Having a fresh fish market in the front of your restaurant would be most chefs’ dream.
For Axel Irizarry, the executive chef at Anker in Greenport, and local chef and cookbook author Will Horowitz, it is. The two have been working together to create a menu at the seafood forward restaurant that takes advantage of the new market, while aiming to not let any fish or seafood go to waste.
Irizarry and Horowitz invited me down to Anker to try some of these new items. For them, this idea, which Horowitz referred to as a nose-to-tail menu, starts with something as simple as the big oysters.
“Fishermen can’t really sell the big oysters,” he said. “They don’t know what to do with them.” At Anker, they take those ones and roast them with a spicy garlic achar butter, parsley and lemon. That is only the beginning.
Also on the table was swordfish bone marrow served with a green curry rub, sourdough crostini and pickles and a fritter made from fish roe and topped with a saffron aioli. In the center was a wooden slab with a huge chunk of barbecue-slathered swordfish collars.
“We’re experimenting and we’re trying to figure this stuff out,” Horowitz said. “All this would have gone into the garbage. We’re doing something different in that we’re trying to make this food extremely waterfront accessible.”
Even though many of these things were foreign to me, they were incredibly delicious. The bone marrow was very clean tasting and much less intense than traditional bone marrow. The pickled peppers that came with it cut right through the slight richness. The fritters were easy poppers and the collar was tender and fatty, just like a piece of pork with the lemon-garlic-rosemary barbeque sauce.
Both of these chefs have backgrounds that have encouraged them to cook seafood in a sustainable way. Irizarry, who is originally from Puerto Rico, remembers his dad coming home from work at Starkist Tuna with huge bags of fish roe. “My dad spent 25 years there,” he said. “He would cut the fish roe and with caribbean spices, cilantro and oregano, he would marinate that and fry it. It was something unbelievable. I really loved it and I bring this to the North Fork.”
When Horowitz opened his first restaurant in New York, he couldn’t afford to get the fancy cuts of fish. So he would get the lesser known and cheaper cuts, transforming it into something delicious. “You show people that it tastes really, really, really good,” he said. “And you start selling them.”
And Anker’s menu is really (x3) good. The clam chowder, which untraditionally is bacon-free, still has a scrumptious and unctuous bold flavor from the smoked cream and eel. The smoked and chilled Shinnecock scallops are light and refreshing with a creamy sauce you would never guess is made from whipped celery root. And their french onion dip is anything but traditional with the addition of squid ink. If you thought the idea of nose to tail couldn’t make its way onto the dessert menu, the burnt honey pie with whipped cream and candied fish scales begs to differ. The sweet, light and crisp topping would never have you thinking it came from the sea.
For those who prefer meat, try the hickory smoked lamb brisket. It has the flavor and texture of pork belly and comes on a wooden board with lettuce, swedish pancakes, spiced yogurt and a harissa sauce to DIY your own wrap. Anker’s new menu is already live with the addition of a brunch menu launching soon. They are open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 9 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.