On the Menu: Mirabelle

On the Menu: Mirabelle

When Mirabelle [2], long known as the top-rated restaurant on Long Island, was getting ready to close its doors at the end of 2008, the French restaurant had its best December ever.

“Everyone wanted to come to the old Mirabelle one last time,” chef-owner Guy Reuge says of his longtime customers.

Reuge says he decided to relocate from the original location prior to the recession.

By moving, “I was able to make the price point a little lower than before,” Reuge says. “My prices were a little high, and I knew that lowering the price was not an easy thing to do. By moving, I could revamp the restaurant concept and make the restaurant more accessible to more people.”

AT A GLANCE

Location: St. James, N.Y.Website: www.restaurantmirabelle.comOpen: May 2009Seats: 80Cuisine: FrenchBest-selling dish: trilogy of California farmed rabbit, fresh corn coulis, tarragon infusion, tomato confetti, potato confitMenu maker: chef-owner Guy Reuge

He moved only a few miles away to the Three Village Inn in St. James, N.Y.

Mirabelle Tavern, a dressed-down, more casual version opened there in February. Then the new rendition of Mirabelle, which kept the same name, also opened at the inn last May, at a slightly lower price point than at the original location.

But it wasn’t just financial considerations motivating the move. Reuge got the itch to try something a little different.

“After 25 years of doing the same thing, you cannot avoid being a little tired of it,” he says. “I wanted to definitely do things a little differently, a little more avant-garde, a little more obscure. I wanted to grow with the changes that I made.”

Reuge also says he feels invigorated by having a team of young, ambitious cooks in the kitchen with him, who have experience cooking at fine restaurants. At the more bistrolike Mirabelle Tavern, Reuge says, one of the most popular dishes is the zucchini fritters and chickpea fries with pimento d’Espelette aïoli.

“I came up with a small dish that people love, especially if they are going to park at the bar for a few hours,” Reuge says.

The zucchini pieces are fried in a tempura batter, while the chickpea fries are made from a paste of chickpea flour, milk and seasoning, which hardens when it cools, and is then cut into pieces and deep-fat fried. The aïoli is made with pimento d’Espelette, a dried red pepper from the Basque region of Spain.

On the Mirabelle Tavern menu, Reuge provides a small list of French culinary terms, to ease guests into the lexicon of the food. It includes definitions for rémoulade, aïoli and oeuf, and it explains the origins of pimento d’Espelette.

Both the Tavern and the fine-dining Mirabelle have 80 seats. The Tavern is open for lunch and dinner, while Mirabelle is only open for dinner.

On the fine-dining menu, the main courses range from $24 to $48 and Reuge also offers a price-fixed menu for $48. Reuge says his location, about 52 miles from New York City in a suburban setting, means there is nearly none of the high-end or business lunch crowd that can sustain upper-crust eateries in Manhattan.

Reuge takes advantage of the local farm products on Long Island when he can, but he is limited by the season, which he says is mainly from early July through the beginning of November.

Frog leg mousseline, jambon, lobster and caramelized-mango vinaigrette14
Tomato tartlet, sour cream, basil-scented oil, fried basil13
Rillettes of duck and foie gras, toasted brioche, miniature salad15
Scallop crème brûlée, seared and smoked scallops, compressed cucumber15
Provencal vegetables, tomato broth, fried soft boiled organic egg24
Trilogy of California farmed rabbit, fresh corn coulis, tarragon infusion, tomato confetti, potato confit29
Potato-crusted halibut, sherry-vanilla sauce, vegetable medley31
Roasted loin of lamb, cilantro yogurt, honey glazed shallots, curried egg and eggplant tempura, cilantro oil29
Cardamom-crusted loin of tuna, olive oil braised fennel, black olive caviar, pickled garlic cloves29

“But I do try to use a lot of farm products even if they are not from around here,” Reuge says. “I just came back from Vermont because my daughter goes to school there. Whenever I go to Vermont, I bring a big cooler. I bring back cheeses for the restaurant that we use for a period of two to three weeks.”— [email protected] [3]