, grilled chorizo, red potatoes, grilled local sweet corn with drawn butter and fresh lemon. A deal at only $72.