Jamesport Manor Inn has a new chef in the kitchen, but it’s a territory he is familiar with. After a four-year hiatus working in Florida, Colorado and Bridgehampton, Chef Chris Kar has returned to take over the kitchen alongside his father and owner, Matt.
“It’s nice to come back to work with my dad. I worked for him until I was 25,” Kar said. Now, he is trying to bring a new approach to the classic menu by keeping some of the traditional items, but revamping them a bit with his fine dining background. He took me through one example with their lemon ricotta gnocchi.
The inspiration comes from family. “My dad always used to say he would watch his grandmother make potato gnocchis,” Kar said. He started off by mixing together the wet ingredients — ricotta, romano cheese, lemon zest and egg yolk. Then he slowly sprinkled in the flour.
“There’s a cup and a half here, but really, that’s a guideline,” he said. “You just go until it’s not sticky, and you start getting a little bit of that elastic feel when you push into it.”
Kar slowly brought it all together with his hands and then rolled a piece into a log. With swift movements, he chopped the log into bite-size pieces and rolled each nub down a pasta board.
“This gives it grooves and a place for the sauce to settle into,” he said. Kar brought this recipe back with him from Colorado, where he worked as a sous chef in the Vail Valley, and now, his dad is in charge of making the gnocchis every week.
“He says it’s just super relaxing for him and he loves it,” he said. “It’s fun that I can bring that here and teach him something new.”
For the rest of the menu, Kar said he kept a lot of the bones the same but changed the sides. The short rib dish used to come with mashed potatoes and green beans; now it’s served with polenta, braised bourbon cipollini onions and a red wine demi. The duck breast used to come with mashed potatoes and asparagus; now there’s a side of cauliflower puree and braised Brussels sprouts and pancetta with an orange demi glaze.
“You’ve got to strike a balance, because this place has been here for 15, 16 years now,” he said. “We have longevity and the customer base, and you don’t want to completely change everything. My menu is always going to be driven by what’s local.”
To finish off the lemon ricotta gnocchi, Kar mixed together two sauces — a dark green pesto and a pink ricotta. The first is a family recipe and the second is Kar’s own.
“I combined them with cream and when I tasted it I was like ‘Yeah, this is it,’” he said. “Sometimes when you’re playing around the kitchen, you try something and you’re like ‘Alright, this is a new thing.’”
The gnocchi is served with asparagus and salmon and finished off with a dusting of dehydrated lemon zest.
“It’s a little technique that I picked up when I was working in Colorado,” he said. “On the plate you have specks of yellow. It’s not only a cool technical thing, but you get a tiny bit of the lemon.”
Visit Jamesport Manor Inn on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
370 Manor Ln, Jamesport,(631) 722-0500