‘R.aire’: A Menu Fit for Thrill-Seekers

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Cigalas, a dish featuring Norwegian prawns, fermented black beans and lemon air, as part of the R.AIRE dining experience at The Hampton Maid in Hampton Bays. Courtesy The Hampton Maid.

In 1958, John and Marion Poulakis bought what would become The Hampton Maid, a modest, hillside motel overlooking Shinnecock Bay in Hampton Bays — a peaceful and serene escape tucked into nature, with traditional comfort food to match.

And now, for the first time in its history, there is a new tasting menu fit for a specific crowd: thrill-seeking gastronomes.

Enter “R.aire,” a six-course fine dining experience born from the imagination of Chef Alex Bujoreanu — combining global cuisine with fresh local ingredients and novel cooking techniques to create a meal “rarely” found on the East End, according to Tara Poulakis, co-owner of The Hampton Maid.

Crispy eggplant with honey, smoked paprika and citrus oil, as part of the R.AIRE dining experience. Courtesy The Hampton Maid.

“In our area, we’re not used to seeing certain things,” she said. “Because the chef’s from Spain and Romania, he brings over items we’ve never heard of, or we’re not used to seeing. Once they try it, they love it. It’s for the more adventurous eaters, but it’s all really good.”

The dinner, available by reservation only Thursday through Saturday, rotates weekly in both courses and optional wine pairings, which cost $95 or $160 per person, respectively. This week’s menu starts with “Jumping Carpaccio” — a “classic dish with a touch of modern by using the exotic kangaroo meat,” Bujoreanu said — served with caviar and cucumber air.

Next, the “Crispy Eggplant” with honey, smoked paprika and citrus oil is a homestyle recipe with a touch of Spanish flavor, followed by “Cigalas,” featuring Norwegian prawns, fermented black beans and lemon air.

Jumping Carpaccio, featuring kangaroo, caviar and cucumber air, as part of the R.AIRE dining experience. Courtesy The Hampton Maid.

“R.aire is contemporary modern cuisine with a touch of molecular gastronomy,” Bujoreanu said. “I like to balance each menu with a variety of items from around the world, working with exotic, organic and local ingredients. I like to focus on keeping the dishes healthy by only using wild and organic products, and by not using any trans fats, butter or flour.”

The menu continues with skate, an “old style sailorman dish using a modern way of cooking,” the chef explained, with sous vide, mussels and fumet foam, leading into Japanese Wagyu — the filet mignon served with pearl onions and baby corn.

Rounding out the meal is “Mel I Mato” with ricotta, sbrisolona and honey — a “traditional Catalan dessert with an Italian twist,” Bujoreanu said.

Japanese Wagyu with pearl onions and baby corn, part of the R.AIRE dining experience. Photo couresy The Hampton Maid.

After testing the concept with pop-ups over the winter, Poulakis said its positive reception guaranteed its continuation through the season, which ends on November 21, and will continue next year.

“It’s definitely a personable experience,” Poulakis said. “It’s a small, intimate gathering. We only do 25 people at a seating. The chef comes out, he explains each dish, he’ll explain all the wine. It’s definitely an intimate experience.”

R.aire six-course tasting menu is available Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. To reserve a table, call 631-728-4166 or visit hamptonmaid.com/dine. The Hampton Maid is located at 259 East Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays.

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