On a recent trip to Port Jefferson I had the pleasure of visiting Graceful Rose, one of the town’s newest restaurants, for dinner. The establishment has brought a great deal of elegance to its slice of harbor-front real estate: crystal chandeliers adorn the ceiling throughout the restaurant’s main dining room, providing an ambient light that is consistent throughout. White tablecloths are topped with deep purple napkins and decorative roses, while a pleasant and attentive staff provides an inviting atmosphere to a chic room with a beautiful view.
My small party was fortunate enough to have a seat by the window, though a well-lit fish tank, massive quartz slabs which resemble butterfly wings, and multiple paintings hung along the walls ensure every diner is seated near a pretty display.
To start we were provided a basket full of toasted bread and a mascarpone cheese spread. The bread, while warm and soft, had a satisfyingly crunchy crust and the mascarpone featured a delightful infusion of herbs which had us going back for seconds before our meal even truly began.
For appetizers my friend ordered the wedge salad, which came loaded with bleu cheese and small, ripe heirloom tomatoes, while I had the Thai calamari, which was expertly prepared and balanced. Calamari that has been heavily breaded and overcooked to the point of becoming chewy can be found at restaurants that run the gamut in terms of both style and price, but the chef here clearly knew exactly what he was doing. The squid was tender and succulent, not tough or rubbery, and was very lightly breaded so as to add a bit of flavor without overwhelming the seafood in the middle.
In keeping with the restaurant’s elegant visual theme, it was served in a beautiful arrangement of scallions, sesame seeds, and grilled pineapple. The sweet chili sauce added a touch of spice and sweetness to the dish and pooled beneath the rings of calamari, making for a delicious dipping sauce that allowed the breading to stay crisp instead of growing soggy under the weight of a thicker sauce. Everything about this medley of flavors was designed to play off the calamari without distracting from it; the seafood was allowed to shine and shine it did.
I could have been content to order another plate (or three) of the calamari and end the night on that already high note; however, the main course was soon on its way to show Graceful Rose still had plenty more to offer. Four tender lamb porterhouses accompanied by a sampling of mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes provided for a hearty dinner. The squash, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots were prepared simply, the potatoes smacked of a healthy dose of roast garlic, and the lamb was served rare, preserving the meat’s natural flavor.
Tender and juicy, the porterhouse was a prime cut that had been cooked to perfection. My compatriot tried the filet mignon which was ordered medium rare—a choice that does not quite fit my own personal tastes, but the filet came out precisely as ordered and was delicious nonetheless. Nothing was overstated here, nor should it have been; when you have a prime cut of meat and your chef has a firm grasp on exactly how long each order needs to be cooked there’s no need to overdress it. Having a steak that hasn’t been over or undercooked will invariably be a pleasant experience and Graceful Rose deftly prepared each cut.
We ended the night with a slice of Rose’s family recipe cheesecake and chocolate decadence—a thick, warm chocolate ganache surrounding peanut butter and vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. The cheesecake, which featured a thick graham cracker crust and came drizzled with raspberry sauce, was light and fluffy, almost to the point I thought there might have been a bit of ricotta in the recipe (there wasn’t); it made for a perfect end to what had already been a filling meal. The chocolate decadence was exactly as the name implied. Rich, luscious, and delicious as this dessert was we found we could not finish it, though we happily brought it home to revisit the next day.