Port Chester has a growing rep as a culinary mecca. (Tarry Lodge, Tarry Market, Kneaded Bread, anyone?). To these and others we can now add Saltaire Oyster Bar and Fish House, opening Monday in the Willet House Building, built by the Westchester Grain Company in 1903 when the village was a thriving port. The décor by Kim Nathanson of Niemitz Design Group is said to be nautical but nice with antique hay lifts, wood-beam ceilings and black-and-white photos of fishermen at sea.
Executive Chef Bobby Will’s offerings include Fried Point Judith Calamari, with orange-poppy seed glaze, charred shishitos, pickled red fresnos and Thai basil; Seared Palmer Island Skate Wing, with a brown rice-whole grain pilaf, heirloom carrots and spicy cherry glaze; Red Snapper Ceviche, with charred lime, sorrel verde and cashew-yuca purée; and Grilled Octopus, with heirloom tomato-watermelon salad, crunchy chickpeas and yogurt.
The marble raw bar – in the center of the barroom — features a rotating lineup of 10 to 12 kinds of in-season oysters, as well as seafood towers that range in size from “Hook” to “Line” to “Sinker,” with a selection of lobster, shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels and crab claws.
You can wash it all down with a bevy of bevies – from local craft beers to vintages on the New World/Old World wine list to a selection of signature cocktails. They include: Saltaire #2 – On Tap: vodka, fresh cucumber juice, yuzu, basil and salt “air”; Flakka Flakka: mango jalapeño lime shrub, chili bitters, tequila and orange honey; The Goose is Loose: kumquats poached in Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco, orange bitters, Aperol-soaked kumquats; The Fishonista’s Seasonal Sélection: white rum, rhubarb juice, sour mix and bitters.
Overseeing it all is owner Leslie “Les” Barnes, a second-generation seafood buyer and aquaculture buff whose roots in fish eateries go back to his family’s restaurant, London Lennie’s, in Queens.
“I speak the language of salty fishmongers and oystermen,” Barnes said in a statement in which he fondly remembered early morning buying trips to the original Fulton Fish Market for the family restaurant: “My father would wake me up at 3 a.m. and we’d go off to the fish market for glistening, standout whole fish, the kind that jump out and say, ‘Buy me.’”
Barnes went on to master every station at London Lennie’s, taking over the business at the age of 22. After decades of running that restaurant and raising a family of four daughters, he found the space in the historic grain warehouse.
“A building like this is a rare find,” he added. “The timing was right to open Saltaire.”
Now he’s hoping to reel you in.
Saltaire is at 55 Abendroth Ave. For more, call 914-939-2425 or visit saltaireoysterbar.com.
– Georgette Gouveia