2006-11-01 / Restaurant of the Week

Plum Restaurant and Bar

47-39 Bell Boulevard, Bayside 718.229.PLUM (7586)
by Teresa Barile

          Plum Restaurant and Bar is the newest addition to the Bayside restaurant scene and very welcome in this residential neighborhood. Nicely situated on the corner of Bell Boulevard and 48th Avenue, the curved glass faade exposes the sleek, European interior with its imported tiles, pistachio color leather banquettes and rich wooden floors. The split-level dining room exudes warmth and luxury, with tones of terra cotta and rich plum, while the impressive, modern bar was designed to resemble a waterfall, with thousands of ice blue tiles undulating down a curved wall. Owner Kostas Kantlis and his lovely wife Maria, who are residents of the neighborhood, saw to every detail of the design and construction, even importing their own hand-selected materials to create this fabulous restaurant's unique interior. But Plum Restaurant is not just another pretty face. The food, drinks and service are superior to many Manhattan restaurants, yet the price range makes a meal here affordable.

Enjoy a cocktail before dinner on a velvet sofa in the front of the bar area. The signature Plum Passion martini will put you in the right mood for a relaxing meal. The skilled barman mixes fruit mojitos with fresh berries, mint and lime. Other specialty drinks are named Posh Pink and St. Tropez. The wine list contains reasonably priced bottles from Italy, South America and California.

The one-page menu considers everyone's taste in steak, poultry, fish and pasta and the SoHo trained chef executes each dish brilliantly. The cuisine is Mediterranean based with Asian accents, most notably in the hoisin glazed barbecued spareribs and the spicy tuna tartar with wasabi and kimchi. A plat du jour is featured nightly, in addition to the chef's specials.

We began with finely chopped, spicy Yellowfin tuna tartar, which melted on the tongue due to its freshness and quality. A real surprise was barbecued short ribs of beef, shredded and made into a crisp spring roll along with green scallion ($9). The accompanying soy dipping sauce made this appetizer an unexpected treat that you won't find elsewhere. Classic escargots are served in butter and garlic sauce, while tender sunflower crusted shrimp come with a plum, orange and chili sauce. Among the bright and flavorful salads is a Mediterranean chopped salad with cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, chickpeas, feta cheese and olives. I loved the roasted beet salad with leeks, green beans and creamy goat cheese ($11).

For your entrée, there are plenty of fresh fish dishes to choose among, including Plum's charred tuna with Asian seasonings, or grilled Atlantic salmon with citrus curry butter, cous cous and butternut squash ($18). Pan roasted sea scallops, served with a fricassee of vegetables, are quite popular at Plum. Visit on a Thursday when the plat du jour features a whole grilled fish.

Meat lovers will be hard-pressed to choose among the black peppercorn crusted rib eye steak topped with bleu cheese and butter, or the grilled hanger steak, prepared with a reduction of balsamic vinegar and shallots. This steak comes cooked to your liking, then sliced and arranged atop a mound of garlic mashed potatoes and Portobello mushrooms ($18). You could also try one of the most popular dishes at Plum: seared butterflied filet mignon beef mignonettes served with purple skinned potatoes gratin in a peppery brandy sauce ($25), well worth the price for flavor, texture and beautiful presentation. I finally decided on the grilled breast of duck, cooked to my request and drizzled with a delicate sauce of honey, ginger and soy sauce. The grilled yams were the perfect complement to this wonderful autumn dish ($18).

Pasta dishes include sweet lobster-filled ravioli topped with oyster mushrooms and a dab of caviar. Vegetarians will find a few choices, including a generous platter of grilled market vegetables with cous cous and Mediterranean tzatziki sauce or penne pasta with fresh tomato, eggplant, mozzarella and basil ($11.50).

Monday nights feature a French classic, coq au vin-chicken braised with wine. Wednesday's osso buco will have me coming back, and irresistible grilled rack of lamb is served each Friday evening.

Desserts are as spectacular as the rest of the courses, so don't miss out on decadent hot chocolate soufflé, crme brulée, New York cheesecake or a healthy fresh fruit salad. A host of specialty coffees and after-dinner liqueurs make for a spectacular finish at this unique eatery.

In the weeks to come, Plum Restaurant and Bar will be open for lunch and weekend brunch. Check their ads for the latest information. For now, enjoy dinner and cocktails each evening from 5 p.m. The kitchen serves dinner until midnight, while appetizers are available until 2 a.m. to accompany the fabulous cocktails. The bar stays open until 4 a.m. Plum Restaurant and Bar gladly accepts reservations for large parties, which are seated in separate areas for intimate dining. Celebrate your next festive occasion at Plum. Weekend reservations in the main dining room are suggested, but feel free to drop in any time.

Visit Plum Restaurant and Bar soon, open seven days a week for dinner and cocktails. Out of all the restaurants in town, this one's a plum.

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