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Dining Out: Top menu for dinner, lunch in Great Neck

J’s Seafood & Steakhouse

770 Middleneck Road

Great Neck

516-466-8222

What a difference a white picket fence makes! At the newly opened J’s Seafood and Steakhouse in the old village of Great Neck, they’ve cleverly picketed off half the courtyard. The view from the spacious interior with white cloths and fluffed up white napkins overflowing stemmed goblets is as enticing. And the bar has the same bucolic view with the tall evergreen a glow at dusk.

I lunched there on a warm day beneath the blue S. Pellegreno umbrellas. (On 90 degree days, habituaes gravitate to the two umbrellas beneath the “skywalk.”)

It proved to be an exciting lunch, just as I knew it would be. At a food editor’s conference at Disney World in Florida, every meal was scintilating. J’s executive chef is Paul Nichols of the Floridian who is also a host of the TV Food Network. And the principal owner, Jimmy Gherardi, is a certified master chef. To top it off, the general manager, Jimmy’s father, grew up in neighboring Douglaston.

What’s for lunch? Listed under entrees is shrimp brushetta — sauteed shrimp, yellow squash, zucchini, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and garlic served on grilled baguette slices. That’s for me. A large service-size-plus plate dusted with snipped chives displayed four shrimp, fanned out with six inch-long, toasted, diagonal baguette slices in between. A serving of “Madison Avenue” ratatouille (my nomenclature) was there. It was a lark to fork ratatouille onto the narrow toast punctuated with a shrimp midpoint. And I munched away hors d’oeuvre, finger-food style. The artichoke hearts did wonders for the vegetable melange. (Home chefs take note.) I sipped iced tea but I recommend a glass of wine. On the check, my tall blonde waitress wrote, “Thank you so much. Have a lovely day.” It certainly started out that way!

Dessert was a triumph. J’s fresh pear tart was a six-inch round of puff pastry baked topped with wafer-thin pear slices. Delectable! (I had forgotten how wonderful puff pastry can taste.) Beside it on the sugar (confectioner’s) and spice-coated plate was a broad low sherbet with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a mini spoon.

Previously, I had had a fine dinner indoors. It was doubly memorable since a party of a dozen or so merchant marines from Kings Point and their dates in long, stylish evening gowns was dining in the private room just off the main dining room.

My dining companion happily started dinner with mussels, skillet steamed in a white wine fresh ginger sauce. I was seduced by “oysters baked under spinach with sake and goat cheese.” But, my tastebuds did not thrill. The combo didn’t taste married.

We split a summer-perfect spinach salad dotted with cheery fresh strawberries. Here’s a winning combo for sure.

Since J’s reputation as a steakhouse rests on three offerings: Grilled prime filet mignon with Bernaise sauce — the classic not often offered today; prime aged surf and turf, filet mignon and a six- or 10-ounce lobster tail; and grilled, aged New York strip with garlic butter, I critiqued the strip. It’s done simply allowing the flavor of the dry-aged beef to come to the fore and might possibly be one of the best steak renditions you’ve ever had.

My dining companion had deep fried shrimp in a homemade beer batter, crispy with a bit of fruit in the mango sauce with a kick of rum in it.

J’s chocolate mousse, creamy mousse served in an edible chocolate shell with fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce, proved a very chocoholic looking and tasting finale. Applause for the candied pineapple supreme — candied fresh pineapple tidbits served with vanilla ice cream, fresh raspberries and mango puree. It’s new. It’s delicious. Now that all is said and done, I’ll confess that I’m going back for a smoked turkey sandwich with f eta cheese, spinach, olives, remoulade sauce on grilled rosemary bread with the red wine selection of the day. P.S. On the third Wednesday of the month, J’s has a wine-tasting dinner of three courses with six wines. A different winemaker is featured each month.

The Bottom Line

Picket fenced patio viewable from dining room and bar. A new seafood and steakhouse. American menu. Lots of seafood. Three steak selections. Interesting desserts. Very caring service.

Chef's Choice

Sizzled rare sesame crusted yellow fin tuna with a duo of sauces...$9.95

Oysters baked under spinach with sake and goat cheese... $9.95

Traditional New England clam chowder...$5.95

Bibb lettuce with Asian pears and walnut crusted sonoanna goat cheese and citrus dressing...$7.50

Pan-seared chicken with penne tossed in a light florentine cream sauce...$16.95

J’s pasta and shrimp with tomatoes, spices and basil...$20.95

Grilled prime aged New York strip steak with garlic herb butter...$23.95

Macadamia nut crusted chilean sea bass with port sauce...$17.95

Grilled Norwegian salmon with wild mushroom sauce...$17.95

Grilled swordfish with lobster meat and a citrus caper butter sauce...$22.95

J’s famous chocloate mousse (creamy chocolate mousse served in an edible chocolate shell with raspberries and chocolate sauce)...$7.50

J’s fresh pear tart (fresh sliced pears baked atop a flaky puff pastry crust and served with vanilla ice cream)...$7.50

Cuisine: American

Setting: Outdoor picket-fenced patio. Spacious indoors with view of patio. Bar has view also.

Service: Very fine. Very caring

Hours: Closed Mon. L & D six days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Lot Location, 2 miles N LIRR station

Dress: Casual

Children: Own menu

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Takeout: Yes. Delivered locally

Private parties: To 150

Off-premise catering: Yes

Smoking: Patio

Noise: Fri & Sat--not crazy

Handicap access: Yes

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