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Dining Out: Giraffes mix with Latin touches at The Inn

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The Giraffe Room

The Inn at Great Neck

30 Cutter Mill Great Neck

516-773 2000

Recently I discovered (and for someone who has been driven around Great Neck since age one, I should have known) the map of Great Neck resembles a giraffe’s long neck. When the Inn at Great Neck ran a new-name contest for its dining room in December, there were 1,500 entries.

Five chose Giraffe. Now there’s a brand new, bright yellow sign out front with “The Giraffe Room” in bold black print. So be it.

The Giraffe Room’s Sunday brunch was recently reviewed and now there is news about dinner. It’s served in the lounge as well as the restaurant and that needed investigating.

The valet out front standing under the overhang by the circular drive (attired in a short-sleeved, white safari-style jacket that enforces the giraffe image), took our car. We walked through the snazzy, Gatsbyish lobby, into the Giraffe Room’s lounge.

It now has four round tables with the same beige floral cloths as the restaurant. (Just wondering — was the design chosen to go with the giraffe theme? Giraffes are vegetarians.) There’s a large screen TV home-style at floor level. You can now dine there as in the restaurant. Long-necked giraffes, some six-footers, lounge about.

Our table, close to the bar, had a view of the lobby, the circular drive and a glimpse of Cutter Mill Road. This was a Monday night. There was lots of activity in the lobby and in the lounge where every seat at the bar was taken with twosomes and a single or two having dinner. Take note: It's a lively spot for Monday night dining. And they’re not easy to come by.

On the American continental menu, most dishes have names with a Latin twist. But homemade cheese and guava empanadas and quesadilla with grilled chicken, peppers, onions and cheese, gazpacho and classic paella with shrimp and chicken seem to be the only Latins.

My “famous creamy crab soup” in a large plate was glorious, definitely worth every calorie. It gets A-plus for flavor, but for looks is white on white served unadorned naked. My companion ordered Latin shrimp cocktail looked elegant served in a martini glass: shredded greens on the bottom topped by four, lemon-marinated shrimp, doused with cocktail sauce. Both were on the prefix ($21.95 Sunday to Thursday; $29.95 Friday and Saturday,)

We debated ordering the Giraffe Room’s mixed green salad with a zesty dressing. Outstanding we had heard. Each and every leaf of the cutting-edge mixed greens was crisp perfection plus a light yet zesty dressing and four-inch sticks of jicama to distinguish it. My guest’s entrée was the North Atlantic salmon baked with an intriguing caramelized onion crust. Very good it was.

The mashed potatoes were gussied up. Sliced, halved zucchini and yellow squash were a welcome seasonal touch. Roasted prime rib with crispy plantain slices or filet of sole? I selected “filet of sole covered in bananas with a sweet virgilio wine sauce.” But I couldn’t find the bananas. “The chef said he put them in the sauce,” responded our cheery bartender/waiter. Let me know, if you order sole.

The Trembleque coconut custard at luncheon was light, lovely and slipped down easily. A sorbet trio with fresh berries sounded just right and ever so refreshing. Loved that mango sorbet with the lemon and raspberry coming in a close seconds.

“Fried bananas” the menu read. Period. What arrived was impressive. It looked like a sundae version of a banana split. Crisply fried split banana halves stood upright around vanilla ice cream topped with cream and caramel sauce. What could be wrong with that?

Service at the Giraffe Room in the restaurant and lounge is earnest but needs sharpening. We had to request water on both occasions. Appetizers and desserts in footed glasses come with plates underneath. True, in the lounge the table cloths are glass-topped, but what to do with the spoon or fork when you’re done? Giraffe’s lounge dining was an enjoyable people-watcing experience. Are they staying at the Inn? Are they here on business? Etc., etc., etc.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Giraffe Room dining in lounge and resturant of small hotel. Giraffes abound. American continental menu with Latin touches. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and buffet Sunday brunch. Prefix menu 7 days. Earnest service. Cigar bar. Live jazz in Giraffe’s lounge weekends.

CHOICE CHEF’s

Guava and Cheese Empanadas...$6

Southwest Spring Rolls...$6.50

Cashew Chicken with Bourbon Peppercorn Sauce...$12.50

Mixed Grill-Petite Filet Mignon, Rack of Lamb & Latin Marinated Chicken…$23.50

Carmelized Onion Crusted North Atlantic Salmon Baked to Perfection...$13.50

French Apple Tart...$5

Fried Banana Topped with Vanilla Ice Cream...$5

Cuisine: American Continental. Latin touches

Setting: Giraffe bedecked

Service: Earnest Hours: B, L, D & Sun brunch

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Valet

Location: Block from LIRR

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Takeout: No

Off premise catering: No

Children: Own menu, Latin touches. (Free to 4 yrs)

Private parties: Ten to 250. Dinner & dancing 150

Music: Jazz-Th, F, Sat

Noise level: Low (Live jazz in lounge-Th, F, Sat)

Smoking: Lounge. Cigar bar

Handicap access: Yes

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